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Malavika Narayan, Divya Chand, Ananya Ramesh, Anish Mannam India Urban Fellows Indian Institute for Human Settlements

This project attempts to study the transformation of the distinctly varied markets in Shivaji Nagar ward of Bangalore across a historic timeline due to several reasons and an analysis of what agents led to the adaptation and persistence of these commercial centers.


On encountering Shivaji Nagar for the first time, it was the dense coexistence of a variety of people and products that struck us, all placed in the setting of an old market which is still vibrant and flourishing. The apparent incongruity between the wares in intertwined lanes made us wonder how and why these markets came to be placed in this space, and about the forces which over time order, organize, mediate or regulate the dynamics between them. Our conversations with the people who live and work in today’s Shivaji Nagar gave us the first clue about history being key to the way they perceive their relationship to the space and act with a sense of their right to be there, as thus being a place from where to begin answering the question of how the markets have adapted and transformed over time to be the way they are today. By looking at these varied flows and processes, we hope to understand how the market holds together in the face of a range of internal and external factors, and as a response both adapts and persists.




Around the 1800s, Bangalore came under the Mysore state being ruled by the Wodeyar Kings who had been returned to power after the British defeated Tipu Sultan in the Fourth AngloMysore War. The pleasant weather of Bangalore attracted the British to set up camp here and a military cantonment was established in the year 1806 to the north-east of the pete (old city) which remained under control of the Wodeyars. The decision was explicit that inter-personal contact between the cantonment and the pete would be limited, both as a function of geographical distance and cultural barriers. The area which the British chose to develop as a distinct city centre was near an agglomeration of fifteen small villages next to the Halasur Lake. The main landmark here was the seventeenth century Someshwara Temple built by Kempegowda, around which were markets and shops, houses and several smaller shrines. Locals claim that there were also a few mosques, and the area was thus already quite diverse in its composition. White rice (billi akki) was grown in this area, and it is thought that this was the reason it was named Billi-akki-palli. Alternately, it has also been suggested that the name which the British used, Blackpally, was after the Cantonment architect John Blakiston, or simply a racially motivated term for the native quarters. While the pete area in the old city had a well-established market at its core, the British started using and developing the existing small-

scale native market here. The expansion and development of the military establishment spurred civilian growth as well. By the 1880s, the Cantonment area had its own railway station, hospitals and a functioning Municipal Corporation, with the population crossing a hundred thousand. While the streets began to be occupied by new groups of merchants and contractors supplying provisions to the British, the native market continued to thrive. The predominant ethnic groups at this time were Tamilians and Muslims as compared to Kannada speakers in the pete area (Rizvi, 2013). The non-British areas have been described to having been an unplanned mess of twisting lanes bearing strong resemblances to the old city area, unlike the broad roads and tree lined avenues in the British area. (Nair, 2005) This congested and unsanitary space was badly affected when the Plague of 1898 struck the city and around 15000 people died. The more congested parts of Blackpally were demolished to form Fraser, Richard and Cox town in early 1900s. In the midst of this turmoil, temples were built in the area to invoke the rural Goddess Mariamman, the ‘Plague diety’ who protects her children from viral diseases like small pox, measles and of course the plague. The Dandu Mariamman Temple is prominently located at Shivaji Square and Mother Mary also assumes a new avatar – Arokiamariamma (Our Lady of Health).

Beginning in the 1900s, is a phase when the British developed and organised the area and the market in a major way resulting in the growth of Blackpally as a bustling urban market with some of the prominent features which we see today. Iconic shops like the Aalco Departmental Stores were set up which imported bread, cheeses and jams from London which they then sold wholesale to smaller grocery stores. The extension of rail links brought in

a surge of new migrants, also owing to other factors such as the push from rural famines. A major linguistic group was the Tamilians, especially Labbes, Mudaliars and various Dalit castes. Apart from them, there were also tailors from Maharashtra, and merchants, builders and bankers belonging to Multani (cotton/ salt), Bania, Marwari and Katiawari communities, all of whom primarily serviced the military. (Nair, 2005)

