THE GROWING CITY WITH A LONG TIMELINE

THE GROWING CITY WITH A LONG TIMELINE

India, as we all know, is the second largest populated nation today and is expected to achieve the first rank very soon. The gap between the rural and the urban is also decreasing alongside day by day. Most of the Indian cities have kept up with this pace, and I was advantaged to visit one such ever growing city, one of the top 10 in India, the capital of Karnataka, Bengaluru.

Most of us still refer it by its old name ‘Bangalore’; however, as the name was officially changed to Bengaluru, the original name as kept by its founder Kempegowda, I shall refer the city by the same. Today, most of the official places bear this changed name. The name is pronounced in Kannada as बेंगळुरु. For more information regarding its etymology, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore#Etymology

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The official name ‘Bengaluru’ on the board at KSR station

Bengaluru is not just the capital of Karnataka; it’s the capital of multicuisine food, silk markets, IT industry, cleanliness, a high standard of living, etc. It’s different from Mumbai in a variety of aspects, yet it’s not as famous as a tourist city as Mysuru, its south-western counterpart. However, there are a variety of tourist places packed with different cultures, like those of the Vijayanagara Empire and the kingdom of Tipu Sultan. I would describe a few of the places which I felt worth visiting.

The photos you see below show the various places in the huge, 200 acres Lalbagh Botanical Garden. It was built by Haider Ali Khan, the predecessor of Tipu Sultan, and has since expanded a lot. It hosts numerous trees, brought from different parts of the world, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Australia, etc. Some of the 200 to 300 year old trees have spanned a huge area due to their unrestricted growth, which is uncommon in big cities. There is a floral clock, which is the first and the only one in the entire country. We also have a crystal house, i.e. a house made up of glass. You’ll also find a structure atop a hillock, the one in the fourth image, which is one of the four watch towers built by Kempe Gowda I protecting the medieval city of Bengaluru.

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1. Sitting on an old tree, 2. The floral clock, 3. The crystal palace, 4. One of the four Kempe Gowda Towers

Bengaluru is also famous for its temples built during the Vijayanagara period by Kempe Gowda I to please the Gods. One of them is the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, in which a Treta Yuga era shivalinga is worshipped. It is built inside a cave in such a way that on the day of Makar Sankranti, sunlight falls on the deity, which happens only once in an year.

Not far from this temple, we have the Dodda Ganapati Temple and the Bull Temple. The Bull Temple was built by farmers in order to free themselves from the curse of Lord Shiva. As Ganesha is worshipped before any other deity, it is a ritual to visit the Dodda Ganapati temple before proceeding towards the Bull Temple.

In the heart of the city, near my hotel, we have the Vidhan Soudha (state assembly of Karnataka). It bears the inscription “Government’s work is God’s work” and looks magnificent at night. The High Court of Karnataka is located opposite to the Vidhan Soudha and behind the court is the huge Cubbon Park (pronounced as कब्बन पार्क), a wide area spanning garden in the heart of the city! The Visvesvarya Technological Museum is located on the other side of this park and hosts a collection of interactive scientific, technological and industrial prototypes and models. You can actually interact with them and try them out!

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The Vidhan Soudha inscribed with “Government’s Work is God’s Work”
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An evening at Cubbon Park amidst the chirping of different birds

 

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An exhibit at Visvesvarya museum, the eye of the dinosaur is fitted with a sensor, which detects the focus of a camera and moves the head of the dinosaur

Besides this museum, the Government Museum has also delighted visitors and tourists with a wide collection of historical artifacts dating to the Paleolithic Stone Age; excavated from various sites in India, Myanmar, etc. Most of them relate to the places in and around Karnataka.

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The old v/s the new: Government museum in front of an under construction glass facade building

Haider Ali Khan ruled the Kingdom of Mysore, of which Bengaluru was a part, for a while; he started constructing this brown palace, which was completed by his successor, Tipu Sultan and is today known as Tipu’s Summer Palace. There is a photo of Tipu Sultan on its ground floor, in which he always faces the observer, although it is looked upon from any angle. As the photography of this picture is not allowed, it’s not posted over here. Moreover, I encourage you to go and watch it live rather than relying on the images here. It also contains various gifts and toys of the Sultan, including an accordian in which a tiger is shown lying on a British officer.

