13: Bangalore

by - January 20, 2014

Bangalore Palace
Bangalore Botanical Gardens
Of all of the places that we were due to visit in our time in India, Bangalore was the only one that our Indian friends had questioned as a tourist destination.  There was, however, no avoiding the city as the third most populous in India and therefore a major transport hub.  Willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, we decided to spend a day exploring the city, while staying in probably the best hotel so far – the Elanza.  Bangalore has achieved fame as a major economic power in India and as the hub of the nation’s computing and electronics industries.  After the chaos of Mumbai and the faded glory of Hyderabad (the first and fourth largest cities respectively), Bangalore actually seemed to be the most ‘normal’ that we had come across – yes, it was extremely busy, but the roads actually seemed clean and not so chaotic.

Blessings at the Bull Temple
With only a day to see such a large, spread out metropolis, we decided to hire a rickshaw for the day – it is possible to have a driver for about 5-6 hours for 1000 rupees – about £10.  We started by visiting the Botanical Gardens which happened to be preparing for their annual flower festival and were therefore very busy.  After paying a small entrance fee we were able to wander the grounds and enter the greenhouses – a pleasantly lush oasis in the midst of the big city.  Next up on our rickshaw tour was the bull temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to ‘Nandi’ the holy bull that was ridden by Shiva.  We were given a blessing inside by one of the priests – a red dot marked on the forehead.  By this stage we had been exposed far more to the Hindu religion than I had ever been before and the stories and gods were starting to fit in together – however it is definitely the most difficult religion I have come across to comprehend and understand and I am still none-the-wiser about many of the traditions.

Tipu’s Palace
From the bull temple we made our way to the Tipu Sultan’s palace.  We would be seeing a lot about this famous Indian sultan over the next few days as he was one of the last Indian rulers to fall to the British and is therefore worth a bit more explaining.  The son of another great ruler, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan was the king of the Mysore region with its base at the city of Seringapatam.  After the fall of Vijayanagara, Mysore became the major regional power and took part in four Anglo-Mysorean wars.  The first two of these wars were great successes for Tipu, however the third resulted in two of his sons being captured and the fourth resulted in his death on the walls of Seringapatam – more on that over the next few days.  Bangalore was not as important as the city of Mysore at the time, but was still a major city and therefore contained one of Tipu’s palaces – unfortunately the wooden structure has seen better days and the beautiful teak interior has lost a lot of its grandeur.  Opposite the palace is the city’s main market, used by residents to buy everything from fruit to flowers.  Our rickshaw driver came inside with us to show us around and, as with everywhere else in India, the locals all wanted to have their photos taken with their wares.

Bangalore Market - the flower section
Bangalore Legislative Assembly
We grabbed a bit of lunch and then made our way through the old colonial district.  Bangalore rose to prominence under the British and became its main administrative hub in the south, along with Madras (modern Chennai).  It was a popular place for officers to come and Winston Churchill is said to still have an unpaid tab at the Bangalore Club – I have never heard it used, but apparently ‘getting Bangalored’ is a more traditional British term for getting drunk.  The old colonial buildings have been added to by similarly styled Indian administrative buildings, including the main assembly for the state.  Our last stop of the day continued the history of the Tipu Sultan.  After his death at the turn of the 19th century, the British installed a different family as rulers of the region – the Wodeyar dynasty.  This family were puppets to the ruling British, but had grand palaces built for them – one at Bangalore and another at Mysore.  The Bangalore palace was supposedly based on Windsor Castle and was incredibly grand.  The current head of the Wodeyar house still owns the house but has opened it to the public – while all of the British puppet rulers lost their power after Indian independence, the majority were able to slot easily into positions of power in the new Indian government and the Wodeyars are no different to this.  The palace was being used for a ridiculously ostentatious wedding (which our angry rickshaw driver said was for corrupt politicians) and was therefore very busy.  Entrance was crazily expensive by Indian standards – about five times any other tourist sight, so we spent a long time walking around, listening to the free audio tour to squeeze out the most value from our visit. 

Inside Bangalore Palace
With that, we had finished our tour of Bangalore and stopped on the way back to the hotel at a few local shops for some souvenirs.  In the evening we found a Lonely Planet recommended steak restaurant – which in a country where the cow is sacred seemed to be too good to be true.  As I mentioned above, I still don’t understand many of the local traditions and the restaurant was full of local people eating big beef steaks – the first time I had seen beef served.  It had been a very good day and while we would probably have struggled to fill another day in Bangalore, our one day had been worthwhile.

You May Also Like