From the beginning of 1900s, motor vehicles first started appearing in the city. The area around Stephen’s Square then began to serve as a market for automobile repair and scrapping as well. As the number of cars were however not much, earlier dealings in horse buggies and bullock cart parts continued for some time, and the shops would also take on the repair of furniture from British households as a side business which later got transformed into a full-fledged furniture market. During the Second World War, Bangalore, being out of range of warships and sufficiently distanced from Japanese warplanes, was selected by the British to set up an airbase for servicing military and transport aircraft. Locals claim that the Stephen’s Square market also dealt with the scrapping of these. With the growing needs of the civil and military station, the Municipal Commission decided to build a new Market at Blackpalli and thus the famous Russel Market was conceived. It was named after the then Municipal Commissioner, T.B Russell, I.C.S and formally inaugurated in 1927, by Sir Ismail Sait, an eminent Cutchi Memon businessman and philanthropist in Bangalore, who later went on to become a Member of the Madras Legislative Council. It was designed by W.H Murphy in a delicate Indo-Saracenic style in an orderly fashion with proper segmentation of fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, and flower markets. The inauguration was evidently noteworthy and records state

that the opening ceremony was conducted at a grand scale and an amount of Rs.269 and eight annas was spent for the purpose. A Market Sergeant was appointed by the cantonment administration to oversee proper maintenance of the market. The surrounding area also got developed as Richards Square, including the setting up of Adams Furniture and numerous tea shops which exists to this day. By this time, the larger surrounding areas have also transitioned to various types of markets. Near the Charminar Masjid, a market for leather and cane products flourished alongside a bunch of lodges and small hotels. The dry fish market also came up here around this time. During the evenings, along today’s Nala Road, a Gujri (Kannada word for scrap) market used to function as a scrap or junk market by vendors who would collect metal and other waste from households on bicycles and resell this. The road referred to as the Old Poor Household (OPH) road was basically assigned to the orphan British troops after 4th Anglo-Mysore war and later started admitting AngloIndian & Indian poor. This area was predominantly occupied by people belonging to lower income groups and working-class whites. The shops mainly traded in groceries(rice, oil, sugarcane etc). The area is said to have been inhabited by Persian traders and merchants, which explains the dominance of Muslim and Christian population in the area.

Post-Independence The next major event which affected the market was the exit of the British with the gaining of Independence in 1947. After this, in 1949, the Cantonment and the old city were merged to form a united Bangalore City. Karnataka acquired statehood in 1956 and the city acquired the title of the capital city. Following this, there was contestation between Sultan Nagar and Shivaji Nagar as the market name, but then the dominant political representatives, who were the influential Maratha traders managed to lobby and name it Shivaji Nagar. A distinct illustration of this kind of political mobilization by different communities is how a single (OPH) road was later broken and renamed in three parts namely Jumma Masjid Road, Jain Temple Road, Haines Road to cater to the demands of the three dominant communities there. Over time, various new administrative structures and institutions were also put into place, each of which exercises different kinds of jurisdictions and powers over the market which itself comes to occupy the Bharathi Nagar Ward No 91. This includes the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) in 1976, the Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) in 1986 and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in 2006. In this period, Bangalore city was growing and developing in different ways. Post-independence national economic policy being that of state-led industrialization, several key public-

sector industries were set up in Bangalore such as Bharat Electronics Ltd, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Indian Space Research Organization. Large open spaces around the market were inherited by the Indian armed forces, and the city served as a key defense and industrial location during the Indo-China wars of the 1960s. Even though some differences continued between the Cantonment and other parts of the city, the balance of power within the city had shifted as a result of the growth of Bangalore by absorption of neighboring Kannada villages, both electorally as well as in defining the view and future of the city. Kannada linguistic nationalism began to gain strength, and was reflected against occasional instances of antimigrant, especially anti-Tamil and anti-Urdu, violence in the city. By the late 80s however, IT sector had also started developing, giving rise to an alternative vision of the future of the city. The history of Bangalore as an important center of technological advances and innovation right from the earlier centuries as well as the availability of trained manpower were the key factors which spurred the IT revolution.

The Markets in recent history Since the time of the economic reforms in 1991, the markets in Shivaji Nagar have undergone many kinds of changes. One of the major transformations is of the erstwhile scrap and junk market along Nala Road which has now begun to trade in clothes. Though none of the shopkeepers we spoke to assigned any single causal factor as having contributed to this change, there was a tendency to view this as a feature of the changing nature of consumer demand which was earlier geared towards saving and reusing, but has gradually become attuned to consume more, especially as ready-made garments became much cheaper. Most of the shopkeepers are from Bangalore, have very deep roots in the market and are often the second or third generation in the family to be running the businesses. There are very few workers as owners mostly take care of their own shops, and these few are often migrant laborers typically from Bihar, Calcutta or Delhi. While the shops on one edge of the lane are self-owned, the shop spaces of the other edge are rented from the BBMP which had relocated them from a place closer to the canal as it tended to flood. All the shops open at around noon on all days except Friday when most open up only after the namaaz prayers at 2pm. The material for sale mostly comes from Chikpete, Bombay and Surat, the transport of which is self-organised by the shopkeepers individually. The New Evening Bazaar Association has all the shopkeepers as its

members, and is primarily responsible for organization of the shops and for conflict resolution. They also act as a link to the Councilor and organize for political action and mobilization.

The iconic Russel Market continues to be a major wholesale market for fruits, vegetables, flowers and meat. The demarcation between shops selling different products and the ways in which material was strictly segregated during British times continues in some ways even now though the boundaries have somewhat blurred over time due to lack of regulation. The flow of material into the market is largely self-regulated with KR Market being

the major source from where produce comes, especially for flowers, fruits and vegetables. There is a common Russel Market Association which is an umbrella body with three divisions for fruits and vegetables, mutton and fish products, and is a major force which brings together all the different people selling diverse produce in the market. This is a crucial body especially in the face of the many crises being faced by the market, in a time when the ways of commerce have shifted and the reliance of the city on markets in such neighborhoods has decreased. When a major fire took place in 2012 and many shops got burnt down, the BBMP proposed demolition of the whole market by citing the reason of structural safety, and erection of a mall in its place. The shopkeepers resisted and rebuilt the market by raising around 65 lakhs as funds in addition to the Rs.50000 per affected trader offered by the Chief Minister. Since then, the relationship with BBMP has further deteriorated as the civic body has disassociated from the maintenance functions resulting in a drastic reduction in cleanliness. Power is also no longer supplied by BESSCOM and the traders rely on diesel generators for their electricity use.

The Stephen’s Square Market, popularly known as the Gujri market, is one market which has adapted and transformed mostly as a response to changes in technology and the evolution of automobiles and the mighty auto-industry. It is now one of the largest scrap markets in South India. Organized into small and medium sized shops with a majority of shopkeepers being Muslims, they trade in spare parts of two-wheelers and four-wheelers of all companies and the material comes not just from Bangalore but also from other parts of the country through dealers who source it from scrapyards, companies and garages. Larger trucks move big chunks in the early morning or late evening and the smaller pieces are transported inside the market using auto-rickshaws. Here these things are dismantled, the waste collected and the metal sent for melting. However, they do not deal with spares of larger vehicles, like lorries and tractors, due to paucity of space. The Stephen’s Square Merchant Association is a registered society since 1963 which is responsible for cleanliness, maintenance and general ordering of the market. One of their major agendas is to resist the perception of the market as ‘chor bazaar’ after the police conducted raids for stolen vehicles. They now ensure that there is proper documentation for each vehicle that is brought in, and also strictly regulate photography and videography in the area so as to ensure that no misrepresentation occurs.

The cloth market at Quadrant Road, earlier called Thyagi Mudaliar street, has an array of shops selling cottons, silks and woolens, as well as street vendors dealing in various types of garments. There is a mix of formal shops which are self-owned and others which are rented spaces from the Sri Muthyalamma Devi Temple management. The material flows for the formal shops are from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Tripura and UP; for the street vendors from Chikpete, Delhi, Mumbai etc, and for woolens from Punjab. Even though this market has retained product continuity since its establishment, the spatial organization itself has undergone many changes. A key development is the coming together of multiple shops to form ‘Palace Mall’, a new shopping complex which contrasts sharply with the shops around it and seems like a stark indicator of what the market could look like in the future. As commerce in the area increased, people residing there earlier moved out and the spaces above shops, which were thus emptied, are now used as warehouses. It is also interesting to note the apparent harmony between formal shops and street vendors as it is the latter get to use these warehouse spaces to store their goods at night. The vendors also mentioned changes in the way they operate by effective use of available information and communication technology like Whatsapp to place orders to suppliers who sent them photos and are thus able to reduce the costs and effort

involved in travel to source material. When asked about the effects of the 2014 Street Vendors Act, their feelings seemed to be ambiguous as while police violence against them had definitely decreased, daily bribes have only increased and the law itself does not give them any other benefits. These costs coupled with the disadvantages they face with increasing monetary digitization, following the demonetization policy reinforces their vulnerability.

Jumma Masjid Road, part of what was earlier the OPH road, changed to steel products from groceries around fifty years back, and only very few of the old shops are present today. Price inflations and growth of supermarkets are the reasons for the decline of small-scale grocery retail shops on this road. The current utensil shops get their products from both city market and other big cities of India like Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Delhi. The Jumma Masjid Road association is open to all shops on the road and organizes festivals in the market including collective festival offers to customers. All the shops are registered but the workers are informal in the sense that they are daily wage laborers and they do not get social security benefits like provident fund & pensions. This was one of the markets which were facing a real low moment as a result of recent economic policies like demonetization and GST, the former which crunched the credit available to them while the latter increased costs of operation.

Another lane studied consists of mixed retail starting from Charminar Masjid road, dry fish market till the vegetable and spice market road beside the Nala road. In Charminar road, there used to be Cane based and leather-based products. Over time, with new material flowing in, the market for both products has drastically declined with few traces of them still there. People selling these products have changed their businesses to eateries, bakeries, hotels etc. Dry fish market is more than 80 years old. They get their products from Mangalore, Mumbai, and Chennai. As the shelf life of these fish is high, the import of products is in less frequency. Their customers are mostly households. With the change in lifestyles and consumption patterns, the demand for dry fish products is decreasing. Demonetization has taken a greater toll in the recent past. Spice and Vegetable market is adjacent to the Nala and it has been selling the same products from long past. The vegetable market has been selling the Indian vegetables on a retail basis and the spice shops have been selling the spices, homemade flours and other related condiments.

MARKET transformation

While the spatial structure has largely persisted and been the same in the Shivaji Nagar area, the nature and scale of commerce has continuously evolved and adapted to its time.

The area has always had a string relationship with the Pete area. While different goods used to flow back and forth between the two areas, in the present day Shivaji Nagar majorly depends on KR market and Pete for almost all its wholesale needs.

National level-dependency for goods has always existed and is only growing as time passes.

ANALYSIS Agents of Change The tracing of history of the various markets in Shivaji Nagar show us multiple ways in which they have both changed and remained the same. We see that certain adaptation strategies have been adopted at different times, in response to various factors internal and external, which bring in a discontinuity in the mode or content of operation, as a step necessary in order to ensure persistence in the market. As mentioned at various points in the historical narrative, there have been many agents of change which or who have triggered responses from actors in the market. From the various stories that we gathered, four key agents can be identified. The first is technology which includes innovations in industry, information & communication technologies and transport infrastructures. The second is economic structure as determined by economic policies, changing ways of commerce and employment. The third is social actors which includes market associations, and groups based on religion, caste and language. The fourth is the state as it manifests through political actors, administrative agencies and the legal system.

Often markets have needed to respond to complex kinds of changes which is triggered from and manifests through dynamics in one or more of these actors. At these times, different strategies have been chosen by different actors in the same market like spatial adjustment as can be seen in the mall coming up at Quadrant Road and street vendors taking advantage of new technology to revamp their modes of operations. Community mobilization in the face of imminent threat as well as more longterm strategies such as generating finance through different kinds of social and civic associations is a trend seen across different markets like Russel, Gujri and the steel market at OPH. In a more radical way, markets have changed their whole product character and the same people have continued to persist in the system by offering different functions such as seen in the New Evening Bazaar.

