Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blackpally - What's in a name?

Today's Hindu supplement, Neighbourhood, carries an interesting article 'Tracing the architect of the Cantonment' by Dr. S. K. Aruni, (Director, Indian Council of Historical Research, Southern Region). What is intriguing is the origins of the name 'Blackpally' for Shivajinagar. (For enthusiasts, there is still a board on Infantry Road, which carries the name Blackpally). Dr. Aruni, in his article says scholars believe it is named after a variety of black rice that was cultivated there, but there is no such example in the Bangalore region. Instead Dr.Aruni suggests it may have been named after John Blakiston (1785-1867), the architect of Cantonment, as dug up by him recently. This reminded me of all the legends and lore I'd come across, through the years on the origins of this name, which suspect as they are about the veracity of the claims, nevertheless do not appear implausible. 

It is generally believed by old Bangaloreans that the area was referred to as Blackpally, with its derogatory undertones, after the dark complexion of the natives as compared to the fair-skinned colonisers and the Eurasians, both inhabitants of Bangalore's Civil and Military Station (CMS).

The area around Bangalore and Kolar and roundabouts has been known for decades for a variety of red rice which was abundantly grown... still is, in pockets... we know it as  the very tasty 'Dodda Bair nellu' variety in the villages around the Kolar region. The Shivajinagar region was known as 'Bili Akki Pally' for a variety of white rice, which was brought in and grown abundantly around the Ulsoor area, by early Tamil settlers from Gingee (Source:

Here's another take on the same, excerpted from this source -("The story dates back to 1685... at the time, blackpally was almost a desert. some people came from ginji, near vellore and raised a small village around which they gradually built a mud wall. this village took the name of bellakkipally because it is said that the rice they cultivated was white and so number of birds were found in the rice fields." The name Blackpally may be derived from 'Bellakkipally' after the birds (is that a reference to Pond Herons (a.k.a Paddy birds) and Egrets usually found in large numbers in paddy fields?).

Who knows if the name Blackpally came from a corruption by the British, of 'Bili akki pally'  or 'Bellakkipally'  or from black for Blakiston or for black as in BLACK?! And the guessing game continues, feeding our ever fertile imagination! It would be interesting to see evidence emerging, so judgement be delivered - even if it doesn't, who's complaining?! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Withering heritage - SOS from Chikkajala Fort.

Chikkajala village (Bangalore rural) is on NH-7 (Bengaluru International Airport Road), 24kms from Majestic and 6kms before Bangalore International Airport. Chikkajala is referred to as a pre-historic site by the ASI (Archeological Survey of India) monument list ( The discovery of burial grounds  in Chikkajala led to historians dating the place to 1000 BC.

The Chikkajala fort stands to the right of NH-7, approaching the airport from the city, almost a kilometer before the ITC  factory (on the left). As you approach Chikkajala from the airport, the small fort is to your left and a few yards ahead, a signboard on the left (close to the Police Station), proclaims the existence of a temple in the village.

The historic Channarayaswamy (Channakeshava) temple in the village  is believed to be 950years old, built by Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. (Sources: Multiple City, writings on Bangalore, edited by Aditi De, Penguin, 2008;

Chikkajala Fort, an abandoned vassal fort in ruins, is part of the Revenue Department. There were talks of the tourism department making it a venue for a light and sound show and part of a three-place circuit, including Muddenahalli (birthplace of Sir M Visvesvaraya) and Devanahalli (birthplace of Tipu Sultan) to showcase Bangalore's rich heritage.(

There was a proposal to move the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC) to the lake bed here, which was stayed by the High Court. ( ). The lease deeds for which were handed over to BTC in Sep 2009. (

What came as a rude shock to us on Sunday, 25 Dec 2011, while on a drive to the Airport was this - the demolition of part of the Fort by NHAI for road widening hardly a day or two earlier.

As we sauntered in ( the majestic fort gates missing since the demolitions, according to the locals), we found this inside the fort - a temple in ruins, by the side of a pond on our left -

and this to our right -

Here are a few pictures capturing the beauty of the ruins -

Whither heritage, whither conservation?

Does Bangalore, the IT capital have no place for its past? Are there no conservation plans that apply? Who is responsible for this lapse? Local authorities caught napping or the NHAI or some unknown third actor?Couldn't this have been handled better? What's the guarantee we won't lose more of our collective past - like the fort gates that went missing without a trace? Indeed an irony of sorts, that this unfortunate incident has happened the same year that Bangalore has added a 'Heritage Museum' to showcase its past!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The skies are sombre grey tonight
I wonder if it is raining tonight.

I lost a friend this morning
His son was playing tonight.

Yesterday, he may have been smiling
His wife was crying tonight.

As he lay there motionless
I stood helpless, watching, tonight.

They said he went this morning
I knew she wanted to cling tonight.

