Exploring Shivajinagar

The Cantonment Bazaar

DATE: 31 Jan 2009

TIME: 3:00 PM

MEETING POINT: Begins at the Entrance to Elgin Cinema



‘…The cantonment bazaar, a native town in itself, lies in a valley to the north of the infantry lines. It contains a commodious and well-kept market, the Bowring civil hospital, numerous imposing stores for the sale of European goods and large native buildings.’ - Rice, 1876.

When modern (Kempegowda’s) Bangalore was founded in the mid fifteenth century, Blackpally, today’s Shivajinagar was pretty much a wasteland. The first settlers in the area set up a small village with a mud wall around it. In 1871 it came under the municipal administration of Bangalore and gradually became a service area of the Cantonment.

A thriving ‘native’ bazaar developed along with associated establishments like churches, temples, rest houses, cinemas, schools and hospital. Interestingly, the bazaar became popular with the Europeans as well, as they couldn’t resist the possibility of finding a bargain.

Join us for a walk through the area to experience a lively, colourful bazaar and find out what remains of the past.



3:00 pm Meet at Elgin Cinema (A)
3:30 pm Commence walk to Chandni Chowk
4:00 pm Russel Market (B)
4:30 pm Adams Square (C)
5:00 pm St. Mary’s Basilica (D)
5:30 pm Close event

For Further Details: Please call (080) 25205305/6/7/8


Photo Credit: Suraj Chhabria Photo Credit: Archana Prasad

Shivajinagar or Blackpally was a barren region when Kempegowda founded modern Bangalore. The first settlers in the area were farmers from Gingee, who set up a village and cultivated white rice. It is believed that the name Black pally for the area came from the bili akki (white rice) that they grew in their fields.

As the Cantonment was established to its south and east Blackpally along with Ulsoor gradually became a native settlement servicing the needs of Cantonment residents.

Though much has altered now, the remnants of the past are still visible. Russell Market is still the main market place of the area and one can see the spires of St Mary’s Basilica opposite it. One can also still see some old shop-houses and theatres, which served the residents.


A mixed group of participants, Indian and foreign assembled in front of Elgin Cinema at 3pm on Saturday 31 Jan 2009. The event commenced with a short introduction to Bangalore City Project by Krupa Rajangam a UDBHAVA volunteer.

This was followed by an introductory talk on the area and its history by Pankaj Modi, another UDBHAVA volunteer and Krupa, who were both to be the guides for the day.

Pankaj then spoke about the history of Elgin, set up in 1896 as a theatre, for dramas and musicals, mainly for the native populace. The structure is still a family run concern and continues to be used as a cinema. The group was introduced to the present owner, Mr Krishnamurthy, great grandson of the founder Veerabhada Mudaliar.

Suresh Jayaram, BCP member happened to find out about an old garadi mane i.e. wrestling arena, close to the theatre and the group took a short detour to take in the arena and more famously its biryani, which attracts a number of faithfuls.

Pankaj and Krupa led the participants along Chandi Chowk road, past gujli or thieves market, to reach chandni showk square, which is dominated by the Indo Saracenic structure of Russell Market. The market was set up in 1927 to realise the need of an organised market space for the growing population of the area, and is still famed for its fruits, vegetables and flowers. The group wandered through the market structure and appreciated its careful planning with fruits, flowers and vegetables in front and poultry and meat at the rear separated by a central courtyard.

Walking through a lane at the back, the group then visited Mohmammed Ali Building on Veerapillai Street. The building, a central stone paved courtyard with tall wooden gates, dates to 1824 and was originally a place to stable horses and carriages, probably for a fee.

The walk continued, with the group winding back to Adams Square past Meenkashi Koil, next to Russell Market on Chandi Chowk. Originally called Richards Square, this open area is surrounded by shops dedicated to household goods of all kinds. Its name Adams Square comes from the old shop Adams, at the centre of the square, dating to 1912.

Right opposite is St. Mary’s Basilica, the oldest church in Bangalore, the original shrine on the spot dating to late seventeenth century. It has since been rebuilt a number of times, till it finally achieved today’s form, a Gothic style structure marked by a tall tower at the entrance. The group was happy to find that a wedding service was being conducted in the church during their visit.

The event closed with feedback being collected form all participants on their thoughts and suggestions for the area.

Pankaj and Krupa were happy that many a people turned up for the event though they hadn’t anticipated such a crowd. Hence crowd management and audibility of the guides proved to be a bit of an issue especially given that the walk was being conducted in a crowded bazaar area. This needs to be addressed in future events. It would have been good to have a lot more local Bangloreans attend the event. This also probably needs to be addressed.


Elgin Cinema
Sree Rama Nursery
Goethe Institut - Max Mueller Bhavan, Bangalore


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