The city of Bangalore is India’s third largest city and the state capital of Karnataka, known for being a modern, cosmopolitan metropolis at the helm of the country’s IT-boom. Bangalore is a shopper’s haven overrun with big malls and shopping districts, as well as a food lover’s paradise with one of the highest concentrations of places to eat in the continent. Spotted with parks and natural lakes, Bangalore is alternately known as ‘The Garden City of India.’ Recently voted as the most livable metro in the country, Bangalore is known as‘Pensioner’s Paradise’ on the one hand and as ‘Start-up City,’ on the other, attracting youth from across the world with its trending markets and rapid availability of jobs. With Bangalore’s ever-doubling IT infrastructure, it is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of India.
Another aspect of Bangalore is soaked in the history of bygone, ancient cultures. Bangalore has been peopled for up to 3000 years, bearing megalithic monuments that treasure its rich past. Bangalore, as we know it today, was established in 1537 by KempeGowda I, who constructed a well-planned city within an oval mud fort in the area that is today known as City Market. Gradually, Bangalore grew into a commercial center and a chief part of the silk industry. Over successive centuries the Marathas, Mughals, Wodeyars and the Mysore Sultanate, all did their bit to develop the city further. In 1809 the British set up a cantonment in Bangalore, drawn by its pleasant weather and central location.
The earliest recorded usage of the name Bengaluru is found in today’s ‘Old Bangalore,’ in a 9th century temple. According to legend, King ViraBallala was once lost in the jungles that once overran these parts. He was wandering, tired and hungry, when an old woman revived him with her hospitality and a plate of boiled beans. Out of gratitude the King consequently named the area ‘Benda KaaluUru’ (Town of Boiled Beans). It was only in 1831, when the British seized Mysore from the ruling Wodeyars that the capital was shifted to Bangalore. The anglicization of Bengaluru turned it into Bangalore until it was recently reverted back to its original.
Although Bangalore is not a popular tourist destination, there are many sites worth taking a tour of. The legislative House of Karnataka, VidhanaSoudha, is one of the Chief attractions of Bangalore. It was built during the 1950s using granite in a neo-Dravidian style of architecture. Other places of historical interest include the Bangalore Palace, constructed by the Mysore Maharajahs and Tipu Sultan’s Palace, built around 1790 as Tipu’s summer retreat.
A tour of Bangalore must also include Lalbagh Botanical Gardens- built by Hyder Ali in 1760, and the Bannerghatta National Park- a 25,000-acre zoological park one and a half hours away from Bangalore City. Educational tours of Bangalore may include the Vishweshwaraiah Industrial and Technological Museum, the State Archaeological Museum, the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, the Venkatappa Art Gallery and the Karnataka ChitrakalaParishad. Religious tours of Bangalore cover the Bull Temple in Basavanagudi, the Maha Bodhi Society Temple- a replica of the Bodh Gaya Stupa, the ISCKON temple, the Maruthi Temple, the GaviGangadeshwara Cave Temple as well as many other temples, mosques and churches of historic significance.
Due to an average elevation of 920 meters above the sea level, Bangalore enjoys a cool climate throughout the year. Although summers can get hot with dry heat waves, it seldom exceeds 35 degrees Celsius and hovers around a mean temperature of 24 degrees Celsius.
Vijayawada is the commercial capital of Andhra Pradesh and is recognized by McKinsey Quarterly as a ‘Global City of the Future.’ Vijayawada is the most central transportation point in the state and is also well connected to the rest of the country with two national highways passing through it. Pandit Nehru Bus Station in Vijayawada is slated to be one of the largest bus stations in Asia while Vijayawada Junction Railway Station is the largest railway junction in the region. The Krishna River flows to the east and west of Vijayawada while the Budameru River holds the north. Fertile agricultural land irrigated by three major canals cover Vijayawada’s central, southwestern and northwestern parts and small to medium-sized hills surround Vijayawada from the northern, northwestern and southwestern sides. The 30,000 acreKondapalli Reserve Forest provides Vijayawada with clean air and the soft wood used to make ‘Kondapalli toys,’ popularized by the celebration of BommalaKoluvu.
Vijayawada is well known for the Kanaka Durga temple that beckons busloads of devotees everyday. It is located on top of Indrakeeladri Hill, from where one may enjoy an eagle’s eye perspective of Vijayawada. Ancient epigraphs line the two routes leading to the temple, still retaining ancient stories of religious significance. According to one version of mythology, Vijayawada was GodessDurga’s resting place upon slaying the demon, Durgama. Another version recalls Arjuna receiving his holy weapon, the Pasupatha, on top of this hill. Upon doing so, he built the Kanaka Durga temple, around which the city of Vijayawada would bloom. Other sites of religious significance include the MarkataRajarajeswari Temple; the SubramanyaSwamy Temple; the MahalakshmiAmmaravu Temple; The Narasimha Temple in Mangalagiri; The HazratBal Mosque that displays a holyrelic of the Prophet Mohammed once a year; HinkarThirtha, the region’s largest Jain temple, and the GundalaMatha Shrine that hosts the annual Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, attended by hordes.
An escape route from the city life in Vijayawada leads to the 133-acre Bhavani Island located on the Krishna River. Visitors may enjoy boat rides to the island, water sports and stay at a river front resort. The town of Amaravati, 33 kms outside Vijayawada, is the site of Chintapalli, a Buddhist settlement during the reign of Asoka. A massive stupa once stood here, said to be bigger than the ones found in Sanchi. The Archaeological Museum in Amaravati boasts of exhibits dating back to the 3rd century BC. Another site of educational significance, just 8 kms from Vijayawada, is that of the Undavalli Caves that showcase the rock-cut sandstone architecture of the Guptas from as long ago as the 7th century BC.
Vijayawada’s 1.2 km Prakasam Barrage built across The Krishna River is the largest of its kind in Asia. It was first constructed in 1855 and reconstructed in 1957. The barrage irrigates over twelve lakh acres of farmland and supplies water to the thermal power plant at Ibrahimpatnam, which powers much of Andhra Pradesh.
Other places of general interest in and around Vijayawada include the Mogalarajapuram Caves, with carvings said to be the first of their kind; the hamlet of Kuchpudi, located 60 kms from the city at the birthplace of the age-old Kuchipudi dance form; The historic Victoria Jubilee Museum in Bandar Road; Gandhi Hill with a 50 ft. stupa in memorial of Mahatma Gandhi and the Kondapalli Fort, 16 kms from Vijayawada, which served as a center of commerce for many dynasties and as a training station for the British army.