October 14, 10.27 pm

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Stars and Visions.

December 1990.

Each time I see a star
A string goes taut in my heart
A familiar face stirs up a vision
In my mind's window.

Wisps of the dreams we shared
Rush past my eyes,
Laden with mositure
Everything hazy - sight, sound, mind.

As I look up to the sky,
I cry out, "Are you there?"
But then, there is no answer
'Xcept for the star's mute twinkle.

When darkness drops her
curtain down
And pins it with her stars
I search for you, everywhere
Each time I see a star.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This blog post is dedicated to all teenagers in the throes of their turbulent teens.

November 1986.

Darkness shrouds her lovely face
And gloom, her being decked in lace.
She is a sixteened adolescent
Whose mind is neither opaque nor transparent.

On the threshold of womanhood she stands
Still bound by girlish strands
She knows not, yet, whither to go -
What to choose and what to forego.

Still, amidst all this, she wants to be bold
To face life and come out of its hold.
She wants to decide, to know right from wrong -
But, she understands, she has to wait a little long.

The Silver Lining.

Heavily inspired by Sarojini Naidu's poetry.
April 1987.

The tall trees are laden with bud and leaf,
The streams are growing in size.
But, when will the buds bloom
And when will the streams dance away to tunes?

The birds still fly to the southern skies,
The wind still lies in the arms of the dawn.
But, when, oh! when, will the birds stay behind
And when will the wind blow cool?

I lose all hope and gape at the sky
My heart so full of  pining and pain.
And then I see, still left far behind
A dark little cloud with a silver bind.

I then smile and remember someone said,
" If winter comes, can spring be far behind??? "

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aluva Kadalolu - In an ocean of tears.

This is a poem by one of Kannada’s greatest poets – Late Mogeri Gopala Krishna Adiga (1918 – 1992). He’s also considered the father of modern Kannada poetry and known as the pioneer of the “New Wave”.

This song has been immortalized by the legendary Late P. Kalinga Rao, one of the doyens of Kannada Sugama Sangeetha (Light Music), he, who won Pt. Nehru’s heart with his “throat of gold”. Kalinga Rao peformed with his protégées - the sisters – Sohan Kumari and Mohan Kumari. With spotlight shifting away from that genre of music and the doyen’s death, the sisters lived a life of loneliness and penury. Mohan Kumari, the younger of the two, passed away a few days back. This blog post is a tribute to artists like them who bring pleasure to others, while they suffer quietly, wallowing without support.

The Kannada original -
Pronunciation Key –
L – retroflex “l”
D – retroflex ‘d’ as in doom
N – retroflex ‘n’
Vowels written in upper case denote the long vowel sounds, lower case vowels make the short sounds.

aluva kaDaloLu tEli barutalide nageya hAyi dONi
bALa gangeya mahApooradoLu sAvinondu vENi

neretide beretide kuNiva moreva tere teregaLONiyalli
janana maraNagaLa ubbu taggu horaLuruLuvATadalli

Ase bUdi taLadallu keraLutive kiDigaLenito maraLi
muridu bidda mana marada koraDoLu hoovu hoovu araLi

kooDalAradedeyALadallu kanDIttu Eka sUtra
kanDadunTu bese desegaLallu bhinnateya vikaTa hAsya

Ase emba taLavoDeda dONiyali doora teera yAna
yAra leelegO yArO EnO guri irade biTTa bANa

idu bALu nODu ida tiLidenendarU tiLida dheeranilla
halavutanada maimaresuvATavidu nijavu tOradalla

bengADu nODu idu kAmba bayalu dorakilla Adi antya
ada tiLidenenda halarunTu taNidenendavara kANenayya

are beLakinalli bALalli sutti nAveshTO maletu meredu
konege karaguvevu maraNa teera ghana timiradalli beredu

An attempt at translation –

In an ocean of tears, drifts an elfin sail boat of smiles
In the deluge of life, a stream of death intertwined

Tumbling and twisting in the dancing topsy-turvy merriment of the waves
Through the highs and lows of birth and death, in the rolling frolicking game of unrest.

Even in the depths of the ashes of desire, countless sparks return to rekindle the fire
Flowers blossom on the dead branches of the fallen mind

Even in the depths of divergent hearts, a revelation of a converging connecting strand
Revealing an ironic farce of distinctness in the sameness.

In the broken boat of desire, a long voyage unto the banks of hope
In a strange, unknown sport, an outsider’s aimless, misdirected target.

Look, this is life, and no brave man, despite his claims, has found what it's all about
It reveals myriad intoxicating games, but the truth it won't reveal.

Life is a barren vast land, a testimony to this Lord’s unending reign
There are a few who are aware of this, but none satiated with it.

Walking in circles, through life’s murky glow, we forget humility;
Then finally we melt and blend into the greater pool of death.