Behind the gates of the powerhouse of the State

Quite recently, the official residence cum office of the Governor of Karnataka was open for public viewing around Independence Day week for a few days. This initiative was taken in 2018 by Shri. Vajubhai Vala, the present governor, to showcase the heritage building and involve people in the fervour of the Independence Day celebrations.

Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I registered online and made a visit to see this heritage structure which is otherwise only open for government officials, diplomats and high-profile visitors.

Raj Bhavan Bangalore

A little history to this building – The Raj Bhavan was constructed as a private residence of Sir Mark Cubbon who served in the British army from 1832-1862, making him the longest serving commissioner of Mysore State.  The structure came up somewhere between 1840 and 1842, as a single storey building designed to suit Cubbon’s personal tastes which included a garden and a stable for around 50 horses. After his passing the building was purchased by Lewin Bentham Bowring, Cubbon’s successor on behalf of the Mysore state.

With the rendition in 1881 when the power was transferred from the British to the Wodeyars, the building came to be known as the Residency, occupied by British Residents till the time India got independence. (The premises of the current State bank of India on Residency road served as the Residents house before it was shifted to the Raj Bhavan)

Mark Cubbons Statue outside the High Court building Bangalore

Over the course of time, more than 20 residents came to occupy it making a number of alterations and additions to suit their needs. Distinguished guests at the Residency included the Viceroys of India to members of the Imperial family.

Post-independence, the Residency was declared the ‘Raj Bhavan’ meaning the Bungalow of the Governor. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore was appointed as the first Governor of the State. However, the Wodeyar having his own bungalow in the city – the Bangalore Palace, chose to stay there instead.  From the appointment of the 2nd governor onwards, all of them came to occupy the Raj Bhavan.

On the day of my scheduled visit, I carried my Aadhar card as the ID proof and after a brief security check, entered the Iron gates of the Raj Bhavan. While the bungalow is very much visible from the entrance of the main gate, it’s the greenery around takes the limelight.

Glass House – Raj Bhavan Bangalore

In centre of the huge sprawling lawn, stands a large glass house, where the State functions are officiated. On a centre stage set up, the military music band was performing. Visitors entering were first directed to the refreshment stall for some tea/coffee and biscuits while we waited for further instructions from the volunteers on how we would proceed about.

A guide under the Tourism department escorted the first 30 people and gathered us around for an introduction and then began the tour inside the premises of Raj Bhavan.

Raj Bhavan Gardens

We were first taken around the garden space which is 14 acres of land out of the 16 acres of the total area, the rest being built up space of the bungalow. The garden was quite impressive and designed in a way that would block out any noise from the vehicular movement outside the walls. There were several species of flowers, bonsai and some rare trees including a Sandal wood tree and a Rudraksh tree. A small temple intertwined into a tree, dedicated to Bhoodevi goddess lies inside this garden space. The entire area is surrounded by high walls, but on one side you can see portion of the Vidhana Soudha rising above it. We were told that there used to be an entranceway connecting the Residence and the Parliament house, but was later done away with bridging the compound wall.

Three huge fountains with the view of the Bungalow is also amongst the greenery, and one can only imagine the blissful mornings the governor might experience walking around here. Twelve Royal Palms in two rows planted during the British rule, acts as a pathway to the bungalow, and statue of two lions with the head of the elephant lead to the main entranceway to the building, adding a touch of the Imperial royalty to the architecture.

Entrance-way to the main building

The building looks quite impressive and is well preserved in its colonial style architecture with pillared entranceway and large windows. Additions to the original building were made post-independence and is so well integrated that you can hardly notice the first floor and two wings that have been added on much later to this 19th century structure. The left wing to the side of the main entranceway acts as the governor’s residence while the right wing is used as the office space. There is also an additional building where rooms were built for guests who include government officials and foreign dignitaries. There are nineteen of these rooms named after major rivers and mountains like Cauvery, Brahmagiri etc.

Waiting room for guests

We were shown around only 3 spaces inside of the building, beginning with the dining area. This is part of the old structure with high wooden ceiling and a long dining table with chairs at the centre. The walls of this room are adorned with paintings of British India done in the 18th century. It provides for a good insight into the landscape of India done by several British artists post colonisation. Leading from there is a passageway that enters into lounge that serves as the waiting room for the VIP guests. Along with several brass artefacts displayed here, are photographs of presidents and prime ministers who served India after independence. From here we were escorted to the banquet hall where we were shown a short video about the governor’s message to the people.

Overall, I was quite impressed by the arrangements done to accommodate the public to this Government building which was open for a few days of viewing only. The security measures were also well in place. The visitation was through online registration only, after which a notification would be sent via email confirming the timing and date. There were several volunteers on the inside to ensure the smooth facilitation of this experience.