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The Tipu’s Summer Palace built in Indo-Islamic style

Royal Challengers Bangalore emerged victorious in the qualifier 1 of the IPL and hence, they qualified to the final, which was also scheduled in Bengaluru. Hence, an unending line for tickets was seen at the Chimnaswamy stadium, which is also opposite Cubbon Park on 25th, the day succeeding the day when qualifier 1 was played. I also saw some crowd on Monday, 23rd, the day after RCB defeated Delhi Daredevils and proceeded to the playoffs; however that was nothing in comparison with the line shown in the image.  The defeat of RCB in the final shed the hopes of all the fans, including my brother, who immensely loves Virat Kohli.

 

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The line at the Chimnaswamy stadium on 25th May, the day after which RCB qualified in the IPL final

Karnataka uses its own unofficial state flag, the one with red and yellow colours; however, this flag is used on official government buildings, such as the one shown here (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.), flown alongside the national flag, at a lower height.

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The yellow-red Karnataka state flag alongside the tricolour on the Hindustan Aeronautics Building opposite to the stadium

As a city, I felt that Bengaluru is a bit cleaner. I didn’t find a lot of slums, neither did I find people defecating on the railway tracks (my train entered KSR station at 8:15 am itself, a time when it is common to find such people in Mumbai). The Namma metro and the BMTC have provided a good public transport system; however they’re crowded at any time of the day. The city is growing; it has grown much beyond Kempe Gowda’s Bengaluru, and has turned out to be the third most populated city in India, with over 15% of Karnataka’s population residing there. Since its foundation by Kempe Gowda, it has continued to support various kingdoms, lifestyles, cultures, peoples and languages. My next stop was Mysuru, which has been described in the next write-up.

 

 

The Star and Key of the Indian Ocean

The Star and Key of the Indian Ocean

This Saturday, the 14th of May marked the completion of my first ever journey to a foreign land, in the Republic of Mauritius – a small yet mesmerizing island in the Indian Ocean, thousands of kilometres away from India, but deeply rooted to the same. This article presents some of the facts and the beauty of the island that I encountered.

The Republic of Mauritius actually consists of many islands around the Indian Ocean such as Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, as well as the claim of the Chagos archipelago; however I visited the main island of Mauritius only, where a majority of the population resides. The island was uninhabited initially, the Dutch settled there first, followed by the French and finally the British, from which it attained independence in 1968 and became one of the richest countries in Africa. Today, a majority of the people are people of Indian origin (PIOs), including their Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth (अनिरुद्ध जगन्नाथ in Hindi), their President Ameenah Gurib Fakim, their Chief Justice Santi Devi, etc. The international airport is also named after Sir Seewoosagar Ramgoolam (शिवसागर रामगुलाम).

The Mauritian Rupee (MUR) is stronger than the Indian Rupee (as of today 1 MUR = 1.90 INR). Also, it may seem to be a bit expensive – where you may find a single vegetarian thali costing about MUR 650 excluding VAT, which would come to about INR 1400 for a limited vegetarian thali, that too at a simple restaurant in a village. In the eateries of amusement parks, you may find a box of 10 small samosas (about 2cm height) costing MUR 150 (INR 285). As a lot of ready to eat packaged products are imported from various countries like South Africa, China, France and India, their costs are relatively higher than the ones in their home countries. For example, you may find that a pack of Parle G biscuits manufactured in India is charged at double the rate. The concept of a maximum retail price is absent; hence shopkeepers are free to charge the products at their own prices. For example, a 500ml bottle of Coke is available at MUR 24 at a supermarket, whereas the same costs MUR 75 at a local store or an eatery. The main export commodity of Mauritius is sugarcane, whose fields are easily seen anywhere in the countryside as well as Mauritian tea, which is mainly grown in the South Central area of Bois Cheri.

