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Cover Story

Bangalore's 1,200-year-old secret


Karnataka's capital is excited about the spate of excavations that have dug up a clutch of ancient ponds.

Not long ago, this ancient kalyani (pond) at Ulsoor was just an encroached patch of congested land in the city. Even the steps around it were hidden many feet below. The 1, 200 year-old temple pond was finally uncovered after a month-long excavation that started in April this year. The presence of a kalyani right in the middle of a congested lane in Bangalore is still a surprise to many.

Even old-timers like Yuvraj, who lives next to the site, had no idea about the pond. "For generations now, we have believed that there is a kalyani in this area, but none of us ever knew where, " he says. There are no records, but legend has it that this pond belonged to the ancient Someshwara temple in the city. Now that the pond's got everybody excited, Rs 4. 5 crore is being spent on its rejuvenation. There is, however, no count of kalyanis in Bangalore. Had it not been for the sudden spurt in excavations, many would have remained buried forever.

The 110-year-old Sampangiramnagar kalyani in the heart of the city, which was excavated and revived 5-6 years back, was nothing but an unused pit with overgrown weeds. And though it has no water, the kalyani makes for a beautiful lighting spot during Diwali and Dussera. Ancient carvings on its three sides add to the charm. Urvashi theatre near Lal Bagh in the city is also on a kalyani. Mostly forgotten, the sculpture of Adisesha seen on the compound is perhaps the only thing that remains of an ancient history.

Suresh Moona, director of Aarambh (An Association for Reviving Awareness About Monuments of Bengaluru Heritage) recalls how the city has casually lost many good things of the past in the name of development. "What is there to 'excavate' in the city? Even that happens only when it's time to dig for road-widening or lay the foundation for a new building. Not much excavation happens.

'Development' doesn't allow it. On rough estimates, we have lost at least 8-10 kalyanis in just the last 15 years. The main problem is that we have no proper record of what we had in the past, " he says.

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