Rebranded Bengaluru in November 2006, the city more commonly known as Bangalore is not an obvious charmer. The crazy traffic, associated pollution and creaking infrastructure of this IT boom town will fast drive you demented. However, even though locals rarely sing Bengaluru’s praises as a tourist destination, it’s not a dead loss. There are a handful of interesting sights, the climate is benevolent, the city’s reputation for green spaces is well deserved, and the youthful energy and imagination (not to mention disposable income) of the ITocracy fuels a progressive dining, drinking and shopping scene – one of the best in India, in fact.
Legend has it that Bengaluru (meaning ‘Town of Boiled Beans’) got its name after an old woman served cooked pulses to a lost and hungry Hoysala king. In 1537 the feudal lord Kempegowda built a mud fort here, but it remained something of a backwater until 1759, when the city was gifted to Hyder Ali by the Mysore maharaja.
In 1809 the British Cantonment was established, and in 1831 the British moved their regional administrative base from Srirangapatnam to Bengaluru, renaming the city Bangalore in the process. Winston Churchill enjoyed life as a junior officer here, famously leaving a debt (still on the books) of Rs 13 at the Bangalore Club.
Bengaluru’s reputation as a science and technology centre was established early in the 20th century; in 1905 it became the first city in India to have electric street lights. Since the 1940s it has been home to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), India’s first aircraft manufacturing company. Today the city is best known as a hub for software and electronics development, and business process outsourcing.
Bengaluru’s prosperity is changing the city in more ways than just its name. A new international airport became oprational in 2010 and a new city centre is rising in a clutch of skyscrapers on the old United Breweries site at the Cubbon Park end of Vittal Mallya Rd (Grant Rd).