From its foundation as a mud-brick fort by Kempe Gowda I, a vassal of the South Indian Vijayanagar empire, to its role during the British rule as a cantonment due to its pleasant weather, to its current position as the IT capital and Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru has donned many avatars over the centuries. The cosmopolitan veneer of the city gently carries its rich past, where colonial influences blend with local culture to provide a smorgasbord of experiences.
What to see
Begin your sojourn with the Vidhana Soudha, the seat of the state legislature. It is a fine sample of Neo-Dravidian architecture, with its decorative domes and columns drawn from temple architecture, but designed with a modernist outlook. Across the road is the Karnataka High Court, originally built by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1884 to house his government departments. Its iconic Graeco-Roman facade in red bricks stands like a stately dame against the lush greenery of Cubbon Park, a 300-acre lung space well known for its gulmohar and silver oak trees.
An afternoon at the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, built in the late 18th century, gives you the opportunity to admire over 1,000 species of tropical plants and fauna such as the pond heron, parakeets and mynas. The Glass House, which was modelled after London’s Crystal Palace, hosts flower shows on the occasions of India’s Republic Day and Independence Day, where 100 varieties of flowers and over 400,000 roses are put out on display. Nearby lies Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, a teak structure with beautiful floral motifs embellished on its walls. It is a wonderful representation of Indo-Islamic architecture, with its curved arches, slender pillars and carved balconies.
A short distance away is Ranga Shankara, one of the most popular theater spaces in Bangalore, which showcases performances from local and international theater troupes, and conducts theater workshops. The cafe attached serves many local specialties, such as akki roti and bhajjis.
What to eat
The sheer number of breakfast places in the city speak about Bangaloreans’ love for their food. From the venerable Koshy’s, with its massive pillars, ancient fans and colonial era menu of Spanish omelette and chicken liver on toast, to the homely idli vada sambar and filter coffee of Brahmin’s Coffee Bar, every Bangalorean has a favorite breakfast place. Meat lovers can indulge in kori gassi (chicken curry), tiger prawn roast and other delicacies from Karnataka’s coastline at Karavalli in Gateway Hotel or get a whiff of Bengaluru’s past at the Mediterranean restaurant Olive Beach, housed within a colonial-style bungalow at Ashok Nagar.
For a wholesome foodie experience, however, head to Thindi Beedi or Food Street. This street in V.V. Puram, one of Bengaluru’s oldest areas, comes alive at sundown, with stalls selling local favorites such as paddu (small fried idlis), avarekalu (hyacinth beans) dosa, rasgulla chaat and khara (spicy) biscuits.
The shiny glass facade of UB City on Lavalle Road houses one of the hottest shopping destinations in the city, with both Indian and international fashion brands showcased there. Budget-conscious shoppers can head to the shopping havens of Commercial Street and Shivajinagar, that have an array of boutiques and shops selling clothing, accessories and trinkets. If you are looking for gorgeous Indian sarees, jewellery or antiques, check out the 200-year-old market at Chickpet in South Bengaluru, where even the Mysore royal family was said to have shopped for their silks.
Words: Arundhati Hazra