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Sugarcane fields near Cascavelle

Mauritius is famous for its beaches, many of which are safe for swimming including the Flic en Flac beach, where my hotel was located. One can also enjoy undersea walk, tube ride, voyaging in the submarine, etc. although the rates are quite high, yet it’s a fantastic experience.

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An evening at Flic en Flac beach

 

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Tube ride at Belle Mare beach

Shopping malls in Mauritius, unlike India, are spread over a wide area rather than floors stacked upon each other, as there is a plenty of space available. Also, these are usually located away from big cities. One of the biggest malls is the Bagatelle, near Beau Bassin; also I shouldn’t forget to mention the Caudan Waterfront at Port Louis, which is made by redesigning a few old buildings and watch towers, just as the Phoenix in Lower Parel.

Mauritius is also famous for its ship model building industry. Ship models are considered to be lucky there, and hence every tourist needs to buy one. Some of the huge models are expensive, although many of the smaller ones are quite cheap.

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A speedboat model in progress of crafting

There is a lone fort in the entire country (La Citadel), atop a mountain called Fort Adelaide, from where one can see the entire city of Port Louis, the capital in a panoramic view, and would enjoy clicking pictures of the same. The race course seen in the image below is the largest horse race course in the Southern hemisphere.

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Panoramic view of Port Louis from Citadel

With about 52% Hindus, Mauritius is home to many temples, which can be found in every village or town. However, there is a Jyotirlinga at Ganga Talao, which is the 13th and the only one outside India, built in 2005. The idols in this temple are donated by various wealthy people across India.

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Worshipping Shiva at the Ganga Talao main temple

Also, there is a 108ft tall statue of Shiva near the same temple and a statue of Durga under construction on the opposite side of the road.

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The Mangal Mahadev statue at Ganga Talao

There is a volcanic crater formed by a dormant volcano at Curepipe, which also hosts a lake within. There is a ring road surrounding the crater, which is an ideal jogging track.

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The lake in the volcanic crater at Curepipe

I experienced one of the strongest winds throughout my life at the Gris Gris beach, the southernmost point of the island, where my hand started moving automatically and I was about to fall. You can notice my t-shirt flying in the wind in the image below.

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A visit to Mauritius is incomplete without a visit to Chamarel – a place where one can see seven coloured earth. The sands are formed by mixing of repelling ferrous and aluminum oxides which gives it such exotic colours. One can also find a waterfall near this place which is formed due to volcanic activity.

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The seven coloured earth at Chamarel
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The waterfall at Chamarel

If you are interested in exploring and interacting with wildlife, the Casela bird park at Cascavelle is meant for you. You can experience a safari, wherein your bus drives through the enclosures of various animals and they stand at a hand’s distance from your place. Also, there are provisions for interacting with and touching lions in their enclosures, feeding giraffes at separate costs. You can also freely meet domesticated animals like rabbits and chicken and safe wild animals like the deer.

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My father touching a lioness at Casela

The culture of Mauritius is quite diverse and multilingual, French is the commonly spoken language followed by English. PIOs can speak Hindi, although they usually communicate in French. However, Bollywood is quite popular among the Mauritians and you can find posters of Hindi films outside cinema halls (I found those of Baaghi – the film starring Shraddha Kapoor and Tiger Shroff at Port Louis). Hindi, hence, is a commonly used language for many radio stations, TV programmes and news; although the accent of some people is slightly different. Mauritius, however, doesn’t have any official languages, and hence ironically, the Mauritian rupee does not bear the verbal denomination in French or Creole. Instead, it bears it in Tamil – a minority language.

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The 200 Mauritian rupees note

With all the above mentioned attraction, there’s no doubt as to why Mauritius is known as the star and key of the Indian Ocean since ages and why did the colonial powers fight for such a small yet strategic island. Visiting Mauritius is not a big deal; one can get a direct Air Mauritius flight to Mauritius from Mumbai, which costs about INR 37,000 per adult for a return journey; however we went through two Air Seychelles flights with a change over at Seychelles, as we booked a tour through Thomas Cook. A number of tour operators also organize trips there and it’s a wonderful destination for honeymooners; neither do Indians require a visa for visiting (visa free access). So why wait? Why don’t you book your tickets now?