Bengaluru’s Kempegowda Bus Station, known simply as ‘Majestic’ by the city’s residents, celebrated 50 years on 2 June.
The station stands on what was once the Dharmambudhi Lake, which dried up early in the 20th century. It opened in 1969 and was named Majestic, borrowing from the popular cinema that used to stand there. Even after being renamed in honour of Kempe Gowda I, the locals still affectionately refer to the station by its original name.
The semi-circular station makes Bengaluru easily accessible; a common saying among locals is that one could find a bus to Majestic from any place in the city. For many new migrants, it marks their entry into Bengaluru, since it also hosts inter-city buses. It is characterised by bustle and chaos, situated as it is across the City railway station.
The station was once a hub for drama and cultural activities, and further back in history, a ground for political meetings. Now it’s a spot that everyone passes through at some point during their stay in the city, whether they’re bus drivers, passengers, or even the occasional pick-pocket.
Naturally, then, Majestic also houses innumerable stories. As Zac O’Yeah says about Majestic: “A naked man could hop off a bus, and in five minutes, be dressed, give his phone a makeover, eat nicely, and then take a train to the ends of the earth.”
The Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has put this map of Bengaluru with bus numbers and other details at a few places across the bus stand. Digital boards have also been installed on the platforms which display the bus arrivals and departures.
A balloon seller is on the look-out for potential customers. Numerous people depend on the area for their livelihood by selling toys, amenities, and food.
A bird's eye view of Majestic shows the bustle and flurry of this massive bus stand. With 8,600 scheduled buses operational, a total of 7.5 lakh passengers use the bus stand each day.
Two people stand on the skywalk. As it gets dark, the Majestic skywalk and subway areas become a hub for prostitution and one can notice sex workers on both ends of the bus stop and station.
The underpass or underground road for commuters resembles a market with hawkers all over the place, making it difficult to navigate during rush hour.
A driver waits for passengers for his next journey, wearing a ticket machine on his left shoulder. Vajra and Vayu Vajra are single-person operated bus services where drivers issue tickets as well.
BMTC bus drivers and conductors have a daily revenue target which they can meet through one of two options: either cover the specified number of trips for the day, which are measured in kilometres; or, deliver a pre-agreed revenue target for that day.
To enter the KSRTC bus stand one needs to go through this security check. Commuters can enter BMTC bus stand from the subway and the skywalk.
A view of the semi-circular BMTC bus stand.
Porters or coolies rest after a long day of work at the entrance of the inter-city bus stand.
A couple new to Bengaluru rests in front of the bus pass counter. The counter gets busy during the first week of each month. At other times, one can notice commuters buying ordinary passes for day travel.
An exclusive bus to the airport, the Vayu Vajra service operates on 11 routes with over 250 trips every day from around the city. The journey time from Majestic is about two hours, covering a distance of 50 kilometres. It is economic and accessible, with fares ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 320.
A woman cleans the main entrance of the KSRTC bus stand. An enquiry desk is present to the right and to the left are the buses' platform details.
The North Karnataka platform is the busiest on the entire KSRTC bus stand.
KSRTC aimed to decongest Majestic terminals by shifting some operations to Peenya, like the buses bound for North Karnataka. The number of passengers arriving at the main KSRTC bus stand to travel outside has been reducing in number. The idea of having a bus stand near Peenya doesn't seem to have decongested the traffic.
Images © Pradeep KS for Firstpost