At 2:45 PM that day, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t visited the four Kempe Gowda towers, the towers which I knew were constructed to mark the boundaries of the erstwhile Bangalore. The fact that the Sun would go down in less than 4 hours time, and, the reality of not having any idea of the whereabouts of 3, out of the 4 towers, didn’t deter me!

A quick search on the net gave the locations of these towers as:
1. Near Mekhri circle
2. Inside Lalbagh park
3. Near Kempambudhi lake
4. Near Ulsoor lake

These towers were constructed by Kempe Gowda II (ruled from 1585 to 1633 AD) in 1597 AD. Other noteworthy constructions of his are: Ranganathaswamy temple in Balepet and forts in Magadi and Savanadurga.
For more information on History of Bangalore and Kempe Gowda click here.

Of these four towers only the Lalbagh tower I had seen earlier. I also knew that there was a tower at Hudson circle and even that tower was known as Kempe Gowda tower. Here I made my first mistake – I thought this tower at Hudson circle was one of the towers constructed by Kempe Gowda, the one being mentioned as ‘near Kempambudhi lake’. This took my known towers tally to 2 out of 4. I planned to start from the tower near Mekhri circle – the nearest one from my house, then to Hudson circle, from there to Labagh and lastly to Ulsoor. I had given myself 45 minutes for each tower and wanted to wrap this up by 6:30 PM, before sunset. And so, 30 whole minutes after deciding on this blitz-exploration, at 3:15 PM I started on my bike, the fuel gauge showed that there was just enough petrol – I didn’t even want to stop for a re-fuel.

Kempe Gowda Tower near Mekhri circle
click here for location on wikimapia

Kempe Gowda tower inside public park near Mekhri circle

I reached Mekhri circle by 3:45 PM, it’s a junction where 4 roads meet. I had to guess, I took C.V. Raman road which seemed like the road most likely to have this historical monument. 2kms down this road, found nothing, came back to Mekhri circle, at the signal asked an auto-rickshaw driver, he had no clue, took a right turn towards Chowdaiah Road, and there it was in a park to the right side of the road about 200-300 meters from Mekhri circle. As it was a two lane road and as there was no provision to take a right turn for another 1.5 kms, took a U-turn after driving for what seemed like miles. I reached the park at 4:00 PM. It was a well maintained park and not surprisingly at that time of the day when the Sun was still relentlessly shining there were no visitors, except for the garden workers. One of the garden workers asked what I was doing there, when I told him that I was here to photograph the tower, he told (more to himself) that it would have been good if he got some money from what I was doing.

By 4:10 PM I was back on my bike. From here I took a left towards Mekhri circle, took a U-turn and was back in Chowdaiah Road. As my mind was working on the shortest route that could be taken to reach Hudson circle, right then, I noticed a girl asking for a lift, I double checked if there were any auto-rickshaw or bus or any other automobile behind me which she might be waving at, none. She had been waving at me, and quite clearly for a lift. She was dressed in a white ‘salwar kameez’ with a blue ‘dupatta’ and seemed decent. This was the first time an unknown girl was asking for a lift in my 7 years of biking, before I could think of stopping I had come quite far down the road.

tower at Hudson circle, bangalore

Tower at Hudson Circle (constructed by Bangalore Mahanagara Palike in 2004)

I don’t know how I mistook this tower as one of the original Kempe Gowda towers. For one, it didn’t look old enough and unlike the other towers was placed on a tall pedestal. Still, a Mind which wants to believe in something, will find the reasons. In my case: I just assumed that this tower was refurbished in recent times and therefore looked new.

By 4:30 PM I left Hudson circle towards Lalbagh, for what according to me was the third Kempe Gowda tower on my list. I was glad to have covered half the towers by 4:30 PM and decided to spend some extra time in Lalbagh and also maybe have something to eat as I had skipped lunch.

 

Kempe Gowda Tower in Lalbagh
click here for location on wikimapia

From my earlier visit to this Park, I had a general idea that the tower was on a rocky mound and that it was quite some distance from the Main entrance of this huge park, so after hurriedly parking my bike in the already crowded parking lot bought the 10/- Re ticket to enter. My first stop was at a fresh juice counter (push cart) where I had a small bottle of chilled grape juice, refreshed I continued to walk at a brisk pace. Lalbagh has improved a lot from my previous visit: the park is neat and well maintained, there are a good number of dust bins, an eco-car taking visitors around the 240 acre Botanical garden, were just a few of the changes.

Kempegowda tower at lalbagh, bangalore

Kempe Gowda tower in Lalbagh

Though the tower in Lalbagh has strong resemblance to the one near Mekhri circle, they are not the same. The tower near Mekhri circle (refer first pic in this post) has a ‘Gopura’ made of two distinct levels with a circular dome and a ‘kalasha’ at the pinnalce. The edges on the first level are adorned with sculptures of what look like ‘Rakshas’ (demons) and ‘Apsaras’ (nymph) with deities occupying the centre, on the second level the edges are occupied by Nandi and the centre by standing deities. On the contrary, the tower in Lalbagh has no circular dome and no ‘Rakshas’ or ‘Apsaras’ adorning the edges, but the structural resemblance remains.

