Kadlekai Parishe: The annual two-day fair when Bengaluru embraces its past with unbridled relish

For two days every year one of south Bengaluru’s celebrated localities goes hurtling back in time to resemble the landscape of any overcrowded village fair. This is when the world’s renowned back office and India’s distinguished IT hub, where virtually every Fortune 500 company has an impressive presence, gracefully embraces its hoary past with unbridled relish.

Welcome to Kadlekai Parishe (groundnut fair), an event that has been in vogue since 1537 CE. Yes, you read it right, from the year 1537, when erstwhile chieftain and acknowledged founder of the city of Bengaluru, Kempe Gowda, dedicated a temple to Dodda Basava (Big Bull) atop a small hillock and installed an idol there.

 Kadlekai Parishe: The annual two-day fair when Bengaluru embraces its past with unbridled relish

Kadlekai Parishe has been in vogue since 1537 CE. Image credit: Devika Ramarathnam

The temple, of course, is the revered Bull Temple, a landmark, and the area Basavanagudi, one of the city’s oldest and prized neighbourhoods.

The annual two-day fair which attracts close to a million visitors and hundreds of thousands of vendors from many parts of India, particularly the four southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Seemandhra, is held on the one km stretch of wide road leading to the Bull Temple.

Just a stone’s throw away from Gandhi Bazar — that celebrated and much beloved shopping area of south Bengalureans, where an ancient eating house Vidyarthi Bhavan, famous for its masala dosa, is considerably more popular than the American MNC fast-food joints in the immediate vicinity — the energy levels at the ‘village fair’ is to be experienced to be believed.

Gandhi Bazar itself is a cherished city landmark which old Bengalureans swear by. One celebrity, a well-known sixth generation Bengalurean, joked that according to his wife “the world’s best beach is in Gandhi Bazar”! (Don’t go looking for it on any map. The city of Bengaluru is 350 kms away from the nearest coast). But even Gandhi Bazar is left in the shade on the two days of Kadlekai Parishe when the entire area becomes one big village fair.

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The entire area becomes one big village fair. Image credit: Devika Ramarathnam

“I’ve been coming to the Kadlekai Parishe for over 30 years. I live close-by and make it a point to come here at least twice or thrice each day, usually afternoons and again late evening,” said Prasad Tagat, an entrepreneur who works with software companies, among others.

“In the olden days it was all about Kadlekai (groundnut) but over the years it has become a sort of ‘anything-goes’ fair. This year’s crowds have been nothing short of amazing,” he added.

So it was, with hardly any elbow room to jostle around. Yet thousands of fairgoers went bargaining and purchasing from the scores of visiting vendors, most sprawled on the road with their wares laid exposed.

A reputed local engineering college, BMS, has donated over 2 lakh cloth bags to the vendors in an effort to wean shoppers away from plastic bags. Many environment-conscious shoppers carry their own cloth and jute bags. But all these pale into insignificance in the face of the millions of sales notched up.  Besides the plastic that is the bag, every single sale is strictly in cash. The effects of the demonetisation, which seems to have badly hit far-away New Delhi, is hardly conspicuous given the myriad ‘cash-only’ sales!

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The effects of the demonetisation, which seems to have badly hit far-away New Delhi, is hardly conspicuous given the myriad ‘cash-only’ sales. Image credit: Devika Ramarathnam

Before Bengaluru became Bangalore, Basavangudi was surrounded by Sunkenahalli, Guttahalli, Mavalli, Dasarahalli and a whole lot of other villages where groundnut was grown. The cultivators had an issue with a rampaging bull which would destroy their fields every full moon day.

Legend has it that the farmers used to pray to Nandi to stop this destruction and in turn pledged their first yield to the lord. It was believed that the big bull would subsequently return the day after Kadlekai Parise and eat all the groundnut shells strewn around. Thus was born a festival that really is the essence of the city of Bengaluru.

The event, which is held in the Hindu month of Kartik (November), used to be held in the grounds leading to the Bull Temple. Subsequently, these grounds were all lost to the burgeoning city but the Kadlekai Parise itself was moved to the road. The police who establish outposts and patrolling at the event, block the road for traffic and the whole wide stretch leading to the temple is taken over for the fair.

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he police who establish outposts and patrolling at the event, block the road for traffic and the whole wide stretch leading to the temple is taken over for the fair. Image credit: Devika Ramarathnam

“We haven’t had good rains this year. We’ve spent too much money on tanker water for the crops,” said Tippeswamy, a groundnut farmer cum vendor. “The yields have been below normal and we’d not be able to make a good profit.”

Chauhan, a vendor from Rajasthan who was hawking trinkets made from coconut shells, confessed that the Kadlekai Parise was quite profitable for him. “We won’t get Rs 200 to 300 for these items back home,” he said while displaying his products. “But Bangalore people are rich and generous. Many of the vendors from my village have also come this time,” he said in Hindi.

Ranga, a trader who sourced his groundnuts from Pennagonda in Andhra and Thimmaiah from Tumkur, both lamented that the cost of cleaning, roasting and transporting had wrecked their chances of making a profit. They, however, said that they’d never have made even this sort of money if they had stayed away.

Besides the groundnuts, a whole lot of other edibles did roaring business. Then there were junk jewellery, trinkets, plastic toys, utensils, clothes, shoes, decorative items, flowers, balloons, bangles, pink ribbons, pink cotton candy, pink bags, etc, all adding to colour and gaiety of the event.

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Junk jewellery, trinkets, plastic toys, utensils, clothes, shoes, bangles, etc, all adding to colour and gaiety of the event. Image credit: Devika Ramarathnam

Elangovan who was selling lots of Tamil Nadu specific fruits confessed he was waiting for the fair to get over. “I’m very tired. I just want to sleep. I haven’t slept for three days,” he said amidst roaring sales of his gooseberries, manga inji, etc.

Amazingly many of the vendors from the various parts of India spoke no Kannada or English yet made perfect sense to the shoppers.

By Tuesday evening, after two to three days of tumultuous celebrations, as the teeming crowds disperse the city would have clawed back its Bull Temple Road from the village. Simultaneously onus would once again shift to the soul and glory of old Bengaluru – Gandhi Bazar.

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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2016 09:27:25 IST