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?! 


  1. Nice research! Georgetown in Madras was also called Black Town, because the natives lived there. I have to verify the authenticity of this. Very good and interesting post. The next time I go to Cantonment, I will remember this!
    Gaurav Karunakar

  2. A very good effort. Even in my early days I knew Shivajnagar area as Blackpally.
    -Jagannath K

  3. well written and an interesting read.keep up the good work. regards.

  4. Thank you, all, for your feedback. Glad you liked my post.