The Bangalore Flower Markets burst with colour, petals, scents and chalk drawings on the floor. They also bloom with something better: real, authentic interaction in the midst of India's high-tech city. And free range cows in amidst the thick of it.
Look for the junction between Krishnarajendra Road and Mysore Road. There are many entrances and a real buzz around the place so once you get close, simply follow the crowd. Alternatively, look for Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and it's next door. Most taxi drivers should know where you want to go, though, and advise the best way of getting there.
Bangalore or Bengaluru?
In 2014, Bangalore officially became Bengaluru. So why does this article talk about the Flower Markets of Bangalore?
Because sometimes things change slowly, that's why. Many people still search under the old name so that's what we'll use for a while to avoid confusion. I wrote this article a while ago but am updating it here.
A cow wanders past, beneath glowing fluorescent sabres.
I follow it through the shadows into the light. It stops, blocked by a staircase that overflows with tangerine petals, then turns as though lost in thought on a Sunday afternoon, and returns to the land of darting hands and looped jasmine.
It’s a peculiar thing, wandering around markets – and indeed the world – whether following a cow or following a camera. I often feel invisible, a brief phantom that glides through the majesty and muck of mankind and its creations, watching, listening, feeling, waiting, breathing.
It takes only a snap, however, to realise just how ridiculous that notion can be. A single snap of myself, that is, with white skin, blonde hair and, let’s not forget, a mighty big camera pressed against my face. There are few places in the world where that look’s a recurring scene.
Yet in markets, a cloak of concealment does descend.
People are busy. Busy buying, busy selling, busy packing, moving, dealing, trading – and in the Bangalore Flower Market, busy threading petals through palms. They look, smile, chat, agree but no-one has time to stare and there’s no time spare to indulge in slow conversation.
In London’s Covent Garden, I received a fierce and brittle “no” when it came to taking photos.
In the Flower Markets of Bangalore, however, things were different.
Folk begged to have their photos taken. They decked me out in garlands and hairpieces and talismans for my bag. They smiled and they posed and they simply loved to have me standing there.
And it felt good.
Not many tourists pass through Bangalore, India’s third largest city and hub for electronics and IT. Fewer still, perhaps, make it here on a Saturday morning. Perhaps that’s why there’s such a warm welcome. Or perhaps it’s just coincidence.
Still, garlanded with happiness and smelling of white jasmine, I smiled, showed people their photos, and then turned back to follow the cow.
Out of misery, beauty and trade.
During the third Anglo-Mysore War, this area became a battlefield in March of 1791.
The British forces fought and occupied the nearby fort, leaving the surrounding area as a public place. This "buffer" or "bridge" between the locals and the occupying British forces drew in merchants and vendors with vegetables, spices and garlands. Step by step, Bangalore's Flower Market grew.
In 1921, a new marketplace was built and named after Krishna Rajendra (K.R.), a previous Maharajah of Mysore. And now, in the 21st century, another new project is underway to help out with parking and include extra storeys.
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