Bangalore Watchtowers built by Kempe Gowda II

In an earlier article, we found out how Kempe Gowda established Bangalore as a business hub and a city with scientific temper:

After handing over the reigns of Bangalore to his eldest son, Kempe Gowda breath his last in 1569. His son Immadi Kempe Gowda (Kempe Gowda II) continued to build the city as envisioned by his father and was instrumental in setting up several new lakes & temples. Among all of his contributions, some of the most interesting structures he built were the watch towers which exist even today.

Kempe Gowda II built 4 watchtowers along 4 directions in the following locations:

  • Ulsoor
  • Lalbagh
  • Mekhri circle
  • Kempambudhi lake

Apart from these 4 towers, Kempe Gowda II had constructed 3 more watchtowers out of which two were near Gavi Gangadhreshwar temple & one at Bugle rock, Basavanagudi.


1808 painting of Gavi Gangadhreshwar temple. Notice the watchtower on a hilltop in the background. (Image Credits: British Library)

While some of the historians suggest that such watchtowers were built to mark the boundaries of the city, another set of historians strongly disagree. However, all of them agree that such watch towers were actually built at a height (on hillocks) overseeing major roads that were leading into Bangalore and hence the watch towers were used to station security guards to ensure safety of the city by intercepting suspicious entrants.


1792 painting of a watchtower intercepting a road leading into Bangalore. (Image Credits: British Library)


In addition to the security guards, it is said that such watch towers stationed officers who would collect toll charges from visitors or immigrants entering the city.


1792 painting of a watchtower in Bangalore. Notice the neatly excavated stairs to the watchtower. (Image Source: British Library)

Significance of these watchtowers in today’s Bangalore:

These 7 watch towers appear identical, (albeit few differences in details but they all have 4 pillars with a Gopura) and exist even today. Among them, 4 towers (Ulsoor, Lalbagh, Mekhri, Kempambudhi) have been declared as “Protected monuments” due to their inherent heritage values.


As a tribute to Kempe Gowda II, the administration of Bangalore (BBMP) has used a picture of the watchtower as its logo.

Recently, the administrators had built a pillar at Hudson circle (near BBMP office) which has a replica of the watchtower.

Image credits:

In a bid to revive the heritage value of the city, administrators have been planning to build more such pillars, and in the process create more awareness about the history of Bangalore.

The watchtower has become one of the symbols of Bangalore and Kempe Gowda, as the founder of Bangalore, has received his due recognition as most of the public services & public property including the bus station, main road leading to the bus station, the recently inaugurated international airport and a recently opened museum have all been named after Kempe Gowda, which is not only a welcome change, but also a paradigm shift from the hitherto convention of naming them after certain political party’s dynasty who were no way related to the city. In the next part, we shall find out more about how Bangalore evolved after Kempe Gowda.

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