>On Veerapillai Street


To sit, to talk, perchance to gossip

Like various other communities who migrated from their country or town of origin to settle in and appropriate parts of Bangalore as their own, the Mudaliars also carved a niche for themselves in Ulsoor and the  Cantonment areas bordering Blackpalli ( Shivajinagar). If you walk down Car Street in Ulsoor towards Shivajinagar, the sign posts on every street corner will bear witness to this .

Opening a window to the past

Many of them came  from Arcot in Tamil Nadu and the story goes that in British Bangalore, ` most of the key positions were occupied by the Tamil Brahmin community who brought the Mudaliars to Bangalore to assist them in administration.’ Of them, the most well known was Dharmarathnakara Rai Bahadur Arcot Narayanswamy Mudaliar.

Doorways that tell a story

Sri Narayanswamy Mudaliar was born in Arcot in 1827 and moved to Bangalore when his father, Muniappa Mudaliar decided to leave Arcot with his three sons, Muniswamy, Narayanswamy and Muthuswamy. When his father passed away, the ten year old Narayanswamy was left in charge of his mother and two younger brothers. From the early years transporting vegetables, to eventually being granted the patronage of Maharajah Krishnaraja Wodeyar it was a journey filled with hard work and determination.

Veerapillai Street, Bangalore

One day, as luck would have it, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a partnership between Sri Narayanswamy Mudaliar and Messrs. Wallace & Co. They decided to join hands with Bansilal Ramratan who had just secured a contract for the construction of the New Public Offices or the ‘Athara Cutcherry’. (There was a move in the 80’s to demolish the beautiful building. The battle to not do so was won in 1985). Col.Richard Hieram Sankey of the Madras Sappers, Chief Engineer to the Government of Mysore was to design it.

Time passes by on Veerapillai Street

Sri Narayanswamy’s younger brother supervised the building and the project made Sri Narayanswamy a very wealthy man. He then set up the `Bangalore Agency’ at No.19, South Parade, a venture that dealt with real estate, live stock, auctioneering as well as excise contracts and banking. His clientle included the army stationed in the Cantonment and the general public.

Hues of history

Sri Narayanswamy went on to donate generously towards the establishment of educational, social and religious institutions. For this, he was conferred the title ` Rai Bahadur ‘ by Lord Lytton in 1877, at a grand Durbar in New Delhi. After a long and illustrious life, upon his passing away in 1910, he was given special permission to be interred in his coconut grove at his residence 6/57, Veerapillai Street, Bangalore. Precisely where this was located is something the local post office and the Dharmarathnakara Rai Bahadur Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar’s Educational Charities Trust (Regd. 1892) would know better.

Lubbay Masjid Street, off Veerapillai Street

Standing on the busy Veerapillai Street, I find it hard to believe it would once have had a coconut plantation owned by Sri Arcot Narayanswamy Mudaliar. There’s not even enough space for even a twig to flourish here happily today. But the houses are captivating. Veerapillai Street stretches far on both sides of Kamaraj ( Cavalry) Road in the direction of Ulsoor.

Have more calcium !

Sri Narayanswamy’s foresight did not end there. From the money he received for building the Attara Kacheri, he bought a number of properties on M. G. Road including a 17,000 sq ft property over which the Plaza Theatre, a much loved landmark in Bangalore was eventually built in 1936 by his grandsons, AR Krishnamurthy and AR RajamanickamVelu. Many of us have fond memories of movies watched there through childhood, the beautiful wooden floor and the dizzy heights of the Dress Circle (balcony ). Today the elegant theatre (and the age old Phoenix Watch Works in it) is no more. In its place is a new avatar – the Namma Metro Concourse.

Watching silently from above Lubbay Masjid Street
Other prominent Bangalore Mudaliars were Veerabhadra Mudaliar who built the Elgin Talkies and Raja Manyickvelu Mudaliar who owned the beautiful Manyickvelu Mansion, which is the present day National Gallery of Modern Art, Palace Road.
I have often found that the identity of the urban immigrant is that of a shape shifter influenced by perceptions of the city and the multiple roles one has to play in it – conqueror, survivor, consolidator…and many more.Against a backdrop of urban alienation or isolation, the traditional community builds a honeycomb (a cluster of people, physical and geographical spaces and emotional landscapes in a closed environment) in an attempt to create security, stability and familiarity intheir new environment. Ironically, the need to assimilate manifests as an exercise in segregation.
Time stops off Swamy Mudaliar Street, Bangalore

Every community that chose to make Bangalore its home, (be it on the Pete side or the Cantonment ) contributed significantly to the aesthetic and socio-geographical map of Bangalore. In doing so, they influenced the language, food, architecture and cultural landscape of a city that was newly emerging, giving it a unique multi-cultural identity.


  1. Hi Aliyeh,

    It’s so nice to discover your lovely blog!
    I will be exploring Veerapillai Street one day soon.


    p.s. Thanks for the link – I’ll be linking you too!

    1. Hi Isabel, thanks a tonne ! I’ve always liked your blog so its lovely to hear from you ! Hope you have a great time wandering through Veerapillai Street.The whole area is full of architectural jewels ! ( NarainPillai Street, Jewellers Street ).

  2. Bangalore never ceases to amaze.

  3. venkatesh · · Reply

    Now, THAT is a valuable piece of information.. I have always wondered about the naming of streets in bangalore with tamil names

  4. BRaman · · Reply

    May I please know if there are his relatives or descendants in any place & how exactly he died ? I am eager to meet them. Is there any relative in that house in Veerapillai Street ? I visited Bangalore, but did not know what you wrote till today.I have heard of him long ago from my grandmother.

    1. Yes, relatives and descendants are very much there, thankfully.You can get in touch with the RBANMS Trust in Ulsoor.I am sure they will be able to help you with more information.

    2. TR Manjunath · · Reply

      The geneoligical tree of my family tracks Veera Pillai as one of our g.g.g.great grand father., but there is no written history about him , been searching since very long, The other Pillai, is Narayana Pillai.

    3. Manjunath · · Reply

      My family geneological tree denotes VeeraPillai as my GG G grandfather.,

  5. Sudeep Aditya · · Reply

    Excellent info and a great blog on BLR’s history! Keep up the great work 🙂

  6. It is a very useful web log. You did a lot of work.I will try & meet the family. May I rqst you to reply to my email lr of today ?

  7. Madhu Soodanan · · Reply

    Wonderful, a nice sneek peek into the glorious past of Bangalore. Nicely compiled. The contributions of tamil migrants to Bangalore’s past has been amazing.

  8. Manjunath TR · · Reply

    pl recheck whether Veera Pillai was a Mudaliar,

    1. Never said he was.:-) Just said that many Mudaliars live on Veerapillai Street. The Ulsoor side near RBANMS.

  9. Dear Aliyeh,Pl reply if you still write in these pages as I did not get any story by email since lasst year.

  10. kandan natarajan mudaliar · · Reply

    i too have a ancestry in veerapillai street. but dont know much of the remaining family members…. my grandfather was known as kanyappan mudaliar …… any info please message.

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