Balabrooie is a heritage building located on the Palace Road in Bengaluru. The iconic bungalow is a famous landmark of the city and a part of its heritage. This grand old building is more than 150 years old and has been witness to several changes that the city has undergone in the last two centuries.
Built around 1850, Balabrooie was the residence of Sir Mark Cubbon, the then chief commissioner of Bangalore. It remained as the official residence of the Commissioners of Bangalore till the country gained independence in 1947. Today the bungalow serves as a guest house for visiting VIPs.
History of Balabrooie, Bengaluru
Balabrooie is an integral part of Bangalore’s history. The bungalow has been the residence of several high profile people since its inception. It has served as the residence of many important personalities, including the then Dewans of Mysore Kingdom Sir Ismail Mirza and Sir M Visvesvaraya.
It was also home to K C Reddy, the first chief minister of the then Mysuru state. It was the official residence of the first three chief ministers of Karnataka.
Many dignified personalities of the country, including Mahatma Gandhi, India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s only Nobel literature laureate Rabindranath Tagore, several freedom fighters, foreign dignitaries and a host of other Indian luminaries have stayed at Balabrooie during their visits to Bangalore.
Mystery behind the name Balabrooie
Balabrooie does not make much sense as an Indian name for a building. So, it is often wondered why the grand old bungalow was given this name. The mystery behind the naming of the bungalow is unravelled in the book titled ‘The City Beautiful’ by T P Issar.
According to the author, the name Balabrooie comes from the Isle of Man, located off the British coast in the Irish Sea. He is of the opinion that the bungalow was named as Balabrooie by Sir Mark Cubbon as he belonged to the Isle of Man.
Perhaps Sir Mark Cubbon wanted it to remind him of his home during his stay in India and hence, named the bungalow as thus.
Architecture of Balabrooie, Bangalore
Balabrooie is a spacious bungalow spread across an area of 14 acres. The beautiful building was constructed in the colonial style of architecture.
The building has large rooms with doors and windows that reflect European classical lines of architecture. The rooms have large covered verandahs lined with several columns. The bungalow also has a large impressive portico.
The building is surrounded by sprawling gardens that contains a large number of trees of diverse species, some of which are more than a century old.
Current state of Balabrooie, Bangalore
Balabrooie is one of the marvellous bungalows of the city with such a rich history. Citizens of Bengaluru have always considered the building as a part of their heritage. However, the century old bungalow is still not considered as a heritage building by the government.
This is due to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 2010, under the provisions of which the bungalow cannot be recognised as a heritage structure.
In order for Balabrooie to achieve the heritage tag the Town and Country Planning Act has to be amended.
Demolition plans for Balabrooie, Bangalore
Recently, the Karnataka State Government took a decision to demolish some portions of the Balabrooie Guest House. The guest house currently houses the Justice Vaidyanathan Committee.
The Government plans to construct a swanky club house for legislators. It is believed that the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had suggested Balabrooie as the location of the proposed club house following pressure from state legislators.
The legislators have been demanding a club similar to the Constitution Club of India in New Delhi meant for Parliamentarians. However, no written order regarding the exact location of the clubhouse has yet been issued.
Protest to protect Balabrooie, Bangalore
The decision of the government to demolish a part of Balabrooie was met with strong resentment and disapproval from the citizens of Bangalore. People belonging to different layers of the society and different parts of the city united to protest against the government’s decision.
People are of the opinion that the century old trees of Balabrooie are one of the few remaining lung spaces of the fast developing city. They reasoned that in order to progress and build new structures, the citizens cannot lose all touch with their roots and allow the city’s heritage to be destroyed in the name of development.
The citizens have formed a ‘Save Balabrooie Committee’ to protest against the demolition of Balabrooie. They are planning several protests and other programs to preserve the old bungalow. Some of the citizens have started an online petition titled ‘Save and Preserve the Balabrooie Heritage Building and Compound’ to prevent the demolition.
Facing strong protest and objections from the citizens, the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has assured the people that Balabrooie will not be damaged in order to build the club house.