February 27, 2015

Jama Masjid and Dargah Hazrat Bahadur Khan Shaheed, Bangalore

“It is a mistake to isolate architecture from its surroundings, because the main points of the physical geography, social progress and historical development of any country require to be understood by those who would study and comprehend its particular style.

In almost all countries and in India in particular, we find that the chief buildings are the outcome of the nation's religious beliefs. Nothing reveals the character of the nation so clearly as its religion, and nothing has more permeating influence upon its architecture.”
– A.H. Longhurst, Superintendent (1910-31)
Southern Circle, Archaeological Survey of India

That an aggrandized metropolitan agglomeration of shimmering glass and concrete, a glittering glimmering city such as Bangalore, the congested IT heart of developing India littered with enormous special economic zones (SEZ) and numberless posters screaming paying guest accommodations (PGs) and tutorial classes for network security and system administration, can be sublimely beautiful in its own singularly grotesque manner often hits one with the unanticipated suddenness of an electric jolt while traversing the glorified city’s myriad cramped bazaars and overflowing residential colonies.

Indeed the bulbous onion domes and the soaring slender minarets of the immense, glistening white Jama Masjid (Friday congregational mosque), protruding like a behemoth on a mammoth tongue of land surrounded on all sides except one by the perplexingly random and perennially overcrowded chaos of the historic K.R. Market, do enlighten one with the very realization.


Constructed in 1940 with pearlesque white marble from Rajasthan and capable of accommodating 10,000 devotees, the enormous mosque, were it grafted to any alternate location would not have been such an impressive site as it is here, surrounded by relentless flow of ceaseless traffic and a mushrooming of tiny roadside shacks and makeshift shops offering diced fruits, syrupy sweets, cheap ineffectual electronics, fake leather footwear and eccentrically-colored hosiery.

The over brimming, confusing anarchy of the slithering narrow streets of K.R. Market camouflage their legendary credentials – commissioned by and christened after H.H. Maharaja Sri Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (reign AD 1894-1940), the then affluent ruler of the opulent princely state of Mysore, the immense bazaar proudly boasts of the incontestable honor of being the first in the whole of Asia to get electricity! Furthermore, it is also the largest flower market in Asia and every morning, its otherwise polluted, garbage-littered and dust-ensconced streets (not therefore any different from most other across the whole subcontinent!) come alive with myriads of ethereal fragrances and vibrant colors when the flower-sellers unload several tonnes of jasmines, roses, tuberoses, sunflowers, marigolds and chrysanthemums sourced from several otherwise forgotten, distant villages encircling shimmering Bangalore.

Sweet! - The coconut-stuffed bread so ubiquitous in Karnataka

Lined with thick cylindrical pillars and cleaved into two halves by a raised black marble platform for ablutions, the mosque’s gargantuan interiors, somber soothing white interspersed with streaks of cream and black and flourish leitmotifs in brilliant gold, appear mesmerizing in their own subdued manner.

Set within an extremely narrow rectangular embossment, the intimidatingly tall gateway, flanked by soaring slender minarets and adorned with a dense profusion of skillfully inscribed calligraphy verses from the holy Quran, completes the visual composition. Sadly though, the hideous presence of a curved flyover maleficently limits the field of view and renders photography compositions almost ineffectual.

With utmost sincerity and complete honesty, I should however confess that it was actually the perennially crowded area around the colossal mosque, lined with roadside vendors cheaply selling heavenly delicious pan-fried chunks of spicy juicy beef and thick baked breads stuffed with dried coconut and sickly sweet fruit preserve (“murabba”), that so wondrously attracted me here!

A profusion of minarets!

“Wherever gallantry is recorded, Bahadur Khan, killedar of Bangalore, will hold a conspicuous place among the heroes of our times. True to his trust, he resigned it with life, after receiving almost as many wounds as were inflicted on Caesar in the Capitol."
– Lt. Roderick Mackenzie, British Infantry
(“A Sketch of the War with Tippoo Sultaun”, 1792)

Nearby glints against the unremarkably ordinary buildings and shop outlets the flamboyant sparkling green-gold profile of the dargah (hallowed tomb) of Hazrat Mir Bahadur Shah Al-Maroof Saiyyid Pacha, also otherwise known as “Hazrat Shaheed” (“Martyred Saint”), an unsurpassably valorous garrison commander in the regular army of Badshah Tipu Sultan (reign AD 1782-99) who fell courageously defending the nearby Bangalore Fort (originally commissioned by Hiriya Kempe Gowda I (reign AD 1513-69), refer Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Fort) against the avaricious British East India Company during the Third Anglo-Mysore War of 1791.

Glitter glimmer - Hazrat Bahadur Khan's mausoleum

Until the moment when he was shot in the head in the confused melee, the old bearded commander fearlessly fought and led the ferocious soldiers for 21 days despite being mortally wounded by numerous bayonet stabs. So deeply moved by his unshakeable loyalty and fierce martyrdom was the British General Lord Charles Cornwallis (later Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief of India, 1805) that he immediately returned with complete honors his mortal remains to Sultan Tipu to be interred, venerated and remembered thereafter at the very site where he died. Local lore dictates that heartfelt requests beseeched at the soldier-saint’s grave always unfailingly materialize! As always, I didn’t wish any.

Spicy! - Beef outside the Jama Masjid

Location: K.R. (City) Market, approximately 2 kilometers from Majestic (Kempegowda Bus stand)
(Coordinates: Jama Masjid: 12°57'50.2"N 77°34'43.9"E, Dargah Hazrat Bahadur Shah: 12°57'52.5"N 77°34'38.0"E)
How to reach: Buses, taxis and autos are available from different parts of the city for K.R. Market. Alternately, one can avail BMTC bus service from Majestic bus depot.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20-30 min each
Relevant Links - 
Other monuments/landmarks located in the immediate vicinity - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Fort
  2. Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Palace
  3. Pixelated Memories - Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens
  4. Pixelated Memories - Sir Puttanachetty Town Hall
  5. Pixelated Memories - Tipu Sultan's Palace and Kote Venkataramana Temple
Suggested reading - 
  1. Bangalore.citizenmatters.in - Article "Gifting flowers? Get a glimpse into Huvina Mandi" (dated Feb 12, 2015) by Varsha Parashivamurthy
  2. Bangaloremirror.com - Article "Faith is a fortress" (dated Aug 3, 2014) by Aliyeh Rizvi
  3. Deccanherald.com - Article "Bangalore's forgotten soldier" (dated Nov 19, 2015) by Meera Iyer
  4. Thehindu.com - Article "Divinity amidst the chaos " (dated Aug 14, 2003) by Aman Khanna  
  5. Tipu-sultan.org - When Tipu wept!

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