Home Sites Essays Monuments

Though several areas in Bangalore date from as early as the Chola period, the city itself was established by Kempe Gowda in the mid-16th century. The Gowdas, who rose in importance after the fall of Vijayanagara, were responsible for building or renovating several temple complexes in and around the city. They were eventually replaced by the Wodeyars in the late 17th century. Haidar Ali and Tipu Sultan, who held the city briefly in the 18th century, added several gardens and palaces , including the Lal Bagh, show here. After Tipu Sultan's defeat in 1799 the city was incorporated by the British into the princely state of Mysore.

Somesvara Temple
This temple is said to date to the 9th century Chola period, but the elaborate mandapa and gopuram were probably added by Kempe Gowda in the 17th century. The mandapa is filled with sculpted multisection pillars and a huge Nandi image faces the shrine. To the right of the shrine entrance is a beautiful relief composition of Shakti. The south entrance to the mandapa, seen here, is flanked with ornate columns with riders on Yalis rearing over a makara. The other outer pillars have colonnettes supported by seated lions.

Somesvara Temple: Gopuram
The Gopuram is an imposing structure built in the ornate Nayaka style. This well-preserved maiden clutching a tree flanks the entrance passageway. Above her is the first of the elaborate creeper circles that reach the ceiling of the Gopuram. Note the carved parrots on either side of the creeper stalk. Another vertical composition to the left shows dancing figures of humans with animal heads. The ceiling of the Gopuram has an ornate lotus medallion.

Somesvara Temple: Dancing Ganesa
This composition is to the left of the Gopuram entrance, facing the temple courtyard. It consists of several pilasters, some with elaborate kalasa bases and capitals capped by gavaksa motifs. The central niche shows a dancing Ganesa. Pairs of flanking niches have Ganas playing musical instruments, standing on platforms supported by seated lions. The rightmost niche has a stern-looking Siva dvarapalaka.

Somesvara Temple: Venugopala
This composition is to the right of the Gopuram entrance, facing the temple courtyard. The central niche here has an unusual four-handed image of Krishna (Venugopala). Two cows at Venugopala's feet looking endearingly up at him. Gopinis in tribhanga posture grace the flanking niches.

Venkataramana Temple
This temple, immediately east of Tipu's Palace, dates from the 17th century Gowda period. Its two-storied brick vimanam is a modern replacement. Each story has alternating kuta and sala forms with an arched niche containing a diety at the centre. The vimanam is topped by a dome in the usual kutina style.

Venkataramana Temple: Divine Processions
Sculptures on the outer walls of the temple show processions of the gods on their vahanas. At the centre are Siva on Nandi, Vishnu on Garuda, Brahma on Hamsa. To the right seven dieties stand in line, while on the left dieties are seated in lalitasana.

Venkataramana Temple: Gopuram
The complex is entered through this seven-storey gopuram, also modern. It has plain walls, but each story is crowded with elaborate stucco sculpture of various dieties.

Fort, Delhi Gate
Only a small fragment remains of the fort, constructed by Haidar Ali in the mid-18th century. A circular central entrance arch is flanked by similar arched outlines. Their spandrels are decorated with lotus roundels and alams, a distinctly Shia motif. The pilasters between the arches have a lotus frieze. Just below the eave are several lines of plaster decoration.

Tipu's Palace
Built at the site of an earlier Gowda residence, only the north-facing audience hall remains of Tipu Sultan's palace complex. High, fluted wooden columns carrying lobed arches line the outer hall. Stairs lead upstairs to rooms and a viewing gallery with overhanging balconies.

Tipu's Palace: Viewing Gallery
This viewing gallery overlooks the audience hall and the palace entrance. It has fluted columns that support curvilinear arches and a small projecting balcony.

Tipu's Palace: Staircase
This porch at the top of north-east staircase preserves a painted ceiling with floral patterns. Traces of painting also remain on the walls. The entire palace would once have been ornately decorated, in a manner similar to the palaces at Srirangapatnam.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha