Mayo Hall (Bangalore)
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Mayo Hall is an old, iconic structure made of brick and concrete in the memory of Lord Mayo, the 4th Viceroy of India located in the heart of Bangalore. This building is situated on the popular MG road in Bangalore city next to Public Utility Building and offers a panoramic view of the city's Parade grounds and Ulsoor Lake on one side, and the Bangalore Race Course and Brigade Grounds on the south.
This structure has two floors and is known for its ornate furniture and architecture. adorned by chandeliers, Greek cornices, wooden floors, Tuscan columns, stone arches and beautiful furnishings; this old double storied building is a popular tourist attraction these days. Mayo Hall was the first of the many structures built in the memory of Lord Mayo across the country as later many more buildings such as Mayo Hospitals and Mayo Schools were opened in other parts of the country.
Municipal Offices Inside Mayo Hall
Mayo Hall is now home to numerous departments of Bangalore Mahanagara Palike, Bangalore's administrative body, and was used until recently to try traffic crimes and register marriages. The government's Kempegowda Museum is located on the first floor of Mayo Hall. It was established in the year 2011 and is dedicated to Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore.The museum has Kempegowda's statue as well as artistic renderings from his time.
When originally built, the ground floor had the Municipal Office for the Cantonment, several public offices and law courts. The upper floor was designed for important 'Public meetings and Exhibitions'.
Mayo Hall History
Going back to its very beginning, Mayo Hall became a part of a larger design to develop the cantonment into an integrated Bangalore Civil & Military station. Accordingly, around the mid-1800s, a series of developmental activity began.
The army that defeated Tipu Sultan in the 4th Mysore War was relocated from the swamps of Srirangapatana to the more temperate Bangalore. It was 1809 and the new garrison town began to grow. The crown's administrative staff and the army's families began arriving in droves, taking the arduous sailing route around the Cape of Good Hope. Sensing the business opportunities, tradesmen also began to travel in this manner. Soon, items never before seen in Bangalore started arriving - it was a century of dramatic happenings. The world saw many firsts: postage stamps, automobiles, electric light bulbs, motion pictures, phonographs, photography, repetition rifles, railroad locomotives, steamships, telegraphs, and telephones.
With this revolution began the 'westernization' of Bangalore. "Roads, parks, promenades, churches, schools, hospitals, shopping centers, dance halls, pubs, clubs, cricket, golf range, and a race course came up where there were none," says Major-General (retd.) John Verghese. "Everything in Britain was brought here. Well, almost everything. Houses with fountains, tennis courts and gardens came up in areas such as Richmond Town, South Parade, and St John's Church Road. Even flowers - phlox, zinnias, dahlias, and so on - and veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and beetroot were brought from good old' Blighty!"
In this period of rapid change, Lord Mayo (christened Richard Southwell Bourke) was appointed the Viceroy and Governor-General of India, who hastened the development process. In the short period between 1869 and 1872 when he was in India, he traveled extensively and was greatly impressed with the people and the land - Bourke once said that Britain should hold India "as long as the sun shines in heaven". This sentiment was widely and enthusiastically shared in the Empire.
On a visit to Port Blair's prison, however, Lord Mayo's life was cut short. He was assassinated, stabbed to death by Sher Ali, a Pathan life convict, thus becoming the only Indian Viceroy to be murdered in office. The convict who killed him did so in an act of revenge intended to avenge his father's death in the Anglo-Afghan War.
As a tribute to this administrator, a commemorative building was erected on the South Parade on a flat ground with trees, flowering bushes and a low wall on the south side. Terraced lawns surrounded the two-story building. It cost about Rs 45,000, a sum raised largely through public subscription.
The Mayo Hall was inaugurated by the British Resident on June 6, 1883, with considerable pomp and pageantry. The Bangalore District Gazetteer noted that "The building in elevation is remarkable for its composition of architrave and pedimented windows, varied with key-storied arches, beautifully executed consoles, balustraded ledges and typical Greek cornice."
Inside the building, a number of exquisitely framed pictures of the British nobility and outstanding citizens could be found in the hall. On the first floor, there were Italian chandeliers and ornate furniture. Being on a hill, Mayo Hall offered a panoramic view of the Parade grounds and Ulsoor Lake, as well as Sholay Lake, Race Course and Brigade Grounds to the south.
The late Kora Chandy described the Mayo Hall as "one of the most elegant public buildings of the era in Southern India." Several Greco-Roman elements and influences are apparent in the building: architrave and pediment windows, key-stoned arches, balustrade ledges, beautiful consoles, Greek cornices, Tuscan columns, and wooden floors.
Mayo Hall Today
Today Mayo Hall stands shorn of its greenery and breathing space. Tall buildings such as the Public Utility building and the Central Mall are its neighbors. Nearby heavy traffic generates significant sound pollution. The future of this historical building remains uncertain.There is an apprehension that many of Bangalore's landmarks may, as is typical of old buildings, fall into disrepair or neglect in the future. This may be prevented, however, by an increase in communal pride and interest in history and heritage.Many philanthropists and the local government are collaborating to support efforts that preserve and promote heritage and culture. Mayo Hall is a case in point in history-rich Bangalore that deserves such support.
- Deccan Herald, Metrolife, Monday July 12, 2004 http://www.deccanherald.com/Archives/july122004/metro9.asp[dead link]
- Bangalore District Gazetteer, page no. 946