Group photograph inside the Raj Bhavan

This concluded the tour for us which lasted about an hour, and many satisfied faces who would now boast to the others about their time spend in the residence of the Governor.

A day out in Bangalore city

A vibrant, cosmopolitan and a beautiful city, Bangalore is a great place to visit if you are a tourist or travelling on work. Known as the Garden city, Silicon Valley, Pub capital and the Start-up capital of India, the city’s ethnography includes people from all over the country, making it the most diversified city in India. Being born and raised here, I am jotting down a list of top ‘Things to do in Bangalore’ if you have only a day to spare and these include some of my favourite experiences, places to visit and eat.

Lalbagh Botanical Gardens: There’s no better way than to start your day early, than by visiting this beautiful green garden space. This otherwise popular tourist attraction, is best utilized by locals early morning. You will see people of all ages, doing all kinds of exercises, while you walk around to see the many things here such as the 3000-million-year-old rock formation, The glass house, India’s first lawn clock, A 300-year-old tree and many more. The garden itself is abundant in flora and was built in the year 1760 by Tippu Sultan, as his own personal garden space by importing plants from all over the world. Every year twice, flower show takes place inside the glass house showcasing various themes, and attracts several thousands of people to come watch it.

Tip: There are 4 gates to Lalbagh gardens. Lalbagh Main gate is close to MTR restaurant, which you can visit next after exploring this place. Plastic bottles are not allowed inside the gardens, so if you are carrying bottled water make sure it’s steel, glass or a Tupperware bottle. Buggie cart is also available for a fee of Rs.100 per person, for a 40- minute tour inside the gardens.

Lalbagh Gardens

MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms): There are several MTR branches spread across the city, but the one that I recommend is the original restaurant on the Lalbagh road (close to the East side entrance of Lalbagh botanical gardens). This is a great place for breakfast and its history goes way back to 1940’s, serving delicious South Indian breakfast with the star being the Masala Dosa, generously coated with ghee and best washed down with a cup of filter coffee. This place has served a lot of dignitaries and famous actors with some of their photographs displayed on the walls, and it still continues to hold the charm of the yesteryears.

Tip: This place can get really crowded specially on weekends, try getting there as early as possible. Sharing a table is common here, but this is also a great way to chat up with people most of whom are locals, who would tell you their love for this restaurant.

Bull Temple

Bull temple: Visit this 500-year old temple to see the monolithic statue of a bull carved out of granite stone, which won’t fail to impress you. Closely located to the MTR restaurant, this temple attracts a lot of devotees and tourists everyday and is also open throughout the day unlike other temples which closes down during the noon time. The story of this temple is quite an impressive one, the reason for which the area is called Basavanagudi meaning ‘The abode of the bull’. I would recommend you to go all the way inside and take blessings (the priests are friendly towards tourists). Sit here for few minutes and observe people come in and go, it will give you a lot of insights into the temple customs.

Tip: It is mandatory to leave your footware outside the main temple area which will be guarded by the caretakers for a small fee. When you go inside to take the blessings, do leave a small tip inside the donation box, since this will go towards the maintenance of the temple. You can be dressed casually and modest for this temple and anything knee length or sleeveless will also do.

Chitrakala Parishath: The Parishath is a one-stop space for a school of art, museum, gallery and also a space where art & cultural performances take place. The gallery contains beautiful paintings of students and few renowned artists and gives you an idea on the artists inclination on various subjects, specially people and Indian architecture. Very often local flea markets also take place in this premises, where craft makers display unique items from different states like blue pottery, glassware, silks, traditional jewellery etc. Once a year in January month, the biggest street art festival in India called ‘Chitra Sante’ takes place on the open road next to the Chitrakala Parishat, where art work from artists across the country display their work for sale and thousands of people throng this place for it.

Chitra Sante

Tip: The gallery is closed on Sundays, although the local sante if any, operates in the common grounds outside the building.

Bangalore Palace: Built by the Mysore kings in the 1800’s during the British rule, this palace is inspired by Tudor architecture and has a charm of royalty to it. The inside of the palace has a Royal Ballroom, Durbar hall with neo-classical furniture, an open courtyard with Spanish influence, separate quarters for the ladies and men and many more. Beautiful paintings of famous artists and old photographs of the royalty adorn the walls. There are also lovely wooden furniture’s, artefacts, and items of decoration bearing both Indian and European influence. Hunting was a favourite pastime of the Kings, and you will notice a huge elephant tusk on the wall, along with a stool made from its legs.

Bangalore Palace

Tip: The tickets cost Rs. 240 for Indians and Rs. 480 for foreigners. Mobile and camera fee are charged extra. The audio guide tour comes with the ticket fee, but make sure you carry an ID card for procuring it.

