Great men, Greater buildings

Image Credit: Sudhir Ramachandran for AIRTEL

From out here in Chennai, a number of things come to mind when I think of Bangalore. The royal & majestic ganda berunda symbol – the royal mascot of princely mysore – especially when I travel by KSRTC to Bangalore. Our small yet comfy home and in one corner, my room. The environs of Indiranagar – now metamorphisizing faster than the speed of light, it seems – where I’ve lived for so many years. Others flit across my mind like Airport Road, Russel Market, the less than ½ a km strip that everybody knows as Brigade Road, its business rival, Commercial Street, the calls of the muzzein in and around the Shivajinagar area, Bhagatrams for its yummy gulab jamoons, KC Das for its rossogollas, Fanoos for its delectable kababs, Coffee House, the umpteen darshini hotels, Gangarams, etc etc.

But if there is one place, one monument that defines Bangalore in its entirety and is eponymous to itself, it has to be that magnificent, imposing, stunning monument called Vidhana Soudha.

Tall, proud and majestic, this classic building seems forever etched in my memory. The earliest, perhaps, was bunking school on pretext to visit my grandfather- then the Manager at SBM, Vidhana Veedhi branch and then, crossing the road to park myself on the lawns of the Atttara Kacheri ( High Court ) to gaze at this startling building opposite. Those days it seemed larger – perhaps, ‘coz I was smaller? I remember too cycling all the way from Indiranagar to marvel at the building – with a roasted, salted & tangy makkachola (corn on the cob) in one hand – during the evenings when it was illuminated.

People seeing it for the first time can be awed. A friend of mine from Calcutta could not stop talking to me about it. I can’t help but not forget her coz she called the building, in true Bengali bhasha, as Bidhana Sabha!!! Purists, lets forgive her, guys, she was but a visitor!!!

This magnificent granite building – housing State’s Legislature as well as its Secretariat, 150 meters tall at its highest point, standing on a plot of land roughly 700 feet by 350 feet has a unique amalgam of different architectures but which has spawned one unique to it – neo-dravidian! With 3 floors and basement for storage, the total floor area is roughly ½ a million square feet. Approaching it via its main entrance, one can count 12 columns of nearly 40 feet in height. A huge dome, 60 feet in diameter, rises dramatically, supported by an octagonal shaped structure. At the top, the national emblem of India, the Ashoka Chakra shines brilliantly, painted in gold.

The building was conceived by great men and during grander & less partisan times. Kengal Hanumanthaiah, the Chief Minister of erstwhile Mysore state, was its architect with its foundation laid by none other than the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. The building’s chief engineer was B. R Manikam, Chief Engineer of the State Public Works Department. The building project was started in 1952 and took 5000 laborers, 1500 chisellers, masons and wood carvers four years to complete. Apparently, many of the unskilled workers deployed in its construction were convicts, who were then given their freedom, on its completion!!!

Today, of course, small men with big ego’s rule the roost inside this palatial building. A time when buying votes, seats, partymen are all said and done things. Not to mention, worrisome things like grills & gates, x-ray scans, round-the-clock security & terrorist strikes. Sigh, enough of angst.

Lastly, though the words ‘Governments work is God’s work’ is written in bold, just above its front entrance pillars, nobody except God, perhaps, believes in them!


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