Unlike Delhi, Mumbai, or Coachin, Bengaluru is not a city steeped in history. Less than 500 years old, and hailed as the ‘City of the Future’, Bengaluru has always been ahead of its times. In 1908, India’s premier institute of higher education, the Indian Institute of Science, was set up here, and the city has never looked back. With its large pool of professionals drawn from the large numbers of engineering colleges in the city, Bengaluru has led the way, Starting with the aeronautical science (after Hindustan Aeronautics was set up here in 1940), and then going on to manufacturing, electronics, information technology, and biotechnology. Somewhere along the line, it has also become the ‘back office of the world’, with its almost complete monopoly of the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) sector.
Nature lovers should not miss the chance of a long, slow stroll through Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens (south Bangaluru), that sprawl over 240 acres. Created by Haider Ali and developed and expanded first by his son Tipu Sultan, and then by other great and dedicated horticulturists, both British and Indian the gardens are home to some 2000 species of plants and trees rarely seen in the same vicinity. These have been brought in form as far a field as Madagascar, the Caribbean and Papua New Guinea. Just a little outside Bangaluru is the Bannerghatta National Park. Apart from the very nice zoo, the main attractions are the tiger and lion safaris, where you can see the big cats from up close, since the safari happens within a small fenced-in area. If you want to make a half-day excursion of it, and finish with a hearty lunch, or alternatively, stay the night, contact Jungle Lodges and Resorts who run a tented resort right in the park.
For those traveling with children or with a yen for science, there are several options. The Visweswaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (VITM, closed on Mondays) on Kasturba Road (near Cubbon Park) is a great touch and feel science museum for kids, with exhibits celebrating a century of aviation (look-out for a life-size model of the Kitty Hawk), a Jurassic Room with a life-size animatronics Spinosaurus, and much more. The HAL Heritage Centre and Aerospace Museum, with real fighter jets, bombers, and helicopters on display all over the grounds, and flight simulators, a mock-up ATC tower, and the very real view of aircraft landing and taking off at the Bangaluru airport across the road, is exciting for both adults and children. And the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium in the High Grounds Area (near the Bangaluru Golf Club) always has, besides the exhibits, two movies a day, one of which is in English.
If you are fascinated by royalty and palaces, the summer palace of Tipu Sultan, one of the few Indian rulers who, along with his father, Haider Ali, Challenged and even managed to thwart the might of the British Empire for almost half a century, is a must-see. Only a part of the original palace stands today, but there is a sweet museum on the ground floor and the gardens are well-maintained. Also of interest is the Palace of the Mysore Wadiyars, Which has recently been opened to the public. An entrance fee of Rs. 100 is charged per head, and you get to see the extravagant 45000 sq ft palace, modeled on Windsor Castle, up close. The palace grounds, some 800 acres of them, are the venue for every large exposition, exhibition, and cultural performance, including rock shows.
Don’t go away without spending some time gazing at what is, perhaps, Bangaluru’s grandest structure, and the one which is symbolic of the city, Vidhana Soudha. The building was commissioned by the first Chief Minister of Karnataka when his European visitors asked him, on being shown the Attara Kacheri, where the Indian buildings were. Stung, the chief minister decided to build this magnificent structure right opposite the Attara Kacheri, which until then had housed the administrative offices, first of the British and them of the Indian.