How 5 neighbourhoods in Old Bangalore got their Names

Ever wondered how you got your name? Maybe your parents were fans of a celebrity and bestowed that name upon you. Or, they chose to honour a family member by naming you after them. Even better, you were named after something tangible or intangible, something with deep meaning – light, knowledge, inspiration, prayer, beauty. Have you ever wondered how different localities in old Bangalore got their names?

Sure, there are theories – some rooted in fact, some passed down through tales – about how Bangalore got its name. Likewise, each area of Bangalore was named after something or someone. The inspiration behind the names has been varied – from fruits and animals to colonial rulers and freedom fighters. Here are why some popular neighbourhoods in old Bangalore are named what they are.

Old Bangalore Localities - Chikpete

Along with Doddapete, Chikpete is one of the oldest areas in Bangalore city, founded by Kempe Gowda I. Famous for its wholesale and retail cloth stores, the area’s proper name is Chikkapete, where chikka means small in Kannada, while pete means town. Similarly, Doddapete means big town.

One of Bangalore’s oldest neighbourhoods, Kempe Gowda’s successor, Kempe Gowda II built the Ulsoor Lake here. In 1807, the first British military station was set up in the area. The locality gets its name from a jackfruit orchard that stood near the lake. Jackfruit is called ‘halasina hannu’ in Kannada, and thus the area came to be known as Halasuru, which was anglicized to Ulsoor during the colonial reign.

Old Bangalore localities - Ulsoor
Bangalore localities - Malleshwaram

Another of Bangalore’s old localities is Malleshwaram, which was developed in 1898 after the Bangalore Plague. The neighbourhood derives its name from what is believed to be the oldest temple in Bangalore – Kadu Malleswara Temple. Malleshwaram was previously called Mallapuram, and was renamed in the late 19th century. Malleshwaram is also said to be the inspiration (along with Basavanadugi) for the fictional town of Malgudi in R.K Narayan’s Malgudi Days.

This neighbourhood falls within what was Cantonment Bangalore, and came into being after the Bangalore plague. It was proposed in 1906 to establish Frazer Town as a model, plague-proof town, and to decongest the Civil and Military Station (C&M Station, better known as Cantonment). The locality was named after Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser, who was the tutor and guardian of Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV of Mysore, and who had rallied for the planned formation of Frazer Town. Before Frazer Town was developed, the area was called Mootocherry. It was renamed Pulikeshi Nagar in 1988, but most Bangaloreans continue to call the neighbourhood Frazer Town.

Bangalore localities - Frazer Town
Old Bangalore localities - Shivajinagar

When Kempe Gowda I set up the mud fort around the pete area, what is today known as Shivajinagar was a barren piece of land. The first settlers in this area were farmers from Gingee, who built a village for themselves and began cultivating white rice, or bili akki in Kannada. It’s said that the area was thus called billi akki palli (village of white rice). Another theory states that the area was called Bellakkipally, after ‘white birds’ that frequented the paddy fields here. These white birds could be pond herons or egrets. The name was eventually anglicized to Blackpally by the British. Some believe this was also done with racist undertones since most of the residents here were natives. Another popular theory is that Blackpally was named after John Blakiston (1785-1867), the architect behind Cantonment Bangalore. Whatever the origin story, Blackpally was eventually renamed Shivajinagar, after the 17th-century Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who spent his childhood in Bangalore.

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