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Today, lets find out how Kempe Gowda built Bangalore.

After consulting his trusted astrologers, Kempe Gowda finalized on a date & time to begin the groundwork for building his dream city in the large forest between Yelahanka & Domlur. On a bright sunny morning in 1537 AD, 4 pairs of white bullocks with decorated ploughs, assembled in the middle of the forest were waiting for further orders. At an auspicious time, as Kempe Gowda flagged off the event, these 4 pairs driven by young men started furrowing the ground in 4 cardinal directions. The routes ploughed by these bullocks were marked as the main streets of this new city. Even 500 years later today, these streets are still buzzing with activity. The street running east-west was named Chikkapete street & the north-south street was named Doddapete street (later renamed as “Avenue Road”).

To guard this new city, Kempe Gowda built a strong mud fort with 4 main gates for entry/exit. The entire fort was surrounded by moat (ditch filled with water)
An artist impression of Bangalore in 1537.
Enclosed within a strong mudfort and surrounded by a moat.
To streamline activities of traders, he hit upon an interesting plan of forming several layouts, each catering to a certain trade or profession. The naming convention was simple and was of the form <Trade/Profession><Pete>.
(Pete means city and it is pronounced as “pay-teh“)
Doddapete was for large businesses (Dodda means large in Kannada) and Chikkapete was for smaller businesses (Chikka means small). For rice traders, there was Akkipete. Ragipete for ragi traders. Balepete for bangle traders, Ganigarapete for oil traders, Nagarthapete for Gold traders, Gollarpete for cowherds & cattle traders, Kurubarapete for sheep traders, Thigalarapete for farmers of Tigala community Upparapete for salt traders, Aralepete (now Cottonpete) for cotton traders, Kumbarapete for pot traders and many more such petes. (These petes still exist even today.)
One of the oldest maps of the city dates back to 1791, mapped by the British army led by Lord Cornwallis. (The oval shaped structure adjoinig the city boundary was actually a military fort which was built sometime during the 17th century.)
1791 Map of Bangalore
1791 Map of Bangalore. Source: British Library
In order to supply water for domestic & irrigational purposes, Kempe Gowda built several water tanks & reservoirs around the fortified city. Dharmambudi & Kempambudhi tanks were built for domestic purposes while Sampangi tank was for irrigation. Apart from these, there were several lakes in and around Bangalore as the following map of 18th centurity depicts.
Back then, Temples were not just places of worship but were institutions for learning as well. Kempe Gowda built many Temples including Bull Temple (in Basavanagudi), Anjenaya Temple (at Avenue road entrance) and Gavi Gangadhareshwar Temple.
1808 painting of Gavi Gangadhareshwar Temple
The Gavi Gangadhareshwar Temple is considered to be an astronomical wonder. Scientists have recently discovered the significance of pillars and monolithic discs of the Temple which are actually in perfect alignment with Sun & Moon and published their findings in a research paper:This suggests that Kempe Gowda was not just a chieftain & town-planner interested in making Bangalore a business hub, but had an interest in science (astronomy) as well and wanted to inculcate scientific temper in his city.
For more insights into Bangalore, visit:


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