While returning back from the tower towards the main gate had a couple of Bananas and also stopped at the 300-year-old silk cotton tree (cibapentandra) to be just awed by its presence..

By the time I reached the Lalbagh main gate it was 5:45 PM. But even then I had believed that ‘I had covered 3 of the 4 towers’. Just before exiting the Park I thought of catching a breather and sat for some time on a bench. And, as I opened by Eicher-Bangalore map just to see if whether the Ulsoor Kempe Gowda tower was visible as a landmark, I remembered about the neatly organized index list and searched under the section ‘Historical Monuments’, under that section all four towers were clearly marked, and the shocking thing was that – the Hudson circle tower was not one of them. Now it was very clear that I had missed the Kempe Gowda tower near Kempambudhi lake, quickly deciding on the route to be taken to this tower I hurried out of the park. As I came out of Lalbagh, and as I was taking my bike out of the parking site with a big ‘No Parking’ sign in front, which I noticed just then, a traffic cop asked me to stop right there and promptly gave me a no parking ticket for 100/- Re. From here I went in search of Kempambudhi lake, which was not far away.

Kempe Gowda Tower near Kempambudhi lake
click here for location on wikimapia

kempegowda tower kempambudhi, bangalore

This was the most difficult tower to find. Even when I was right next to the lake it took me nearly 20mins to find the exact location. Again it was the map which helped me find the place. The tower is behind a Kali temple with trees covering it on all sides making it even more difficult to notice it. This tower is also the least maintained of the lot with houses hardly about 20meters from it. But, I heard from an auto-rickshaw driver that a new tower is going to be inaugurated at a place which is just a few hundred meters from this tower. What I didn’t ask him is whether it’s going to be a newly constructed tower or the same tower with a make-up job.

The tower looks out into the Kempambudhi tank which has virtually no water and which now has a Deer park next to it.

By then it was 6:30 PM. Light was fast fading. I had to reach Ulsoor lake on the other side of M.G. Road for the last of the Kempe Gowda towers. That being a Saturday evening I was aware of the kind of traffic towards M.G. Road, and was sure I would never make it before darkness sets in. I referred my map and it showed the monument was right on the edge of Ulsoor lake, I had been on that road many many times before and I had no re-collection of seeing such a tower anywhere. Still, I decided that I would do some enquiries once I reach that place.

Kempe Gowda tower near Ulsoor lake
click here for location on wikimapia

As I neared the lake, I realized that the northern part of Ulsoor lake, where the tower is located, was under the jurisdiction of ‘Madras Engineering Group’ also called as the ‘Madras sappers’. I spoke with a few personnel and failed to get a permission to view the tower. The personnel who I spoke to asked me to come on Monday as the visiting hours for the tower were over. When I asked them whether the tower would be visible from any other location outside their camp, they replied in the negative and told me that the tower was surrounded by trees on all four sides. Not to be disheartened I went further down the same road and the silhouette of the Kempe Gowda tower was just visible from only one particular spot on the road. I parked my bike on the other side of the road which was next to a cemetery, swapped the 18-55mm lens with the 55-200mm lens, and balanced my camera on the bikes seat to take the snap. I didn’t have to struggle with a wedge for the camera, the angle was just perfect, and it was like ‘the photo was just waiting to be taken’.

kempegowda tower at Ulsoor lake, bangalore

 

4 hours and 4 towers later I returned home with a satisfied feeling. Though it was not clear why I did this and what I had accomplished by doing this, it was clear that I enjoyed it.

Kempegowda Towers pinned on Google Maps with an optimized route you could follow to visit each of the towers in the shortest time!

Date: February 23rd 2008 (3:00 PM to 7:00 PM)
Place: Bangalore city


Anoop Hullenahalli

An Electronics Engineer working on wireless embedded systems for a living. Traveling, photographing and sharing my experiences here at ANUBIMB helps me unwind and break the monotony of life.

33 Comments

Abhay · 9 Mar ’08 at 6:09 pm

>Fantastic information. I only knew the lalbagh tower and obviously I’m work. Great work!

Akhila S · 10 Mar ’08 at 11:36 am

>hey, good!! keep going…… 🙂

Sameer · 11 Mar ’08 at 7:25 am

>loved the ones in lalbagh and the K lake..

nrsl · 13 Mar ’08 at 3:42 am

>As always.. Fantastic Photographs.. Now I know the reason behind those towers. 🙂

anoop · 13 Mar ’08 at 9:29 am

>abhay: glad to be of service.

akhila: thanks.

sameer: I like those pics, but my personal fav has to be the lalbagh fountain pic.

nrsl: thanks for the kind words.

Arun · 15 Mar ’08 at 4:09 am

>Nice report. In so many years in the city I still have seen only 2 towers in south bangalore. Kempegowda Kere looks good now, it was in shambles years back.

