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Deccan Herald » Spectrum » Detailed Story
All the way back to Bengaluru
As Bangalore gets set to become Bengaluru, interesting stories abound on the origin of the city’s name. The charming benda-kaal-uru legend is the most popular, but the name could as well have originated from benda-kadu-uru or even benachu-kallu-uru says Arun Prasad as he delves deep into history and comes up with interesting though little known stories.
Until a few decades ago people believed, as do many today, that the origin of the name Bangalore was associated with the legend of Benda-Kaalu-Uru as narrated by B L Rice in the first gazetteer of Mysore State published in the year 1887 (revised edition 1897). The popular legend goes thus: Once the Hoysala Prince Veera Ballala on a hunting expedition in the region of the present Bangalore got lost and after hours of wandering through the night saw a campfire at a distance. He directed his steed towards the light and to his fortune found an old woman sitting beside an open-fire outside a small hut and boiling avure kaalu (a variety of beans found in Karnataka) for her supper. Seeing the extremely exhausted and hungry Prince, she offered him a bowl of benda kaalu (boiled beans). Veera Ballala gratefully accepted the offer and consumed it with great relish. Later the Prince referred to this piece of land as 'Benda-Kaalu-Uru' which could have got angliced to 'Bangalore'.

However this interesting incident which captured the popular imagination fades into insignificance when one looks at the 9th century Begur inscription (which is three centuries older than the Veera Ballala incident) containing the name Bengaluru. But everybody seems to be comfortable with the romantic and charming story of benda-kalu-uru. Even today many tourist and guide books carry the story which could be said to be misleading as there is enough historical evidence to the contrary.

According to the Mysore Archeological Report - 1914-15, the name Bengaluru inscribed on a viragal (hero-stone) of about 890 AD was found in the Nageswara Temple premises at Begur, a flourishing village which is merely 15 kms away from the city towards the south east of Bangalore. The legendary hero-stone presently preserved in the Bangalore Museum speaks of the death of Buttanasetti, a servant of Nagattara in the battle of Bengaluru. This inscription also proves that the antiquity of Bangalore dates back to the Ganga times.

Though the name Bengaluru was inscribed on the viragal it does not relate to the fortified city that the great Kempegowda built later in 1537. Fazlul Hasan in his book Bangalore Through the Centuries, asserts that the present Bangalore (Kempegowda’s fortified city) probably got its name from a small hamlet called Hale Bengaluru (old Bangalore), a small village which existed at the spot where the present Kodigehalli, a little away from Hebbal, is located. Even today many old timers around the area refer to this locale as Hale Bengaluru. It is believed that when Kempegowda built his new fortified city in 1537, he named it Bengaluru as his mother and wife belonged to the hamlet Hale Bengaluru.


Another derivation of the name is Benda-Kadu-Uru (the place of burnt forests) as mentioned by Hayavadana Rao, a noted historian. In one of his speeches published in the Quaterly Journal of Mythic Society he suggests that the name Bengaluru must have derived from Benda-kadu-ooru to Bengaduru and then to Bengaluru. He explains, “It is admitted that a good portion of the country even during the supposed Vira Ballala's time was a wild tract. It is possible it was even to a later date, a date somewhere near Kempegowda's time. That Kempegowda was the true founder of the present city is also admitted, though it is alleged he drew to his new town not only the inhabitants of old Bengaluru but also its name. It is possible the greater safety offered by his fort attracted people from the nearby villages who lay exposed to the ravages of rapacious chieftains bent on carving out principalities to themselves. Many of the points included in the story show that Kempegowda made a fresh clearing of the old forest land and laid the foundation of a new city (not far away from the old) on a well chosen spot. The name Bengaluru may probably not have come from Benda Kaal Uru or the city of boiled beans but Benda-Kadu-Uru, the city of burnt forests. That is the city built on a new clearing.”

But Hayavadana Rao adds a word of caution to the above derivation saying there is not much evidence to support it apart from phonology.


Yet another derivation to the name Bangalore is Benachukall-Uru (Place of granite rocks). As in many locales in and around Bangalore like Basavanagudi, Lalbagh, Vyalikaval, Hebbal etc, one can even today find granite boulders and rocky hillocks, which could have probably lent its name to Bengaluru.

Benga- Uru

According to the Karnataka State Gazetteer, edited by Suryanath U Kamath, the name appears to have a floral origin, derived from the tree benga (raktha honne) which has the botanical name petrocarpus marsupium. This tree appears to have been common in Bangalore and its surrounding locales. The tree is called venga in Tamil, benga or bengu in Kodava and Tulu languages and in some Kannada dialects also. Many places like Hunsuru, Halasuru, Bevuru, Mavuru etc have their names derived from flora. However, there is no historical evidence that Bangalore had an abundance of honne trees.

Vengala- Uru

T V Annaswamy, a retired town planner in his book Bengaluru to Bangalore narrates an entirely different derivation for the name Bengaluru. He confirms that the name Bengaluru would have derived from Vengaluru or Venkalur, the village of Vengala or Venkata. Bengaluru was probably located within a territory called Vengadam (sanskritised as Venkata in Kannada and Vengala in Telugu) which was used to designate the boundary of a territory. He explains that this theory is supported by the fact that several villages in Bangalore district are named after Venkata such as Venkatala, Venkateshpura, Venkatapura, Venkatagiri Kote, Venkateshpura, Vengalappanahalli etc.


Vekata-Uru is another derivation for Bengaluru which could have originated from the historical Lord Venkataramanaswamy Temple, which was once inside the Bangalore fort area. Vekata-Uru would have probably anglicised to Vengala-Uru and then to Bengaluru. But this derivation does not have any credence as Lord Venkataramanaswamy Temple was built in the 18th century by Sri Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar, to commemorate the event of Wodeyar’s acquisition of Bangalore.


Benda-Kallu-Uru which means ‘Town of heated stones’ is another probable derivation given by TV Annaswamy in his book, since Begur seems to have been a sacred Jain centre during the Ganga period and several Jain Acharyas performed penance on the heated stones of Begur.

Some even say that Bengaluru could have originated from Bengaval-Uru (Town of body guards). A few linguists have also suggested that Bengavalu could have become anglicised into Bangalore.

Bangalore is also called Kalyananagara or the City Auspicious in some old Kannada literary works.

All these derivations without any clear conclusions confuse the general public and at this juncture it would be better if at least a scholarly debate on this subject can be avoided. A mere metamorphosis in the name does not really matter, as the city's real problems are not those related to the phonetic structure of the name. Let this move be the first step in a series to recognise and preserve the heritage and culture of the real Bengaluru. Let this move by the State Government be the first step to recognise and preserve the glorious heritage and culture of the real Bengaluru.

(The author can be contacted on arunbengaluru@rediffmail.com . Mob: 9886444495)
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