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 Image of modern-day Hampi (capital of the former Vijayanagar) and stone statue from a Hoysala monument, against image of Bengaluru – East View of Bangalore by Robert Home, 1792 (Sources: Wikipedia.org, bl.uk)

AS THE BAHMANI Sultanate reconstitutes into the Deccan Sultanates, they are following in their rival’s footsteps. The Vijayanagar Empire’s founding brothers, Hakka & Bukka, had themselves regrouped forces and resources from the natural dissolution of the Hoysala Empire, which in turn had links with the earlier Western Chalukyas. And just as the Bahmanis had shaken off the yoke of the Delhi Sultanate to come into their own,  the Hoysalas had emerged from subordination to the Western Chalukyas.

By the 12th Century, the Hoysalas grew to become “the most powerful dynasty of the Deccan”. They set the standard for any power formation that wished to take their place; which would be the  Sangama brothers Hakka & Bukka, founders of Vijayanagar (City of Victory). The visionary Hoysala leader, Veera Ballala II, is credited with founding the city known today as Bengaluru. According to legend, this enterprising leader managed to lose track of coordinates while hunting in a forest in the southern reaches of his kingdom. He spent hours trying to retrace his steps but failed to get back on track, and instead found himself too tired or hungry to make any more progress. The present need was food and drink. Looking around more slowly for signs of habitation rather than a track, he came upon a modest hut where he was received by an elderly women who offered him a meal of cooked beans (benda kalu) and a place to rest.

A meal offered to a hungry person is never forgotten. While there is little doubt that the old lady received a suitable reward from the satisfied king, the wider area too was gifted the name bendakal-uru (the place of boiled beans), later restructured to Bengaluru. With the annual Avarekalu festival, the present day city of Bengaluru keeps alive this connection to beans. Specifically, this festival celebrates an ancient legume also known as lablab, or the hyacinth bean. Boiled beans were likely not new to the palette of Veera Ballala II. However, considering his ancestral land was located in the region of Malnad which sits on the fertile slopes of the Western Ghats, between Coorg and Belgaum, he would be familiar with a varied produce, dishes made from fresh greens, stems, shoots and flowers, not to mention an array of meats. Being a king, these ingredients would well be within his reach, and it helped that the Hoysala capital, Halebid, was fertile too.

Incidentally, beans figure prominently in the culinary heritage of the founders of the Vijayanagar Empire, who are said to belong to the Badaga tribe of the Nilgiris. To this day, a dish made of avare (hyacinth beans) and potatoes, is a fixture at Badaga wedding feasts.

  • A Social History of the Deccan, by Richard M Eaton
  • Badagas of the Blue Mountains: badaga-recipes.blogspot.in
  • Wikipedia