Ipsita K and Sushmitha B
The four towers built by Kempegowda II, which were to mark the four corners of Bengaluru, have today become a historical landmark with no geographical significance.
The city of Bengaluru, founded by Kempagowda I in 1537 has today undergone a metamorphosis, thanks to its mindless, uncontrollable growth.
Bengaluru, previously Bendakaluru, was founded by Kempegowda I who built a mud fort at the site in 1537. Chieftain of the Vijaynagar Kingdom, Kempegowda I also built temples, lakes and tanks inside the fort.
His grandson, Kempegowda II built the iconic Kempegowda towers across the city that marked Bengaluru’s boundary. According to historians, there are seven towers spread across the city but only four are protected monuments under the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1961.
The four Kempegowda gopuras, as they are called, are as follows:
Established by Hyder Ali and reconstructed by Tipu Sultan, this is the southeastern tower. The Lalbagh Botanical Garden is a popular destination at the end of KH road and it is impossible to miss the tower located on top of a hillock. From there, one can view the entire Bengaluru skyline. This tower is the most well-maintained of the four monuments with granite floors and pillars.
“Myth says that Kempegowda II stood at one point and let four oxen loose in four different directions, and wherever they stopped were decided as the end points of the city. So the tower you see on the rock is one of those end points,” said Ramya Srinidhi, a co-founder of Katha Corner, pointing at the tower. Ramya was there with children to teach them about the city’s history.
The rock upon which the tower is placed is believed to be 3000 million years old and has been designated by the Geological Survey of India.
On the banks of the Ulsoor lake stands the northeastern tower. It is well-maintained by the military as the Madras Sappers use it for training their personnel. One cannot enter or go to the proximity of the tower but can appreciate the beautiful lake.
The tower is near the Gurudwara down the road and it goes unnoticed, sitting on top of a hill.
- Mekhri Circle
One among the four Kempegowda towers is situated in a park adjacent to Ramana Maharishi park (one can cite the tower from a distance) at Mekhri Circle. This is the northwestern tower. One hasty look at the place one would feel they have entered a park not a place where a historical monument is located. The park is well maintained by BBMP, attractive horticulture and the statue of Kempegowda add more significance to this place. The tower is at the centre of the park with well-carved architecture. Some parts of the tower and the sculpture on it have suffered over the years and one can now only imagine the grandeur of the monument.
This is the only tower located on a level land and not on a hillock. The park is surrounded by a residential area, and early in the morning we can find people using the tower for meditation.
- Kempambudhi Tower
Kempambudhi Tower, the southwestern tower, is an eyesore to the public as it is surrounded by five temples. The tower is behind the Kali temple covered with trees which makes it difficult to locate. Kempambudhi lake, constructed by Kempegowda I, has been dry for 25 to 30 years. This tower is among the least maintained ones.
A deer park is an attraction near the lake.
About three decades ago, dhobis used the water in the lake to wash clothes. The lake has become a dump, choked with weeds, hyacinth, silt and sewage. Cleaning of the lake began in December 2015.
The Kempegowda museum was constructed in 2011 in honour of the Yelahanka chieftain. Located on the first floor of Mayo Hall, the museum has photographs of forts, temples, reservoirs, inscriptions and statues.
Currently, the museum has no curator and is managed by a person hired by BBMP.
All the four towers are very strategically located near tanks and lakes. All of them look identical, although Lalbagh tower is built more like a temple, and Mehkri Circle tower is the only one that is not located on top of a hillock.
Kempegowda will always be remembered as the founder of this sprawling city. Airports, bus stations and museums have been named after the founder of the city which serve as a constant reminder of his legacy.