Origins of Bangalore – how did our city come to be?

Have you heard the story that connects Bangalore to boiled beans? Here’s a quick refresher on one of the tales about the origins of Bangalore. The Hoysala king Veera Ballala II lost his way in a forest while hunting. Exhausted and starving, he came across an old woman, quite poor herself. Despite her poverty, she shared her humble meal with the tired king – boiled beans. The king, grateful for her generosity, christened the place benda-kaal-uru, which translates to the ‘town of boiled beans’. Benda-Kaal-uru eventually became Bengaluru.

While this story is more fiction than fact, it’s one of the more popular tales told to us when we ask ‘Machahow did Bangalore get its name?’ And although Veera Ballala II arrived on the scene only in the 12th century, the city’s name dates back to the 9th century, even before Kempe Gowda I – the credited founder of Bengaluru – came into the picture. In fact, the city of Bangalore is very, very old.

Origins of Bangalore
The Hoysala king Veera Ballala II

During the 2001 Census of India, artefacts were discovered in Jalahalli, Jadigenahalli and Siddhapura, pointing to human settlements in these areas dating back to 4,000 B.C. That’s right, the origins of Bangalore could date back to the Stone Age. Fast forward to the Iron Age; burial grounds dating back to 1,000 B.C. were found in Koramangala.

Archaeologists also discovered coins of Roman emperors – Augustus, Claudius, Tiberius – you know, the gang – in HAL Airport and Yeshwantpur. Bengaluru was involved in overseas trade with Romans and other civilizations since at least 27 B.C.

Cut to modern-day Bengaluru, and we find that it was part of many successive South Indian kingdoms – the Western Ganga dynasty between the 4th and 10th centuries, the Cholas in the 11th century, the Hoysalas in the 12th century, and the Vijayanagara empire in the 14th century.

Kempe Gowda I arrived as a feudal ruler under the Vijayanagara Empire (of Hampi fame), in the 16th century. It was in 1537 CE that he built a mud fort, within the walls of which smaller divisions called pete were created. The town within the fort had two main streets – Chikkapete and Doddapete streets.

Kempe Gowda I, the founder of modern Bangalore

After the Vijayanagara Empire fell, Kempe Gowda declared independent rule over Bengaluru. In 1638, Adil Shahi of the Sultanate of Bijapur defeated Kempe Gowda’s successors, and the town fell into the hands of Shahaji Bhonsle as feudal land. A few years thus passed, till Bengaluru was captured by the Mughals under the reign of Aurangzeb. He sold the town to the then Maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore, Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar. After the death of his successor Krishnaraja Wodeyar II in 1759, Hyder Ali, the commander-in-chief of the Mysore Army, declared himself the ruler of Mysore. The crown was then passed to his son Tipu Sultan.

During this time, the British East India Company grew in power and size across India. They eventually made their way to Bengaluru, where they captured the Fort during the Third Anglo-Mysore War in 1791. Tipu Sultan was slain in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799, where the British returned administrative control of the pete to the Maharaja of Mysore.

origins of Bangalore
The battle for Bangalore. Image credit: Wikipedia

While the capital of the Mysore state was originally in Srirangapatna, the climate was non-conducive to the British, who could neither tolerate the heat nor the mosquitoes. They soon shifted their military base from Srirangapatna to Ulsoor, in Bengaluru.

The pete area within the fort walls was established as early as the 16th century, with kannadigas being the predominant residents. With the East India Company moving their base of operations to Bengaluru, they created another city of sorts that was a stark contrast, demographic and architecture-wise, to pete city. This part of Bangalore was named Civil and Military (C&M) Station, which would eventually come to be known as Cantonment Bangalore, and had a resident population of Indian (across the country) and British origin. Bangalore is thus an anglicized version of the name ‘Bengaluru’, coined for easy pronunciation by the British.

origins of Bangalore
Map of Bangalore showing the pete and cantonment areas. Image credit: Aditya Ramesh, Cambridge University Press

The earliest reference to the name ‘Bengaluru’ dates back to the 9th century. It was found in a stone inscription on what translates to ‘hero stone’, in Begur. The inscription still stands in the Begur Nageshwara Temple – it was built around 860 CE during the Western Ganga rule. The boiled beans theory refers to a ruler from a dynasty that arrived much later!

origins of Bangalore
The Begur stone has an inscription in halegannada (old Kannada) that mentions Bengaluru. Image credit: Bangalore Mirror

After India gained independence from foreign rule in 1947, Bangalore was declared the capital of Mysore State. It continued to be the capital when the state was enlarged, unified and renamed Karnataka – the renaming took place only in 1973. Thus, the twin cities of Bangalore – the old city or pete, and the cantonment – merged into a single city in 1949.

In December 2005, during a meeting at Karnataka’s golden jubilee celebrations, Jnanapith award recipient U.R. Anantha Murthy said that Bangalore be renamed to its original name Bengaluru to mark the occasion, an idea welcomed by the then chief minister, N. Dharam Singh.

CM Kengal Hanumanthaiah devised the Vidhan Soudha to dwarf the British-built Attara Kacheri (now High Court) and take back the glory of Bangalore that was colonized. Image credit: Bangalore Tourism

BBMP passed a resolution to implement this change in September 2006, and by November 2006, HD Kumaraswamy, the then-chief minister, made it official.

Finally, nearly 20 years after Bombay became Mumbai and Madras was rechristened as Chennai, Bangalore was renamed Bengaluru by the Government of India, on November 1st, 2014. The capital of Karnataka went back to its birth name, finally free from being softened and moulded to suit colonizer tongues.

So, the next time someone sits you down and tells you ‘Bob, have you heard the boiled beans story?’, tell them the vividly rich and incredibly storied origins of your favourite city Bangalore, no matter what name you call it.

share this article:


Fill the Below Form