Ulsoor Walk with INTACH

Someshwara Temple Ulsoor, Bangalore
Someshwara Temple Ulsoor

This seems to be a season of city walks. This Sunday I had the opportunity to go for the Ulsoor walk organized by INTACH. INTACH is in the process of organizing ‘Parichay’ series of walks, and this was the third walk in that series. The idea is to make people aware of the rich culture and heritage that is scattered around us, both in terms of built heritage and living heritage.

Here is an excerpt from the invitation mail for the walk:

The Ulsoor walk started from Someshwara temple, which is one of Bangalore’s oldest temples. It dates back to the Chola period with several additions made during the Vijayanagar period by the founder of Bangalore, Kempegowda. The interesting thing is you can see the architectural elements from both these periods quite clearly in the temple. Ulsoor is, of course, one of Bangalore’s oldest settlements.

I had always wondered what the Vijaynagar style of architecture is, and it was on this walk that I could understand it a bit. When you visit Hampi, look at the stone pillars, notice that pillars are square at the bottom and the top and round or with many faces in the middle. This is the typicality of the Vijaynagar style of architecture. I was also told that all the colored Gopurams that we say at the temple entrances and on top of the temples were originally not supposed to be colored, they were plain carvings in stone, but over the time they have been painted in multiple colors. INTACH team also introduced to the various carving and motifs on the temple walls, and shared the stories behind a lot of them. They told us how to identify the insignias of the Kempegowdas, which would typically tell that the construction had an association with the Kempegowdas, either by way of building it or patronizing it. They shared a story which indicates that temple was built way before the actual settlement happened around it. It is associated with Markandeya (not sure of the name though) rishi, who was doing his tapasya and Lord Shiva instructed him to construct a temple at that spot.

Pierced Tongue at a festival in Ulsoor
Pierced Tongue

There was a festival going on in the temple premises and there were celebrations with music and dance. Another interesting but intriguing thing that we saw was piercing of tongue by some of the dancers of the festival. There were small dagger like objects that they held in the middle of their tongue, which forced them to have their tongue stuck out all the while, and these people, including few old women were dancing while holding their dragger pierced tongues out.

I had written after my visit to Madurai temple about the bad state of Hindu temples and the absence of basic cleanliness. The same holds true for almost all temples including the Someshwara temple in Ulsoor. The inner areas of the temple have been completely changed by putting granite and ceramic tiles, which by logic would have been put to keep the temple clean, but I guess once the tiles were laid they assumed that cleanliness has been taken care of by itself. Things stick to your feet all the time as you walk around. The beauty of the temples is lost when the modern electrical fittings are fixed without any thought and wires are hanging everywhere.

We were also told that Ulsoor derives its name from Halasuru which is Jackfruit in Kannada. Apparently, the area was once a huge Jackfruit plantation. Like the rest of Bangalore, Ulsoor had people from various parts of the region coming and settling down. The area has some 150+ year old houses with center courtyards, and had well developed water management system so that the area would never get flooded.

We had to miss the last part of the walk as it starting raining heavily. But look forward to more such walks to know the city that I live in…. 🙂


  1. The cleanest temples I have seen so far are almost all located in Kerala. A few reported exceptions aside it seems that temples get dirtier as one progresses North from Kerala. The single most dirtiest temple I have visited is located in Kalighat, Calcutta.

    I have often wondered if there is a correlation between cleanliness and management. In Kerala for instance privately managed temples tend to be cleaner than Government managed ones. The Padmanabhaswamy temple is a good example of the former.

  2. Manoj,

    You are right. Across the country the temples that you find clean are ISKCON temples and Birla temples, and both are managed well by their respective organizations.

    I have not seen many temples in Kerala, but would make sure to see them whenever I am there next.


  3. In the race for globalization we are looking at more towards adopting failed cultures , civilizations , money etc which is all Maya and missing out our true value system .

    I see temples in India has become a social meeting place and it looks like growing on in good pace .

    Anu –> My Aunt says temples in srilanka are clean and quite you get a peace of mind . Not sure who maintains them .


  4. This post is very informative. It has described about old and historical places of Bangalore, we got information here more than what we expected.

    Thanks to author.