Soda Bottle Opener Wala: This Bombay café Irani bar is just the place you want to visit for some great finger licking food, suited for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The restaurant is almost always crowded, with old Bollywood music playing in the background of chitter chatter of people. The décor is quite colourful and quirky with some amusing signages to laugh at while you wait for your order. There is also a train track that circles the restaurant near the ceiling, and if you’re lucky you might see that functioning too. Some of their dishes that are worth trying are the Bori Kheema Pav, Vada Pav, Khanda Bhajjiya, Dhan Shak, Crispy Okra and my favourite dessert the Matunga Coffee Cake!

Tip: This place can get really crowded, specially weekends and the wait can be long, so getting there early is advisable. They also have season specialties like Mango dishes in the summer time, which is worth trying.

Soda Bottle Opener Wala

Cubbon Park: One of the reasons why Bangalore is called the Garden city, is because of this green lung space in the city centre established in the year 1870. This huge park boasts of children’s play area, a tennis pavilion, and colonial structures like the Museum building, State library and the High court of Karnataka built pre-independence. A leisurely walk through this space will make you forget about the busy traffic and pollution in the city. It’s a great place for running and exercising which is what you will notice in the morning hours. This is my favourite go-to place for just relaxing or reading a book and also a great way to see few pre-independence buildings, that are painted brick red and stand out against the park’s greenery.

Tip: This is a great place for kids, specially the children’s play area, where you can enjoy a ride in the toy train running inside the premises. You can also visit the government museum for a small fee and the state library for free.

Vidhana Soudha: The pride of Bangalore is this Parliament house built post-independence where the state government functions, and you cannot leave Bangalore city without taking a picture here. It is the largest legislative – secretariat building in the country and is very impressive in terms of its architecture which is Dravidian, in contrast to the High court building on the opposite side having colonial architecture. There is a newer building next to this, having similar architecture and much smaller called the Vikasa Soudha, built few years ago to accommodate the growing members of the state administration. A huge statue of Mahatma Gandhi sits between these two buildings.

Tip: For a better picture of the Parliament house, get onto the opposite side of the road. Entry is restricted inside this place due to security reasons.

Vidhana Soudha

Commercial Street: Although mall culture in Bangalore is picking up, by and large commercial street is still the place you will want to visit if you have shopping in mind or not! It’s a good place to walk around for window shopping as well, and this is where locals frequent for pretty much all things branded and local – clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor, antiques, dress materials and even stitching where some tailors have an amazing turnaround time of just 2hrs! While the main shopping street has just about everything, there are smaller streets, by-lanes and buildings know for some specialization like silver jewellery on Jewellery’s street, Silver Plaza for fabrics, Narayan Pillai street for dupattas etc.,

Tip: You can bargain only in the local stores/street shops/Kashmir handicraft stores. At the branded stores you have to pay a fixed price. The shops shut down by 8.30pm, so plan your shopping if you have a big list.

Commercial street

Brigade Road: Bangalore’s smaller shopping area compared to the commercial street, the Brigade road is all things entertainment with stores branded and unbranded, cafes, bars and restaurants. A famous pastime for college going students, just taking a walk down this road will give you an idea of the pulse of the city and its outgoing culture. At the beginning of the street is the landmark Cauvery Emporium, an old building best visited for shopping souvenirs and handicrafts items.

Glimpse into a small street called the rest-house road and you will spot many pubs here like the famous Pecos, which is a rarity to find in Bangalore where the pub culture and rock music has died down. At the end of the street is the Opera house that was once famous for its entertainment during the British era, now restored and reopened as the Samsung Experience centre.

Tip: Take a walk down this road, rather than driving past it, to get a better vibe of this area.

Permit Room: Permit Room is the place you want to visit to celebrate the best of Indian food and beverages with a twist. The dishes have a strong affiliation to South India cuisine with some popular ones including Cubbon Park salad, Non- resident Idlis, Brain dry fry, Nalli Biryani and Baked Mysuru Pak to name a few. Even the bar menu is exciting with cocktails like Fizzy Kosambari, Ammachis Kashayam, Guntur Liquid Chutney adding an Indian touch to it. Whats even better is the ambience and décor. You won’t get bored looking around the place, matching up its theme to make it look as quirky as possible. From movie posters with interesting themes to pillars sporting old matchbox designs, this is a great place to visit for family and friends.

Tip: You can reserve this place in advance specially during the weekends when it gets crowded very fast. You can always check with the waiters to suggest you dishes depending on your taste and spice levels.

Permit Room

If you want to explore these places or want to do much more than the places listed out here, browse through our tour pages, or write to us to customise you one.

Bangalore’s own little hill-station

Nandi hills needs no introduction to a lot of people from Bangalore. Ask any Bangalorean a quick getaway location away from the city for a day trip and viola, ‘Nandi hills’ is the place most suggested.

