Heart and soul of Mahalakshmi Layout

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Bangalore, October 25:  The vast rectangular playground that lies at the heart of Mahalakshmi Layout is impossible to miss. Not least because it is always abuzz with activity: whether school sports days, residents catching up for a chat over hot chai, shoppers at exhibitions or movie shooting.

The enormous Kamalammana Gundi happens to be among Bangalore’s best maintained playgrounds, and is tangibly free from the commotion and tumult of over-urbanisation, says Virendra Kumar Nange, a software employee.

“I live five km away but I come here every evening to play football with my friends. The dimensions of the ground (150 m by 100 m) are an advantage as no game gets disturbed even if the playground is occupied by more than one sporting event.”

Over the last 15 years, the playground has undergone massive transformation from a barren and uneven wasteland into an important public space.

Ramachandra, a tea seller, will testify to this. “I see hundreds of people gather with their families or friends and sit on the steps everyday. Schools conduct their sports meet, thousands of people turn up for exhibitions and cultural events: whether Ganesha Chaturti celebration or the Bengaluru Habba.”

Constant demand

There is constant demand for this place to conduct cultural programmes and events, says S. Harish, corporator of Mahalakshmi Layout: “The Jana Mana Jathre, a fair exhibiting rural wares, is an important event that happens here. And the place is also used to shoot song sequences for movies and tele-serials.” “Arakshaka” is one of the famous movies shot at the Kamalammana Gundi Playground.

In an era when children are addicted to television and the Internet, not least because of the lack of play areas in Bangalore, the Kamalammana Gundi Playground comes to the rescue.

Prathyush Kumar, a class five student of Presidency School, says: “Every morning and evening you will find around 20-25 teams playing cricket, around 35 people playing football, a few more practising basketball and volleyball. Some kids also train for kabaddi and karate in the evenings. The ground is very smooth and ideal to play.”

The origin of the name is still a subject of speculation and gossip. Says N.C. Pandurangiah, a retired employee and resident of Mahalakshmi Layout: “Rumours have it that the ground is named after a lady called Kamalamma, who was murdered and buried near the ground, which earlier was nothing but a desolate and uneven stretch of land. This incident must have happened sometime during the Sixties, but even today it is a topic for gossip.”

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