I recently attended a ‘Tree Parichay’, organised by INTACH Bengaluru chapter. INTACH is an organisation dedicated to the conservation of heritage. And I must admit, I would not have thought of trees as an integral part of our heritage before this walk.
The walk was ably led by a botanist, Ganeshram Esh, and was help on the 12th Main Road of Indiranagar. It was well attended by over 15 participants from different walks of life united by an interest in trees.
The location itself was interesting for the participants, being a busy suburban road. But as Ganesh explained, the city of Bengalure was planned as a garden city and this thoroughfare itself has over 60 varieties of trees from all over the World. In our two hour walk, we came across specimens from South America, Africa, South East Asia and Australia, in addition to native species.
In addition to just visually observing the trees, we were also encourages to explore the trees by the other senses – touch and smell. And this definitely added a different dimension to the experience.
One of the natural heritages of Bangalore are the number of lakes that dot the city. Bangalore does not have any rivers flowing through or near it, and being a landlocked city, the lakes are the only natural water habitat in the city. Unfortunately, the lakes have been under threat for a while due to population growth, encroachments and sewage being dumped into them.
There are a few lakes in the vicinity of where I live in South East Bangalore. One of these in Agara Lake. The lake was completely dredged a few months back. I do not have any photos of how it looked at that time, but the photo below of Ibblur Lake in a similar state will give readers an idea of how it looked like. I was a bit concerned when I first saw the lake in this situation but then I heard that this was part of a project to rejuvenate the lake.
The rejuvenation process was complete a couple of months back and I finally got a chance to visit this lake last weekend. It is now a sight for sore eyes, with clean water in it and greenery all around. The authorities must be recommended for the good work done in the restoration. There is a walkway (and cycle-way) encircling the lake with benches dotted around. There are also a few permanent gazebos that provide shelter from the elements. Children can play in a neat, albeit small play-area while grownups can exercise at a number of exercise equipment placed around the lake. There are also a couple of public toilets though one was closed when we visited.
The place was packed with people of all ages having a good time. A private company was providing cycles on rent and it was good to see quite a few people having a go. The whole area, which was deserted initially is now buzzing with activity. Enterprising vendors had set up temporary stalls near the entrances and seemed to be doing brisk business. To me, this is ample proof that conservation can play a very positive role not just in improving the quality of life of residents but also in providing a fillip, however small, to the local economy.
It was during my first stint in Bangalore in the early 2000’s that I discovered the ‘Darshinis’ of Bangalore. For people not familiar with the concept, this is a standing only fast food style of restaurant with a minimal, no frills, South Indian ‘tiffin’ menu. You pay for your food up front at the cashier, collect a chit which you hand over at the relevant counter and pick up your food a few seconds later or at best a minute of two later. You then pick up the cutlery (spoons only) from a common receptacle, proceed to one of the high tables and consume your food standing. The plates, cutlery, glasses are usually of steel. After the food comes the highlight of the meal (for me, at least!). A glass and saucer of piping hot South Indian filter coffee! A great way to finish off a cheap, tasty and satisfying meal.
So it was with not a little disappointment that, in my second stint in Bangalore from 2016 till date, I struggled to find similar Darshinis, at least in the suburb I am presently staying in. There are multiple sit down restaurants, cafes, bakeries, but no ‘Darshini’ or ‘Sagar’. I finally found one about a twenty minute walk from my place, but it closed down soon after I discovered it!
However, I am happy to report that I found one yesterday – a slightly more updated version of the original. It is located in HSR layout, near the recently renovated Agara Lake and is called Arogya Ahaara. It is a small place, but very clean and modern looking. The concept remains essentially the same though I was amused to see plastic plates being used to serve the dosas (the idlis and vadas happily came in a steel plate). It also has a large takewaway counter occupying about one half of the place.
Interior – Arogya Ahaara
In addition to the usual South Indian snack food, there is also a vendor immediately outside the place serving North Indian sweets. One had to pay for this at a separate counter so it is possible that it is provided by another vendor.
It was great to discover that the concept of standing only restaurants, possibly unique to Bangalore, still exists. Going by the crowd, which seemed multi-lingual, the concept seems to be popular even with non native residents. Long may these restaurants prosper!
Nandi Hills is a popular tourist spot located about 60 kilometres to the north of Bangalore, past the turn off to the Airport. As the name suggests, it is popular for its views over the countryside and to view the sunrise / sunset.
I had been there a weekend in June and on the way back, a few of the group members suggested that we visit a nearby temple. I had been to Nandi Hills before but had never even heard of this temple, so I was keen to see it.
And what a sight it was! The Bhoganadishwara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is considered to be one of the oldest existing temples in Karnataka, dating to the 9th century AD. It is situated within a large, well maintained enclosure with lush lawns and huge trees providing a nice green cover. It is a good walk beneath the trees to the main entrance.
Courtyard – Bhoganandishwara temple
Main entrance to the temple
As one nears the entrance, one can see a large raised platform to the right. This is the Mahanavami Dibba, which, as the name suggests, was a royal enclosure to view the Navaratri celebrations from. To the left of the main entrance is a large, wooden chariot.
The temple complex itself is large, with multiple enclosures. There are some exquisite carvings in black stone in the main enclosure.
One of the noteworthy elements of the temple is the beautiful, stepped water tank within the temple itself. A covered walkway surrounds the water tank on all four sides, topped by perfectly shaped small towers. It makes for a beautiful spot to rest for a while.
I am sorry to say that, even after many years of staying in Bangalore, I had never even heard of this place, let alone visit it. I hope more people visit this place – it is a stunning example of the traditional architectural heritage around us.
Can a museum about a country’s air force history be classified as heritage? Absolutely, in my humble opinion. Countries like the UK take great pride in their technology / engineering heritage. And it was very heartening to see something similar in Bangalore – the HAL Aerospace Museum.
An exhibit at the HAL Aerospace Museum
Inside the HAL Aeropace Museum
HAL Aerospace Museum – Lawns and exhibits
The museum, spread across an area of about 4 acres of well maintained lawns. They have a good collection of aircraft used by the Indian Air Force, including MIG-21s, trainer jets, helicopters, engines, and more. One of the highlights for me was the entry shield of the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) that one can walk under (see photo below).
Heat Shield – PSLV
View up the cone of the PSLV Heat Shield
There is also a good play area for small kids (less than 10 years) and good, plentiful open air seating where one can have a snack. There is also a cafe that serves basic snacks, biscuits, soft drinks and tea.
All in all, I would rate this as one of the best museums I have visited in India.
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