A collection of photographs from the project - "Worlding the City : The Futures of Bangalore".

Bangalore city - see how it has grown !!

About This Exhibition

About Sephis

CSCS Media Archive

About CSCS



In 1949, the twin municipalities of Bangalore City and Cantonment were brought together in the Bangalore City Corporation. A pete founded in the 16th century and a cantonment established in the 19th century were administratively united in the 20th century. More important, two distinct cultures, linguistic territories and spatial identities, separated by a swathe of parkland and institutional areas -- stretching from the Indian Institute of Science in the North west through the Palace Grounds, Golf course and Cubbon Park, to the Mental Hospital in the south east -- were joined. Some of the older divisions continue to haunt the city to this day, as the 'east-west zonation' of the city continues. Others have disappeared over the past fifty years as new challenges and opportunities have been thrown up, continually transforming the shape of the city and the lives of its people. First wrenched out of its existence as a divided town to become a big city in the 1970s, Bangalore was startled into the recogn
ition that it was already a metropolis by the 1980s, hurtling towards a destiny it only reluctantly acknowledges, and for which it is largely unprepared. While the population has increased from 7.79 lakhs in 1951 to more than 50 lakhs by the turn of the century, the city has expanded far beyond the 66 sq km of that time to a conurbation area of 449 sq km today.

Bangalore is at once the capital of Karnataka state, the home of several large scale public sector industries and their ancillaries -- and more recently the infotech and garment industries -- and gateway to styles of globalised consumption. Thus the city has always been marked by regional, national and global forces and interests in very definite ways. These interests lay claim to the city, its many pasts, and possible futures, and thereby make it their own. If the middle class locality once wore the proud badge of the public sector company (e.g. HAL Second Stage), today the dream of dollars lends it name to entire colonies (e.g. Dollar Colony). If there once were areas of the city where Kannada was rarely heard, (e.g. Fraser Town) as the city is reterritorialised today, a more assertive voice of the region is heard (e.g. Sarvagna Nagara). From a time when local market-gardeners (Tigalas) prided themselves on growing European fruits, flowers, and vegetables for the colonial master, on farms scatte
red across the city, to a time when global foods crowd the supermarket shelf, internationalised tastes are widely cultivated and encouraged. The tank bed, once considered open or waste land, fit only for occupation by the poor, is the most contested site in Bangalore today. Consequently, the city is a far more disturbed zone, a restless territory which rarely conforms to the planners' map or the administrators' designs.

From a town of tanks and vineyards, low walled compounds and walkable distances in the 1950s, the city has spread in all directions, unhindered by any natural boundaries. The growing middle class thirst for sites has consumed farmland and village, within and beyond corporation limits, displacing thousands from market-gardening communities, and transforming the urban fabric. By the late 1970s, the city found a new vertical orientation, and apartments and multistoried office blocks soon became not just a necessity but a desirable address. In the late 1990s, the metropolis has continued to expand both upward and outward, the grid of the layout marching on over farm and tank bed, on the one hand, while high rise structures crowd out small lanes.

At which historical moment may we say that the city has taken its final shape? All developments produce new spaces as much as they breathe life into older ones. A space designed for military activities was turned into the metropolis' most desirable business district (MG Road area). A cinema hall yielded space to a shopping complex (e.g.Alankar or Minerva). A tank bed was throttled with buildings (e.g.Millers' Tank) and the city stretched beyond the bicycle's reach. In the early 1970s, bicycles were the dominant mode of transport in the city (accounting for 71 per cent of daily passenger trips): today the city is ferociously automobilised, and one-way streets make Bangalore unfamiliar to older residents. The neighbourhood no longer meets the needs of all people for work, education or leisure; the metropolis requires corridors of speed which bypass or flyover the thick profusion of city life on the ground. The imaginary boundary of the green belt has given way to a new girdle that is thrown aro
und the city, the Ring Road.

At the same time, the need for globalised spaces – five star hotels, golf courses or tech parks which conform to international standards -- takes uneasy precedence over the democratic demands of the poor or underprivileged for water, housing, public transport. The privacies of the privileged can no longer be guaranteed in a deeply iniquitous city, except in gated apartment blocks with 24 hour security systems, a new, sometimes tyrannical privacy. And no part of the city's development has occurred without its costs. The story of Kempegowda's triumph as a city founder was also the story of Lakshmamma's sacrifice. The metropolis is not just a place where people live, love and die, but a space founded on contests, pain, loss, negotiation and even violence. Beneath every monumental edifice, every architectural masterpiece, every idyllic advertisement, are transactions that are not always just, negotiations that are sometimes reversed, and people who are dispossessed. Within the unity that was
declared in 1949, then, there are many cities of Bangalore.

