Thanks to the rapid development, Bangalore is struggling to retain its past glory. Past glory, because we have enough evidence to prove that there was a much better time than now. While some of us romanticise the Bangalore we never got to see with the help of books, some others depend on juicy tidbits offered by old-timers. Even the old buildings in the city guard their secrets closely. They hide behind the fresh coat of paint or the granite flooring never giving out the whole story.
However, there are few places in the city that have retained their old look and feel. One such place is the St Andrew’s Church on Cubbon Road that is sure to transport you back in time. With the bustling markets of Shivajinagar on one side and the posh shops of MG Road on the other, St Andrew’s quiet presence adds a whole new dimension to the Cantonment area in Bangalore. The St Andrew’s church was established in 1864 as an orthodox Presbyterian Scottish church. It is of traditional Scottish architecture wherein lies it’s charm. It has a tall belfry and chiming clock at the apex of its tower, bearing its name after the patron saint of Scotland —
Once you step into the church compound, you are transfixed by its graceful, elegant beauty and the surrounding greenery. You will be surprised such a place exists in the city! Commuters taking Cubbon Road can spot the church’s 90-feet tower bearing a clock hiding behind trees. The church is built in Gothic style, painted brick red and with tall windows. With its entrance to the altar area, a breath-taking, magnificent glass window behind it welcomes you inside the church. The overwhelming riot of colours in the stained glass window with the saintly figures of Abraham, Moses, King David, Prophet Isaiah, Apostles Andrew and others instantly commands your attention and admiration.
The beautiful pipe organ at St Andrew’s is another antique that is a visitor’s delight. It was installed in 1881 by Peter Conacher and Company, England. The organ made with a spotted metal pipe work. The wooden pipe work is made from sugar-pine and mahogany and the casework is of pitch-pine with zinc display pipes, says their official website.
The church also made news in England. A report on the church in Illustrated London News in the year 1866 called it ‘One of the handsomest churches in India doing great credit to Major Sankey, chief Engineer and to R C Dobbs, the Executive Engineer of Mysore.’
When St Mark’s Cathedral was engulfed and damaged in a fire accident in 1923, it was this building which afforded accommodation to that congregation to worship until St Mark’s was rebuilt in 1927, says pastor and Presbyterian in-charge Prem Mitra.
The Church was then known as St Andrew’s ‘KIRK’, a westernised church with Scottish customs, along with classical Scottish Square Dancing and western music. With the formation of Church of South India in 1947, the Church gradually became one of the churches of the Karnataka Central Diocese with the Bishop as her head for all administrative hierarchy, quite different from the Presbyterian discipline and thus released itself from the governance of Colonial and Continental Committee of the church of Scotland which was then governing the four churches of St Andrew’s in
India, he adds.
The church is not only a place of worship but is also home to a rich flora which has been nurtured by pastor Prem Mitra who is also an environmentalist. A world within its own, St Andrew’s is one of Bangalore’s best kept secrets, probably better off this way.