Bengaluru-based architect Mansoor Ali developed a sudden wanderlust, like many, many others. He packed his bags and set off to see the world, visiting many countries and also exploring his own land, India. Surprisingly, it was Delhi that left him wonder-struck. "I would visit often and take heritage walks through the city. Then one day, it occurred to me that I was looking at Humayun's monuments when I hadn't seen the relics of Tipu Sultan's kingdom in my own town," said Mansoor.
A love for history combined with his interest in architecture led him to start Bengaluru By Foot six years ago, an initiative to remind the city of the many precious bits of history that remain hidden with it. Mansoor and his partner, Ameen, kicked off a strenuous period of research to unearth these lost treasures. What's so hard about this, you ask? Run a google search for historical sites in Bengaluru and you will see!
Their study led them to older parts of Bengaluru, where they met people who had actually lived through the times they were attempting to study, giving them a brand new, first-hand look at history. "Places like Avenue Road are full of history. How many people know that the 230-year-old tomb of Tipu Sultan's maternal grandfather, Ibrahim Khan, still stands here? Mosques built by Hyder Ali and Tipu were altered carelessly few years ago, destroying their value," Mansoor explained. "Instead of investing in preserving our legacy of monuments, the government has seen fit to renovate instead," he remarked. In another instance, the Someshwara temple in Ulsoor, originally built with granite tiles, now has marble flooring, the more popular, less expensive choice. "They care about what fits their notion of attractive," he said with disdain.
Each heritage walk takes about a week of planning. " We take one week to do our research and decide the path. We focus on older parts of Bengaluru like Malleswaram, Basvangudi and Avenue Road," he said adding, " We take an individual monument, like Bull Temple and trace its history, source old photos and get in touch with senior citizens for more information." They then scour the area for other historic spots that might lie along their path, like the Bugle Rock with its statue of D.V. Gundappa.
What do fellow walkers see, when Bengaluru by foot, takes them to various spots? Sometimes, spotting the treasure can take a fair degree of discernment. "These places are very badly maintained. The 240-year-old Tipu Sultan armory in Kalasipalyam is a public urinal," he said, adding that his attempts to reach the BBMP have all gone in vain. Preservation is out of his hands but he hopes, nevertheless, to make people aware of their roots.
"I notice that only 25 percent of the groups are locals. People from outside the city are far more interested in our history! I have had foreigners from Australia, Scotland and U.S. The Bengaluru crowd mainly comprises the IT crowd, apart from senior citizens," he said.
Heritage homes hold a great deal of fascination for Mansoor and several of their walks let people marvel at the grand old homes of Basavanagudi and Malleswaram, many of which are still inhabited and maintained by long-time residents.
All their walks have one thing in common - they end with a delicious South Indian breakfast at some of Bengaluru's most iconic