Why Bangalore Was Cosmopolitan A Few Hundred Years Ago

Why Bangalore Was CosmopolitanNeither Chennai nor Hyderabad has Bangalore's night life, or the same number of options for day time entertainment. They also don't have a populace for whom seeking entertainment regularly is part of the lifestyle.

The secret lies in Bangalore's cosmopolitanism which is a few hundred years old.

The Bangalore Way Of Life Is Unknowingly Influenced By 5 Major Cultures:

Everybody knows you can speak many languages in Bangalore and get away with it, but very few know exactly why the Bangalorean is so linguistically pliable.

What is today Bangalore was once Chola territory, the great Tamil dynasty that ruled over all of South India, and whose influence reached Sri Lanka and Makaysia. Interestingly the Someshwara Temple in Ulsoor is a 1000 years old and was built at the command of a Chola king.

Bangalore's location near the borders of two modern states, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, not to forget the old Mysore Kingdom, made it a strategic point geographically.

The region was coveted and conquered in see-saw battles by the Telugu 'Vijaynagar' kings, the Marathas, the Mughals, the British, and the Kannada kingdoms. These peoples settled here bringing with them their cuisine, language, and sometimes their music and festivals.

As one culture flourished and was slowly superimposed upon by another culture, it created a liberal society that is today tolerant of other cultures, sometimes to a fault.

The basic Bangalorean attitude of being liberal was further strengthened by British occupation, when it became a military cantonment. The few orthodox elements who were left, relaxed. While they may have continued to practise it they did not insist on others following what they did.

Bangalore's Swinging 70s

So when Bangalore moved into the 70s (long before it was India's IT capital), there already was a cosmopolitan citizenry who regularly found pleasure in multi-lingual movies. The Kannadiga seeing Tamil movies and the Tamilian returning the compliment. And both watching English and Hindi movies. Remarkably, they understood all the languages, including the cultural idioms in which the movies were created. Bangalore, at that time, had the highest number of movie theatres in the Country.

Bangalore Was Cosmopolitan A Few HundredEating out - though it could have been done to the same degree in any other city, it stayed a Bangalore speciality. People ate out at the drop of a hat and they still do. With the large populations of various ethnic groups, it was possible even then to find Andhra cuisine, Mangalorean, Tamil, and Continental without too much effort, and without much expense.

The Club Culture is not new to Bangalore, though it might have begun with the British, it later filtered down the economic and cultural strata to become an old Bangalore phenomenon. Neighbourhood clubs, not swanky by any standards brightened many an evening. Here the average Bangalorean played carrom, chess, and card games. He indulged in good spirits and stimulating conversation, smacked around a table-tennis ball and waited for the inevitable 'housie' game. Some old timers surmise that the large number of PSUs in Bangalore , which stop work ratherearly in the evening, created an audience rather restless for recreation. The weather being friendly brought them out, rather than forced them to stay in, like commonly happens in other cities.

The weekend picnic, an old Bangalore diversion, was loved across all categories of citizens. Families would pack lunches scramble into vehicles and leave for the many choices of family-friendly spots. Nandi Hills, Big Banyan Tree, Pearl Valley or Bannerghata forest. How many cities can boast of such places so close to the city? Today, the word 'picnic' has been dropped but we still 'drive out' to these happening spots. And a few more spots like Hessarghatta Lake, and Nrityagram have been added to the list.

Plays in Kannada and English, traditional music concerts, large, uncrowded parks and playgrounds, all added spice to Bangalore's evenings in the old days.

'In' with the new, but not 'out' with the old

Today, the bowling alley caters to the stressed out Bangalorean. With work hard and play hard becoming part of corporate life. Along with snooker parlours, pubs, video game centres, discos, shopping arcades, water-theme amusement parks, highway dhabas, restaurants with exotic foreign cuisines, hep and happening gymnasiums, and of course Internet surfing centers.

All new Bangaloreans happily decide 'when in Bangalore, do as the Bangaloreans do', and almost always get attached to the city.

Even with the bewildering variety of entertainment it could still be said that nothing's new. Yesterday's good times only got better. And all the old forms of entertainment are still there. Oldies Goldies........ but ladies and gentlemen, what will your pleasure be?