Going Back in Time in Basavanagudi in Bangalore
Spread symmetrically around parks and temples, Basavanagudi in Bangalore was a surprise to me. I was taken to this old locality of Bangalore by a dear friend Julia.
Julia is a French woman who married an Indian man mostly for her love for Kolkata (sorry Sudipto) — she met her husband there. As destiny had it, Julia happened to move into the flat below our rooftop abode in HSR Bangalore. From my terrace shed, we stalked the blood-red moons together. Christmas was celebrated at her home and Diwali was at mine.
In December 2020, when the lockdowns had been lifted and the cases were receding, Julia took me to Basavanagudi. I hadn’t explored the locality. If Julia hadn’t suggested, I may have never visited the ancient lanes, intriguing parks, and the historic temples in Basavanagudi.
In Bangalore, I mostly stayed away from crowded markets and loved visiting open spaces. Or I went outside Bangalore to see the many interesting places in Karnataka. Cubbon Park Bangalore was also one of my favorite hangouts. Or I wrote incessantly on a desk facing the HSR defense jungle. Other times, I cooked meals with ingredients sourced from organic stores in Bangalore.
As we were finally moving out of Bengaluru, I made a list of Bangalore’s places to see— Basavanagudi was one of those destinations. So when Julia said she has a special tour of the locality, I requested her to show me around.
We took a taxi to Basavanagudi’s main street DV Gundappa Road — after the eponym Kannada writer DV Gundappa. He once resided there. Gandhi bazaar Basavanagudi— the main market — is spread around the DVG road and other streets. Some of the retail businesses on DVG are said to be from the 1920s and 30s.
Flower Market of Basavanagudi Bangalore
Along the streets of Gandhi Bazaar, a bright flower market spreads early on in the day. Studded in between various shops, baskets of rose, marigolds, jasmine, and other flowers basked in the sun. Fresh flowers hung in garlands in front of shops and stalls. If one goes behind the outlets, men and women can be seen stitching flowers into these velvety garlands.
Many Bangalore families decorate their homes with flowers every day. South Indian women put flowers in their buns daily. And devotees offer the best of the blossoms to their gods every dawn. Maybe most of the flowers of the city flow through the Gandhi Bazar Basavanagudi.
Gandhi Bazaar Basavanagudi
The Gandhi Market looked ancient to me. The whole Gandhi bazaar road and the area were built in 1898. In the same year, about 3000 people had died from the plague. It was deduced the plague was caused by bad light, poor ventilation, and dampness in the communities. So Gandhi Bazaar was developed keeping good spacing between houses. Big open parks were built. The Basavanagudi lanes ran parallel and perpendicular to these parks and large rectangular plots of lands and homes. (Basavanagudi maps clearly shows how systemic the colony was laid out to be — a bit unusual for Bangalore.)
One also hears of the Conservancy Lane which was built in Gandhi Bazaar to allow access to the pits in the backyards of houses. Workers came and removed human waste from the pits from the backside itself. (You can read my Spiti Valley travelogues to know more about pit toilets.)
Food Around Bangalore Basavanagudi
But enough about the flowers and filth. Some of the iconic food joints one must visit in Bangalore are in Basavanagudi. (You may want to read the best restaurants to eat around MG Road Bangalore.)
We crossed the popular vegetarian tiffin restaurant Vidyarthi Bhavan — literally the house of students. Established in 1943 for the students of the area, the place now gives idly, vada, and crispy ghee dosas to anyone who knocks. Their masala dosas are the best. (Read my guide to crispy and soft Karnataka dosas to learn more about this delicious and addictive dish.)
Hungry people queue outside the eatery every day to get a seat inside. The afternoon we went the place was crowded. From where we looked, the restaurant seemed to have temporarily removed the chairs and tables. Patrons were eating standing upright. We didn’t go inside fearing the coronavirus. But that visit is left for the next time I go to Bangalore. (We later ate a crispy and delicious Kerala parotta in Adyar Anand Bhavan near Gandhi bazaar main road.)
Another tip: If you are looking for old South Indian eateries food, do visit Shree Gurukottureshwara Davanagere Bennedosa Hotel — one of the finest restaurants near Basavanagudi.
Artefacts Fair in Basavanagudi in Bangalore
We stumbled upon this artefact fair in Basavanagudi. The most interesting part of the fair was the Tirupati leather puppet shop. If only the material wasn’t leather I would have bought a colorful figurine to hang in our car.
Bugle Rock Park Basavanagudi
Moving on from the fair, we arrived at the unusual Bugle Rock Park. Through its paved walkways, the dome-shaped structure (which is a water tank) can be seen. On the tank, the faces of various Karnataka leaders and Mysore kings are carved and painted. A statue of BG Gundappa can also be found resting here under an umbrella.
Bugle Rock Park was used as a strategic point by Tipu Sultan’s soldiers during the 3rd Anglo-Mysore of 1790-2. The garden thus got its name from a bugle call made from the top of large rocks in the park to alert the nearby dwellers.
As we climbed up the stairs to a viewing and resting platform in the park, I was surprised. Giant trees fill Bangalore’s obscurest and busiest parts. But the park trees were dotted with black blobs, some thin and some larger than the rest. Julia brought to my attention that the blobs were the great flying fox bats hanging upside down. There were hundreds of them. Several other onlookers were admiring the show, and I was so thankful to Julia for taking me to Basavanagudi in Bangalore.
After jumping around on the many boulders that make the Bugle Rock Park so distinctive, we made our way to the Big Bull temple located at the periphery of the park. This Basavanagudi temple is known as Dodda Basavana Gudi in the local language.
The Big Bull Temple, Nandi Temple, or the Dodda Basavanagudi Temple, Bangalore
Basava means Bull and gudi means temple. The Bangalore Basavanagudi area is named after the legendary temple, which, in turn, is named after the large granite monolith Nandi statue (4.6 m high and 6.1 long) placed on a plinth in the temple shrine. Nandi bull is god Shiva’s ride and is sacred for Hindus.
The Vijayanagar-style temple was built in 1537 by Kempe Gowda — the king of the Vijayanagar empire and the founder of Bangalore. Though most parts of the temple haven’t changed for centuries, the present golden tower (“Vimana”) towering over the shrine was built during the early 20th century. The golden tower is adorned with Saivite motifs.
At the feet of the Nandi statue in the Basavanagudi temple, a Kannada inscription says:
“At the feet of this god Basaveshwara, the river Vrishabhavathi rose and flowed westwards”. — The Vrishabhavathi River rises from underneath the statue and flows Westwards.
Shree Dodda Ganapathi Temple, Basavanagudi
Inside Bugle Rock Park, another one of the significant temples in Basavanagudi is located. This one is dedicated to the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. When we went to visit the temple, we found the Ganesha idol yellow. Visit on Mondays and Saturdays to see a buttery Ganesha.
Descending the horn-fringed stairs, we came out of the temple and came onto the main road.
Ramanjaneya Gudda and Harihara Gudda – Hill-Top Temples in Basavanagudi
Now our destination was the Ramanjenaya Gudda park. In Kannada, Gudda means Hill. This temple is located on a hill in Bangalore.
The hill is named after the eponym Anjaneya (Hanuman) temple at the top of the hill. A big, golden statue of Ram and Hanuman hugging together is seen soaring over the temple. Thus the hill gets its name — Ram + Anjaneya (Hanuman) + Gudda (hill) = Ramajenaya Gudda. The park around the temple makes for a fresh walk.
Julia says the best time to visit the golden Anjaneya temple is the sunset. When we were there, two classical dancers dressed in traditional silk saris and heavy gold jewelry were doing their photoshoot in the open amphitheater outside the temple.
My best part of this Basavanagudi Bangalore tour was sitting in the Ramajenaya Gudda’s amphitheater, watching the devotees and the dancers around, looking at the Lakshmi and Saraswati carvings on the temple walls, while the sun set somewhere.
The next stop was the Harihara Gudda park located on another adjacent hill. Below the park lies the ancient Gangadeshwara temple.
We must have been at the Harihara Gudda park late in the evening, but the day wasn’t over yet.
Gangadeshwara Temple Basavanagudi Bangalore
Our final stop of the day was the ancient Gangadeshwara temple. This 16-century temple is also known as a cave temple. Inside the shrine, there was a large monolithic Trishul and damru (drum) of Shiva.
This Basavanagudi temple isn’t just important archaeologically but also significant astronomically. Not many know that the Gangadeshwara temple has a cave attached to it. When we went, the cave was closed for visitors. But Julia showed it to me from outside. The rocks of the cave hung low and one would have to bend down considerably to enter the cave.
Monolithic discs known as “Surya-pana,” Chandra-pana” et cetera are also found in the temple. Judging by the names I assume these discs will form different shadows when the sun or moon will fall over these discs. During the festival of Makar Sankranti in January, the sun rays fall directly on the Shiva linga.
Ten Matrikas are also in the temple. Considered inauspicious, Matrikas are a group of mother goddesses who are always depicted together in Hinduism and are considered special in Tantrism.
Originally believed to be a personification of the seven stars of the Pleiades star cluster, Matrikas became a part of a lot of goddesses temples from the ninth century onwards. Do find all the ten when you visit the Gangadeshwara cave temple.
Where to stay in Bangalore to visit Basavanagudi?
Honestly I have never put up close to Basavanagudi in Bangalore.
But I loved staying at Casa Cottage and Misty Meridian Serviced Apartments in Bangalore. I recommend both the places to you. And if you want detailed information on my stays in the two or more ideas about guest houses in Bangalore, go to the linked guide. (coming soon)
Basavanagudi Map and Tour Details
Julia would be happy to take travelers on her personal Basavanagudi tour. You may write to her on roulia.corget at gmail dot com. Do mention that you read about the tour on this blog.
All the temples in Basavanagudi open at 5 pm. So Julia will most probably suggest you start the tour around late afternoon. Visit the market, stroll around the back lanes, and then head to the temples towards 5 pm.
Get ready for an adventure in Bangalore’s Basavanagudi.
How did you like my guide to Basavanagudi Bangalore? What are some of your favorite places near Basavanagudi?
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