From a thriving bazaar to a garbage-strewn dump: Tracing the history of Bengaluru's KR Market
From a thriving bazaar to a garbage-strewn dump: Tracing the history of Bengaluru's KR Market

From a thriving bazaar to a garbage-strewn dump: Tracing the history of Bengaluru's KR Market

The BBMP has plans to revamp the KR Market area under the smart city project.

Bengaluru’s KR Market area is today synonymous with garbage-strewn streets, footpaths filled with muck and the smell of urine. 

Before the Third Anglo-Mysore war, which was fought between Tipu Sultan and the British, the current city market area was a lake – Siddikatte, named after one of Kempe Gowda’s relatives.

However, during the war, the current market area had become a battlefield as it was a buffer zone between the Bangalore Fort and Avenue Road, which was earlier called Doddapete.

“This battlefield played an important role. The Mysore War broke out in 1790 and the British army captured numerous forts in Tamil Nadu and later reached Bangalore sometime in March 1791. The British Army capture modern-day Halasuru Gate and laid siege to the Bangalore Fort area,” said Mansoor Ali, an architect and administrator of Facebook Page – Bangalore Photos of a Bygone Age.

Bahadur Khan, the Kotwal of the Bangalore fort, along with 2,000 soldiers of Tipu’s army, resisted aggressively.

“The British were scared to enter the fort and they tried to camp in the open area in front of the fort. This battle lasted for two weeks with no result. After that, the British Army Chief, Lord Cornwallis, attacked the fort at midnight, against the rules of war. Tipu’s army was unprepared for it and got defeated. On March 20, 1791, the English Army captured Bangalore Fort,” said Mansoor Ali.

After the British occupied Bangalore Pete, the battlefield became a public place. The remnants of the battle had led to the lake being filled with rubble and dirt.

“The lake was filled up and since it was heavily polluted, the British decided to make it a public place. Gradually, the vendors from Doddapete began selling fruits and vegetables. Merchants and vendors from neighbouring villages also came to sell their produce and it became a flourishing market,” Mansoor Ali said.

In 1921, Krishna Rajendra Wadiyar IV, built the new market building, which is currently located in the south of KR Market complex.

On September 7, 1927, the Maharaja, who sat on an elephant, came in a procession to erect the pavilion near KR Market. This was to mark the occasion of the then Mysore State’s silver jubilee and to commemorate it, a park near the market was named Silver Jubilee Park.

Prior to 1920, the existing market area was called Vandi Mode (a place where wooden carts were parked). This area comprised a slum with a collection of low-roofed, narrow, zinc-sheeted sheds.

“In January 1907, soon after Bangalore recovered from the plague, the Diwan of Mysore, Sir PN Krishnamurti and the Bangalore City Municipal officials visited the market and suggested a new market be built as the location was dirty and unhealthy. Later, the new market was proposed to be built near Kalasipalyam,” said Harini Nagendra of Intach.

However, the area proposed was unsuitable and the soil bed was to be formed by filling up the holes in the old fort trench. Hence it was decided that the old market be developed into a new one.

“The members of the Bangalore City Improvement Committee held a meeting on January 7, 1914 and decided to acquire three low-lying, unsanitary streets of Siddikatte and construct the improved market there. Numerous private shops adjoining the market were acquired. The new market was designed by Sri Lakshminarasappa using the Sir Stuart Hogg Market of Calcutta as a model with certain modifications. This new market was opened on October 11, 1921,” Harini Nagendra added. 

The inaugural function was attended by BK Garudachar, the then President of Bangalore City Municipality and by other Municipal Councillors.

Due to the unsanitary conditions in the old market area, the municipal authorities decided to appoint a Market Sergeant to maintain order within KR Market and supervise the articles brought for sale. 

“The market was clean back then. Also, shows were held regularly, where fruits and vegetables were exhibited. The Maharaja, the Diwan or other dignitaries would inaugurate the shows in the morning and distribute prizes and medals to successful participants in the evening. During the show in 1930, women participated for the first time in the spinning wheel contest, where they wove khadi. On December 22 and 23, 1946, wrestling matches were organised,” Mansoor Ali said.

However, after 1947, KR Market did not have a Market Sergeant and the area went back to the muck-filled sight it was, before 1927.

“Now the BBMP has planned to revamp the KR Market area under the smart city project. However, without a body to ensure that the area remains litter free, no matter how beautiful the place may look on its inaugural day, it will go back to being filthy,” Mansoor Ali adds.

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