Adaptation and Persistence When we think about these various diverse forces acting on the different markets over different times, the question arises as to how these are still held together to form a part of the larger Shivaji Nagar market. History once again plays a key role here as it is often the very fact that Shivaji Nagar market has endured and persisted for so long that gives it the power to continue to exist. This often manifests through the inter-generational rootedness and the resultant community networks and connections between not just shopkeepers in a single market, but also across markets. These communities also often have a further layer of common identity, either linguistic or religious, whose power is further enhanced through the presence of institutions and associations which often act as the safety net at times of crises. These networks together with a continued belief in the availability of economic opportunity in Shivaji Nagar has ensured a constant flow of migrants from the same groups to keep coming. Newer groups like the Tibetans have also found space for themselves here, materializing in a very real way ‘inclusivity’ as a key characteristic of this space.

''The bazaar is more than a market location in the city's centre. It is the physical, commercial, and social product of a strategy for urban advantage that has evolved from age old bonds between merchants, small-scale producers, shopkeepers and moneylenders, clerics and rural landowners. It is in the bazaars that urban economies of density, scale, and association have been most refined into an efficient process; organized into distinct markets with different codes, standards and norms; and crowded into a physical space where commerce has joint ventures with religion, where extended family relationships insinuate into businesses, and where urban living connects to rural roots.''

Jeb Brugmann; Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities are Changing the World

CONCLUSION This description by Brugmann of a neighborhood market in Iran really spoke to the way we ourselves have come to understand Shivaji Nagar. The seeming sense of a chaos and the holding of immense diversity based on long ties and inter-meshing of religious and commercial forces seemed to be a common feature between many other Indian urban markets based on our experiential memory. The quote made us think about whether this was a common feature at a more general level between markets in the Global South, and if so, how understanding such markets requires a much more comprehensive lens than one that is purely focused on ‘rational’ economic processes. As we began to understand Shivaji Nagar in both space and time, using the entry points of people and products, we realized that what is a lack of a single universal principle of order does not automatically lead to a situation of complete self-regulation and ‘chaos’. Rather we were able to identify certain enduring forces, ties and relationships which enable both short-term coping mechanisms and long-term adaptation strategies. Some of these were essentially about introducing systemic discontinuities as a way to survive, but which were still held together in the system because of the persistence of other kinds of commonalities. In this way, the initial bewilderment of finding such a strange mix of products and people in such close proximity gave way to a coherence of why that is.

However, it is still with an ambiguous feeling of hope and concern that we end this inquiry, which also reflects the uncertainty between belief and anxiety that people in the market themselves have about their future. The history of persistence in both the long past as well as in the context of the recent threats does give scope for belief in the ability of Shivaji Nagar to exert their right to stay on. This is further strengthened by looking at the sheer volume of livelihoods that the market still sustains and supports, and a hope that this is not something that can be so easily wiped away. However, we also recognize that the present moment is one that cannot be taken lightly as the scale and power of the forces which are aiming at a re-imagination of the market is quite complex, and includes economic, political as well as social forces. This is also because some of the binding factors within the market like the assurance of intergenerational continuity in living and working in the area has begun to break down with new education and employment opportunities. Further, the oppositional stance of state agencies is something that raises real fear and despair among people in the market, as this can be a crippling force especially in the context of an unfavorable economic environment as well. Hence the question of what form will the Shivaji Nagar of tomorrow take is something that will stay with us.

Thank You for Reading!

This report is a compendium of our Practica project undertaken as a part of the Urban Fellowship Program at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore, India between 24th August and 13th October 2017.

Shivaji Nagar Markets: Adapting and Persisting  

This project attempts to study the transformation of the distinctly varied markets in Shivaji Nagar ward of Bangalore across a historic time...

Shivaji Nagar Markets: Adapting and Persisting  

This project attempts to study the transformation of the distinctly varied markets in Shivaji Nagar ward of Bangalore across a historic time...