If there’s one place left in the city where one can survive by speaking Kannada alone, it has to be Basavanagudi, says PR Vishwanath. He recalls the golden days he spent as a youth in this area.
"Bangalore's culture resides in the two great extensions of Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi" was the encomium heaped on Basavanagudi by no less a person than Dr. Vikram Sarabhai himself, the father of India's space programme, with whom I had the fortune of sharing a car ride in the mid 1960s, when I was a graduate student.
Basavana-gudi means Bull Temple. Actually, the whole extension takes on the name of the temple which used to be very simple then. There was a water tank behind the temple where we used to go for immersion of Ganesha idol once a year. Today, the temple has an ornate and gaudy gopura. The idol of the bull is also decorated with sundry ornaments. The tank must have dried up a long time ago. Now, there's an IT office at that place.
Bull Temple at Basavanagudi (pic: MS Gopal)
Another temple which is in the same area and equally well known is the DODDA (big) GANESHA temple. During our school days, it was a rather forsaken place, frequented mostly by students at the time of exams. The temple did not even have a proper ceiling, and the priests did not have proper clothing. We used to think of God Ganesha as ‘poor'. But, again this has all changed. It is a big tourist attraction now. Many tourist buses come to the area and people visit both temples. The priests also look prosperous now.
Bugle Rock was a favourite haunt for us in our school days. As kids, we used to play cricket all over the place. There were many many rocks but we somehow used to manage to find a stretch of 10-20 yards for a pitch and fairly flat surroundings. After the game, we would all sit around the rocks and discuss everything under the sun. Those were our growing days and there was much that was of curiosity to us. As kids, we were quite adventurous and our search for cricket pitches would take us all round Basavangudi and beyond. Today's Bugle Rock is a very changed place. There are well marked roads. There is a music fountain. But there are no children playing cricket anymore.
Bugle Rock was also a favourite meeting place for some of the important figures of the locality. DV Gundappa was the most famous of them all. DVG (as he was called), was a great Kannada writer and a journalist, his books being chronicles of those times. At times, he was accompanied by another great writer, Masti Venkatesha Ayyangar, journalist PR Ramaiya (of Tainadu newspaper fame, one of the founders of Kannada journalism and the first MLA from the area after independence), artist AN Subbarao (founder of Kalamandira which used to be in Gandhi Bazar), lawyers MP Somashekhara Rao and Nittoor Srinivasa Rao (who later became the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court) and others. I remember them sitting on the rocks and arguing heatedly, making points with their walking sticks. At times, some of us would try to sneak around and listen to them, but, it was all grown up talk and did not make sense to us.
One should note, that by night, these places would be very dark and desolate. There was no illumination. People at home would worry if we returned home late in the evenings, because Bugle Rock was notorious for its snakes. BMS College had just then opened, I think. Bull Temple road itself was deserted in the evenings and at nights. On the other side of the Bull Temple road, there was Gavipuram extension (where Masti and YN Krishnamurthy lived) and then, the great beyond!