Yet, in a democracy such as ours, people make their own meanings of urban space, in both physical-material and mental-imaginative ways. The two dimensional map may be only one limited way of getting to know the territory of the city. Territories are marked and used in ways that were not anticipated by planners and designers. These are moments in a city's history that are not usually memorialised in stone, recorded in texts, or captured in photographs. Yet they tell us much that is different from the triumphal procession of heroes and victors in usual histories of the city. This exhibition offers a different perspective, free of nostalgia for other times (e.g. the colonial past) or yearning for unreal spaces ( e.g. Singapore). Because only an unsentimental look at the city of our time may help us imagine a possible future.

- Janaki Nair


The culture of the city exists not only in its theatre performances, its art galleries or literary clubs, but in the inscriptions that we encounter in daily life. These may be fragments from an antique past, casually incorporated into a public building, or freshly scrawled wall writings which communicate in their guerilla urgency the concerns of groups which are largely marginalised and silenced. Or they may be the peeling wall decorations of a more leisurely era.

A city like Bang....

Cultural Inscriptions



'Postcards' of Bangalore


If the city is one of the most important sites of democracy, then the actions of citizens in the public realm are its vital signs. The vitality of citizens who may celebrate, demonstrate, commemorate or agitate are important moments in the history of public life. Public actions take on meaning and importance depending on the location and the timing of the action; in turn, these actions redefine the meaning of a public space.

The majesty of the public swearing-in of a Chief Ministe....

Public Life


Every year, the village comes to Bangalore at the time of the fresh peanut harvest when the Kadalekai parishe occupies the rocky slopes of the Basavangudi Bull temple, turning the area into a lively fairground for several days. The carnivalesque mood speaks of a joyous meeting of city and village, a celebration of their mutual dependence.

But the village marks the city in more permanent ways as well. Each of the villages absorbed by the city since 1949 has left its spatial an....

Village in the city


As in most Indian cities, streets or pavements are not mere thoroughfares for vehicles or people. As the city has grown, streets and pavements have been put to newer uses, often on a temporary and sometimes on a permanent basis, but usually in defiance of the law. Streets and pavements are homes, places of work, or simply places for socialising. In poorer neighbourhoods, the street is often an extension of the private space of the home where many household chores are done. Of late, many....

Streets and Pavements


The field of information technology, although very visible in the media today, is only the latest in a long history of work cultures that Bangalore city has nurtured. The Bangalore drugget, a once prized product of the city's woollen industry, is only a dim memory. But the clack of power looms in the Cubbonpet area to this day echoes the work culture of the oldest manufacturing zone of the city. Weavers and dyers of the artificial silk industry, which has adapted to new markets and demands, ....

Work Cultures


The city of Bangalore was once liberally dotted with tanks, their veins and channels staining the map blue, and supporting a rich mix of farms, gardens and houses. Today, the Dharmambudhi and Kempambudhi tanks are just memories of the founding moments of Bangalore, and only the fading map of the 1880s shows Karanji tank. In the 1950s and 60s, the drying tank beds were the least desirable land in the city, attracting only the working class immigrant who managed to build up a life on the oozi....

Tanks and Tank Beds


The open spaces in front of important temple complexes such as Kadu Malleswara (Malleswaram) and Someswara (Ulsoor) temples, the shady church compound of St Mark's Church or the spacious quiet of the Millers' Road Idgah offer a moment of quiet withdrawal from the bustle of everyday life when people congregate in prayer. But there are also the temples and dargahs that crop up on the pavement and serve as a frequent reminder of new religiosities that meet the transient needs of the city dwell....

New Religiosities


City space is always produced by human action, and often under conditions that are not always acceptable to one or another section of society. The monuments and symbolic spaces of a city commemorate only the triumphs, but are silent on the processes and negotiations, or even the battles, that have led to its present form. The naming of a street, the location of a statue, the character of a new locality or the language of a religious ceremony are examples of moments in this city's recent ....

Contested Spaces


Private life has been thoroughly recast as newer consumption styles, architectural designs and work cultures gain acceptance in the city. Private space is designed and used quite differently in an apartment compared with the individual home. In many middle class homes of the 1950s and 1960s, domestic space was partitioned into small but not always private areas. Vattaras in many parts of the city made multiple use of little courtyards, and jagalis or street front platforms were part of the f....



The grocery shop which served the needs of the locality and the hawker who called out her wares, bringing seasonal fruits and vegetables to the doorstep, are no longer the only sources for the city dwellers' everyday needs. Today, more and more people prefer the aisles of the self service supermarket, where a multiplicity of goods, many of them international foods, tempt the consumer. Even so, the Kadalekai Parishe continues to be a hardy annual, an occasion for people to stock up on th....

Styles of Consumption