Kamal · 17 Mar ’08 at 6:36 pm

>Can you create a custom Google Map mashup for readers to get a better visibility of the towers.

Kamal

Movie Freak · 18 Mar ’08 at 8:36 am

>Amazing post and information.
And great pictures.

Anonymous · 18 Mar ’08 at 2:07 pm

>super bhoopa!!

anoop · 18 Mar ’08 at 5:42 pm

>kamal: I will try doing that in my spare time, currently I’m very busy.

movie freak: thanks.

anonymous: I surely know you! please do drop your name in the comment.

Prachi zade · 15 Dec ’08 at 10:28 am

>great job dude. as u said der was no purpose behind this search, still u put all ur efforts to get the complete information. i really appreciate that. ur information has helped me to give a finishing line to my documentary.

anoop · 16 Dec ’08 at 6:22 am

>Prachi: I’m glad to know that.

Raghu · 5 Mar ’09 at 6:35 am

>As Always love to be in bangalore. Thanks all u guys for ur contribution and awesome pics. Great to be here. Thanks All

nivedithasperceptions · 4 May ’09 at 5:40 pm

>Nice pics and a nice informative post.
I found you while googling Kempegowda’s towers! 😛

satyask · 3 Jun ’09 at 3:27 pm

>May I use your pictures in my blog if I give you the credit and link back to this site…

anoop · 3 Jun ’09 at 4:27 pm

>satya: sure, go ahead. I appreciate your asking me.

Anonymous · 7 Nov ’09 at 2:31 pm

>man you have done a good job some bangaloorians what you say (including me – dont say it to anyone) might have not seen all the 4 towers even after being called as old bangaloorians..and look at you you have seen them and have blogged them and that too brilently beautifully…pls keep going best of luck

Anonymous · 2 Feb ’10 at 7:31 am

>the tower which you have mentioned ( hudson cirlce ) is not the correct ones are.

1.Mekhri Circle
2.Ulsoor
3.Kempanbundi
4.Bugle rock

anoop · 2 Feb ’10 at 7:35 am

>anonymous:
I dont think you read the travel account in detail! if you had you would have noticed that I have mentioned about my mistake of assuming the hudson circle tower as one of the 4 kempegowda towers.

Ashwini · 9 Jul ’10 at 6:59 pm

>Hey Anoop,Ur article about the towers is great!Planning to give your post link in my blog.Please let me know if you are fine with that.Thank you.

anoop · 10 Jul ’10 at 7:00 am

>ashwini: sure, go ahead. thanks for asking. for just linking to my post in the future, its ok if you go ahead and do it without asking. 🙂

OpenSourcers · 15 Aug ’10 at 4:05 pm

>thanks a lot dude!! it helped me a lot in making a quiz question on kempegowda towers!!!

S.R.Ayyangar · 13 Dec ’10 at 10:44 am

Amazing photos.

Derebail2008 · 11 Mar ’11 at 10:30 am

Brilliant sherlock holmes like discovery and work, photos are dull this time around when compared to ISKCON photos, must be you have shot it from old camera Lol

    Anoop · 11 Mar ’11 at 10:59 am

    Thanks for commenting. Actually, the photos are from the same camera, but I
    think I had very little time for photography that day as I was hard pressed
    on time – to cover the 4 towers in 4 hours, that too in Bangalore traffic!

dinesh hc · 31 Mar ’11 at 6:58 pm

amazing bro…. just the piece of info i was looking for… hats off pal…keep going..

    Anoop · 1 Apr ’11 at 2:34 am

    Thanks for the appreciation Dinesh!

Ashokbhat1961 · 20 Feb ’12 at 2:12 am

I read a news article in Deccan Herald today on how MEG has taken over the land where the so called ” fourth tower ” is located. After reading the article I thought I will do a little bit of research on this and started to Google. I came across this article and found this to be very very fascinating . Thanks to you for actually visiting these four four towers and capturing them in your camera….Ashok.

Praveen · 30 Jul ’12 at 5:56 am

Hi thanks for very good information.Keep on moving

Hemant Singh · 30 Nov ’13 at 2:24 pm

Lovely da.. u write so good…. I plan to see the four towers …. but if i dont… this page will suffice… way to go

Andy · 21 Jul ’15 at 12:26 am

Hey Anoop, I just came across this blog when I was trying to explain about the 5 Kempe Gowda towers in Bangalore to my colleagues. Thanks for you neatly gathered info which helped me explain it.

» For Hudson Circle / Corporation Circle Tower
BBMP recently had decided to bring Kempe Gowda tower here to symbolize this to be New Bengaluru’s center point. I remember this because I read many articles during its inauguration. 🙂

Walk to Kempe Gowda’s towers | Trekker Boy · 12 Apr ’12 at 5:57 pm

[…] before. The towers are at Mekhri Circle, Ulsoor lake, Lalbagh and Kempambudhi lake. Thanks to Anoop and Arun for locating the four towers and marking them on the map. The task for us was easy – […]

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