A modern city, which has earned itself a place on the international map with its IT czars and whiz kids today, Bengaluru had a very different beginning centuries ago. Created around markets and lakes, it buzzed to a different beat. Central to its spread was a red mud fort with eight gates, the ruins of which still stand today in busy, commercial New Tharagupet.
Although almost as old, the Bull Temple in Basavanagudi, the Someshwara Temple in Ulsoor and the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple in Gavipuram are in far better shape. Together with the fort they date back to the time when a visionary feudatory of the Vijayanagar empire, Hiriya Kempe Gowda, decided to create a city like none other and make it his capital.
Son of Kempananje Gowda, who ruled Yelahankanadu for over 70 years, Kempe Gowda was born in Yelahanka in 1510 AD. Kicked off his vision with a red mud fort that he built in 1537 AD. Kempe Gowda visualised a city with man-made lakes, temples and marketplaces and gave shape to his dream by building an oval with two main streets, Chikkapete running from East to West and Doddapete, running from North to South. The intersection of these two streets he called Doddapete Square,the present Avenue Road. Four gates were erected at four cardinal points , Halasoor to the East, Sondekopa to the West, Yelahanka to the North and Anekal to the South.
His active mind then came up with the idea of forming several markets catering to different trades and professions around the mud fort. And so came into existence areas like Akkipete (for rice merchants), Balepete (for bangle vendors), Upparpete (for traders in salt), Aralepete, present Cottonpete (for cotton traders), Kumbarapete (for pottery makers), Kurbarapete (for sheep traders), Ganigarapete (for oil traders), and Nagarthpete (for gold traders).
Kempe Gowda, who was a patron of the arts and learning, is said to have brought skilled artisans and craftsmen from afar to settle in his new city and contribute to making it a thriving cultural centre. Clearly born to be king as his leadership qualities were evident even as a child , he got his initial education at a gurukula in Aivarukandapura,(also called Aigondapura), a small village near the present Hessaraghatta, for nine years. It was during this time that he mastered statecraft and martial skills.
But his vision was all encompassing and in no way narrow. And so besides promoting the arts, he made sure the people of his new capital city had enough water for their needs by building several lakes, tanks and water bodies. People used their water for drinking and irrigation. happy in the knowledge that they had no dearth of it. Far from resting on his laurels, Kempe Gowda kept expanding his frontiers during 56 year rule, until he passed away in 1569.