11 February 2015

Inside a heritage home in Basavanagudi

Recently I had the chance to step back into another time when I took part in a heritage walk exploring the old homes of Basavanagudi a neighbourhood in south Bangalore. We were a small group made up of long-time Bangaloreans and other more recent residents (and me, a former resident!), who were all eager to learn more about the cultural heritage of this neighbourhood and explore its wide tree-lined avenues, and especially its heritage homes.

Our guide for the tour was Mansoor Ali, an architect who grew up in the neighbourhood and who leads this walk for Unhurried, which organises several themed walking tours across the city. He told me that they usually visit about six homes on this walk, but despite his efforts we only had the chance to see a few because many of the homeowners were out.

The highlight of the walk was a 107-year-old house which had belonged to Nanjundiah Krishna Rau, a former Diwan (prime minister) of the Mysore Kingdom. 

Today his great grandson, Mr M. R. Narendra, an author, lives on the ground floor of the house, while the upper floor is the home of Mr Narendra’s nephew.

We admired the pillared porch which was where ‘informal guests’ used to be received, explained Mansoor, and the large garden and its many trees, including one which was surrounded by a porched enclosure. 

Stepping through Mr M. R. Narendra’s doorway was like taking a step back into another time.  He welcomed us warmly into his home and showed us around. Inside we saw many period features like a Madras terrace ceiling, a red oxide floor, colonial-style furniture, and a traditional swing. We even got a peek of a 1935 Standard automobile in the garage (sorry no photo!).

In my previous post, I wrote about Bangalore’s disappearing heritage homes. This trend to demolish old houses and replace them with apartment buildings has not spared any of the city’s neighbourhoods, including Basavanagudi.

Old and new in Basavanagudi

Gardens make way for parking lots 
A large garden is becoming a rarity in Bangalore, where people prefer to have as large a living space as possible, building huge buildings which leave little space between properties. “At 25,000 Rupees a square foot, gardens are considered a waste of space,” explained Mansoor.

I'm glad that Mr Narendra has preserved his old house and not fallen prey to the developers who are changing the face of the city. There are still a few glimpses of the old Bangalore and thanks to this unique walking tour, I had the chance to experience a little bit of it.  

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