This fascinating map of Bangalore grants a magnificent impression of a sizable Indian city prior to it being influenced by European urban models. The large pettah in the upper centre is encircled by an elaborate system of walls and takes on an overall ovoid shape common to many such Indian cities. Within are dense and uneven blocks divided by narrow streets, a labyrinth which was ideal to confuse potential invaders who dared to storm the city. A connecting ovoid palace-fort complex projects off of the main pettah to the south.
Such ‘medieval’ models made perfect sense in an era where Indian cities were continually attacked and besieged. Curiously, many medieval European cities were designed in a very similar fashion, although this was due to the common logic of defensive imperatives, as opposed to cross-influences.
While Bangalore was founded in 1537, it did not come into its own as a major centre until the generation of so before this map was made. Much of the city and its defensive infrastructure was built, beginning in 1760, by Hyder Ali, the celebrated ruler of Mysore.
The present plan was intended to depict Lord Cornwallis’ successful siege of Bangalore which led to its capture by the British on March 21, 1791, during the Second Anglo-Mysore War.
The artist Robert Home accompanied Cornwallis’ army and the present plan appeared within his book, Select Views in Mysore, the Country of the Tipoo Sultan, from Drawings Taken on the Spot (London, 1794). Home’s original manuscript map is today preserved at the British Library.
During the 19th Century Bangalore became a major British garrison town and following the arrival of the railways in 1864 its population boomed, leading to the formation of the modern city.