Saturday, April 3, 2021

#AtoZChallenge: Cantonment

(This month, each day, except the four Sundays, I will be blogging about interesting features associated with Bengaluru, formerly known as Bangalore, as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge)

Many big cities in India have an area named "Cantonment". Bengaluru too has one, and it's roughly on the northern fringe of the city centre.

As you can imagine, there is a British connection. It goes back to their seizure of the Kingdom of Mysore in 1799 with the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. 

This was a major victory for the British, and they looked for a good place to station their garrison, and also run the military establishment of the southern Indian peninsula. 

After considering many places, Bangalore was chosen because, according to British military engineer John Blakiston, it was “by far the pleasantest and most agreeable residence in the peninsula”.

LITTLE BRITISH ENCLAVE

The Cantonment, called the Civil and Military Station of Bangalore -- though was within the princely state of Mysore -- was governed directly by the British. This gave the enclave a different western cultural hue compared to the surrounding city area (called pete. Read about in this series on April 19).

Lady Curzon hospital in the cantonment
was established in 1864 and named after
the first wife of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon
Source: Wikipedia

CUBBON PARK

The two segments of Bangalore were separated by a stretch of grassland which is now the Cubbon Park, according to M. Fazlul Hasan, author of Bangalore Through the Centuries. One needed to pay a toll to cross from one part to the other.

CLUBS 

The desire to have a little bit of England led to the setting up of Colonial or Cantonment Clubs in the area. And one of them was the Bangalore Club, which is still around. Many of these clubs still retain some very British traditions, etiquettes and rules, obviously not quite liked by hardcore nationalists.

CHURCHILL 

As a military lieutenant, at the age of 22, Winston Churchill came to Bangalore in 1896 and was a member of the Bangalore Club for three years. 

The city has a romantic connection to Churchill. This is where he met his first love -- Pamela Frances Audrey Plowden. The fledgeling relationship later floundered and in 1902 Pamela married Earl of Lytton.

Churchill, also when he left in 1899, owed a debt of Rs 13 to the Bangalore Club, which was written off as an "irrecoverable sum". 

Bangalore Cantonment Railway Station. Once this place is
developed as a transport hub, it will sport a very different look
(Source: The Times of India)

RAILWAY STATION

Today the Cantonment area is not much different from any other areas of the city except for some of the streets retaining their British names.

Now when people refer to Cantonment it's the railway station, set up in 1864, surely one of the oldest in India. This is now being developed as a major transport hub, with metro train connectivity as well.

(On April 5, we head to another part of the city which was once a part of the Cantonment)

References:

The ‘other’ Bangalore - Frontline

Bangalore Club

International Churchill Society

31 comments:

  1. Interesting info.
    Yet to visit this area of Bengaluru :)

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  2. Hari OM
    a lovely Clutch of cee-words!!! I had forgotten of Churchill's service in India - I recall he went over to S/Africa and was in the Boer war, 1899, so must have gone directly. Another fine post. YAM xx

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    1. Hi Yamini - Yes, that is right ... Thank you :-)

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  3. Cantonment. Brings me my childhood memories. We used to live near Trichy Cantonment. It started as the cantonment of the Madras Regiment in the 18th Century. Cantonment is such a beautiful name. Don't know why some cities have abbreviated it (Ambala Cantt., Delhi Cantt.)

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  4. Am quite familiar with the place as I stayed with my sister for three months in end 1950s at Infantry road. There was an old world charm there. BRV theatre and Shivaji market were land marks. Your post brings fond memories.

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    1. Hi KP - Yes, Infantry Road isn't too far from Cantonment proper. For you, this place will be a whole new world now. The landscape is changing almost every few months, with something going down and something coming up.
      Thank you.

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  5. I'm glad you chose this word, which carries so much history within it. Pune, which was a military HQ for the British in colonial times, has a big cantonment area called, simply, Camp. I didn't explore it when I was there because it's still a military area, except to make a trip there with my aunt and cousins who would would still shop at the camp stores sometimes because my late uncle was an army officer.

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    1. Hi Josna - Once when I had been to Pune, I had driven past the area a few times. Not much familiar. But like all such localities, it had a very distinct look about it.
      Thanks, take care.

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  6. History is always interesting, and to have one of the oldest railway stations in the city feels so good. There's a cantonment in our city too (obviously) and it's full of trees. Love that area. :)

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    1. Hi Srivalli - Yes, Cantonment areas have a very clean and distinct look. But here, it's now more about the railway station than anything else!

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  7. Thank you for this delicious chunk of Bangalore's history Pradeep. I relished it, especially the bit about Chruchill and his debt:)

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  8. I remember cantonment because whenever we went by train to Bangalore there would be a discussion on whether to alight at Cantonment or go all the way to the main station. (forgot its name now)

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    1. Hi Jayashree - Spot on! I should have included this! So, true! Even we used to do it. The main station, which I think used to be called the Bangalore City or Bangalore Central, is now called Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Bangalore. It's named after an early 19th century warrior in the erstwhile Kittur princely state who fought against the British.

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  9. Interesting to see how a special district can blend by the time into the city.

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  10. What interesting information. Thank you. And I can't argue with the nationalist viewpoint. It's a complicated historical period and its aftermath. Be well!

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    1. Hi Darla - I guess many countries in the world go through this.

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  11. Now I love the information you put in about Churchill ... I have an uncle who is named Churchill Winston who served in the Army.
    Cheers,
    Crackerberries

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  12. Cantonment was the first station I descended at in Bangalore, when I first visited the city. I never knew the rich history it had. Thank you for this lovely post.

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    1. Hi Sunday Visitor - Thank you. Since it's much closer to city centre, many people choose to alight at Cantonment.

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  13. I really enjoyed learning about the club.
    And Churchill's 'irrecoverble sum'! LOL!

    @JazzFeathers
    The Old Shelter - The Great War

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  14. As a "Westerner" most of my Indian history information comes from British culture. There is a great movement in the US to try to right some of the wrongs done when America colonized the native Americans. I wonder if there is any of that sentiment in India toward Britain, or if it is considered ancient history that just ties in to the rest of your history?

    I wish I was a better history student!

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    1. Hi Red - There is, but not very vocal or dominant. The "corrective measures" against the British are token in nature, like changing the names of cities or localities in a city.

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    2. I get it. When I was a student in India in the 80s, your city was called "Bangalore" and I remember Chennai as "Madras". Maybe we should all start calling "Bollywood" "Mollywood" since (correct me if I'm wrong) the term Bollywood was based on the city of Mumbai being called Bombay!

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    3. Hi Red - You are right: Bollywood is from Bombay. But Mollywood exists. That's the Malayalam cinema industry. So, we will need to invent a new word for Bollywood, something that begins with M and ends with wood!

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  15. Good post- its like small bytes of history :-)

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  16. Interesting. I have many thoughts, but they're all in a jumble, so I'll leave it at interesting for now.

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