To a lot of people it is just a small little hillock best enjoyed for its cool weather along with beautiful sunrise/sunset, having the remains of the fort built by the 18th century ruler Tippu Sultan. There is a certain truth to that statement, but there is more to it than that.

Quite recently I decided to explore this place. We were 3 of us who set off at 7am in the morning from South Bangalore, covering a distance of approx. 70kms in 2.5hrs. This included a quick breakfast stop in between, in a place called Sri Krishna Garden, where some idli, vada, kara bath and puri did the job of filling us up with carbs for what was to come ahead.

Trekking path Nandi Hills

Most people drive up to the hills. But our plan was to trek up using the old stairway, used during Tippus time. So instead of taking the left turn on the Nandi hills road, we took a right and headed to Sultanpet for the starting point of this trek. Google map shows this as ‘Nandi hills trek starting point’ but we took the help of locals in finding the direction the old – fashioned way.

Trekking path – Nandi hills

On reaching the foothills of the trek point at 9.30am, we set off on foot climbing the stairs which is relatively easy but takes around an hour to reach one of the fort entrances. The trek itself was a pleasant one, where we pass through few resting points along the way made of granite stones which look old. The path is well shaded with a lot of trees and pleasant breeze to counter our sweat, and beautiful view points along the way to treat our eyes.

Old stone steps – Nandi Hills

On entering the fort walls we first pass through a small Shiva temple called Sri Gavi Veerabadhra Swamy temple which is inside of a small cave formation. The priest told us that the temple is an old one dating to more than 500 years back. Continuing further we come across Tippu’s rest house which is a two – storey red building, which the Sultan used often during his glory days.

Tippu’s Guest House

Further up we came across the Amrutha Sarovara, a step well reservoir built in 1928 and if you spend some time here looking at the water you can see big orange fish jump out of the water, which is quite fascinating. It is also a great spot for taking pictures, and the reason why a couple were dressed elaborately for what seemed to be a pre-wedding photoshoot accompanied by their photographer.

Amrutha Sarovara

While trying to get around the step-well we discovered a spot right behind it, which often misses the visitor’s eye. The entrance to this was quite tricky, and we really had to break a few rules to get across the fence to this place, and boy was it worth it! It looked like a place out of a fairy tale, where a small path, above which there was tree branches hovering over, led to a small statue of a Nandi and an even smaller one beside it, looking over at the Amrutha Sarovara.

Hidden pathway

Soaking in the vibes of this magical place we walked further up the hills and made a climb towards Tippus drop point and although we did not go all the way towards it, the views from here are quite nice. On a summer day this would be very hot place, being a barren rock with no trees in sight. Walking up, this boulder formation gives way to old stone steps that goes up to the Yoganandeeshwara temple. This is an old Shiva temple dating back to 1000 years, which represents his final renunciation stage (his childhood, youth and married stage is depicted in the beautiful Bhooganandishwara temple at the base of Nandi hills). We spent a bit of time here looking around the temple, where you can see carvings on the granite flooring, inscriptions on the entrance wall and even a small step well inside the temple premises.

View from the top

A glass bridge near Hotel Mayuri, is where you can see lot of tourists hovering over for the view point. There are quite a few monkeys in this area too, and we spotted one on this bridge, eating away some ice-cream reluctantly given away by a tourist, who anticipated some trouble if he hadn’t. Hotel Mayuri located besides the bridge is the only proper sit down restaurant on the top where you can grab some lunch, and although the food isn’t so great, the view from here, certainly is! There are a few smaller tea/coffee shops that serve some quick fast food and snack items.

Monkeys on tree-top

After lunch we took the small pathway towards the fort walls and walked around a little getting lost, but finally reached the point which happened to be the source of the river Palar. Right around the same area is also a small shrine of Nandi which is referred to as the Nellakai Nandi (Nellakai meaning gooseberry) whose tree is outside of the shrine.

It was time to head back early, since we also had a descent to make through the same stone steps we took up. On the way back we made a last stop to have a look at The Cubbon House, which was built in the mid 1800’s as a summer retreat for Mark Cubbon (the British commissioner after whom Cubbon park has been named). This was undergoing renovation, but you could still see some old chandeliers and wood work from that period.

Trekking to Nandi Hills

The descent takes about the same time as getting on top, which is about an hour, although I took a few minutes longer due to my bad knees. It was 3.30pm at the base of the Nandi hills, and getting back to Bangalore city wasn’t too much of a problem leaving the part near the Hebbal flyover (there is always such slow-moving traffic here) We made it just before the peak hour traffic could begin.

A nice cup of coffee back home was what made the perfect end to this day’s adventure 🙂