Downtown Market Tour

The Downtown Market Tour offered by Unventured Tours is also called the Pete (with both e’s pronounced like the E in egg) Walk, and our guide Tej was outstanding. She started by sitting with us in our hotel courtyard and talking a bit about Bengaluru, stressing the fact that she loves her city and the good people in it. In that context, she said, “People will stare at you, but they don’t mean you any harm. They’re just staring at the flamingos.” With that simple statement, she reframed one of the things that has felt really challenging here – of course they’re staring! If we saw a crowd of flamingos walking down the street, or even just one flamingo walking down the stare, we would absolutely stare at it, but certainly without any malice. We might even want to snap a picture 🙂

After giving a brief history lesson, Tej took us to the Shree Jalakanteshwara Swamy Temple, a temple dedicated to Shiva and built before the 13th century. She showed us how to make an appropriate offering of the god’s favorite things (including holy basil, turmeric, coconut, incense, pine resin, and other herbs and spices) and how to then receive the blessing of the priest. The blessing includes waving smoke over our faces, drinking holy water mixed with camphor, sprinkling that holy water over our heads, and then putting a silver cone over each of our heads. Most of these rituals focus on the gods sharing their energy with us.

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We walked around the temple and got a very brief orientation to Hinduism before heading to Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace, an absolutely beautiful 18th century building. While there, Tej told us all about Tipu Sultan, a fascinating figure, responsible for not only mightily resisting the British occupation, but also for uniting previously disparate kingdoms to engage in that resistance, a union that ushered in an “Indian” identity for the first time in the long history of the subcontinent.

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We then went to the Bangalore Fort, built by Tipu Sultan and still well-maintained and very impressive. One thing you won’t see in forts in the Western World, no matter how old: spikes ten feet up on the door intended to gouge out charging elephants’ eyes.

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By then, we were all hungry, particularly the kids, so it was time to eat. Tej took us closer to our final destination of the KR Market, via some very busy streets and then down a long quiet alley to Lakshmi Natraja Refreshments. We would never have found this place without her and it was great! It’s apparently a place frequented by locals in the know, but not tourists, which seemed clear once we were inside. The environment is very bare bones – just metal benches arrayed around the room with no silverware or napkins. Tej ordered for all of us: Puda masala dosa with coconut chutney (sort of a pancake that’s crispy on the outside and soft of the inside, folded over and stuffed with deliciously spiced potatoes, onions, and lentils) and South Indian filter coffee (strong with the milk already added). Heaven! At the side of the room is a sink where you wash your hands when you’re done eating with them.

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Then we were ready for the chaos of the market where we saw beautiful produce, stunning flowers, huge metal cookware, bangles, and all manner of other things for sale. Between the aroma of the fresh herbs and the vibrant colors of the strings of flowers, we were in heaven.

Alley way kitchens like this are attached to Hindu temples to feed the poor.
The chaotic street scene outside the KR Market
Scenes like this are starting to feel commonplace: buffalos, motorbikes, cars and pedestrians all sharing the same very narrow streets.
Pasta and other dry goods outside the market.
A spice vendor outside the market. That’s Tej on the right explaining some of the spices to us. We learned we’d been using mace wrong. Oops.
Now at last entering the market.
Our first indication we had found our people. We couldn’t find fresh ginger that didn’t look like it was already starting to decompose. As soon as we stepped inside, we found it! (if you’re trying to do the math, that’s about 63 cents for 2.2 pounds of ginger)
These are the turmeric and vermilion powders that create the beautiful colors everywhere in Hindu life.
These are the powders in bulk. Be careful!
We found our future housewares in the market, too!
A very generous salesman gave the ladies four bangles each. Traditionally, the green is for fertility and the red is for love and passion. The younger members of our party were given both colors. Others whom we will not name here only got the red. The other colors are modern and just for fashion. Worn properly over the pulse point, they protect the wearer’s chakra.
Oh, my goodness, the colors of the flower market!
The mural standing high above the flower market.
More colors.
And more.
We were struck by the fact that there were no cut flowers — only these strings of blooms intended for worship and ceremony.
Melissa with flowers in her hair


Our new friend Ivana with flowers. The video that follows is taken of a woman threading this same type of string of flowers. It is not sped up. That is just how fast her (and others’ doing similar work) fingers move.


A station where they create the strands.
The final product of this man’s hard (and quick) work.
These two gentlemen were making place mats out of coconut tree leaves. Tej told us that she and her family would buy new ones every week here at the market.
The beautiful beautiful produce.
A cute little baby cow among the produce.
Another National Geographic picture that has become commonplace. This is how all of the booths and stores in the market were stocked. That’s our new friend Colleen to the right.

Throughout this entire tour, we just kept looking at each other, saying, “Wow! I love this!” Tej was a terrific guide, ensuring that at each step of the way we understood the context for the things we were seeing, which made all the difference.

5 thoughts on “Downtown Market Tour”

  1. I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to work… what to do what to do? Lucky for me I had two stories I got to soak in. What an amazing experience!! You certainly doing a good job of encouraging us to come visit!! I want to see all of it!! Love you both!! (Yes, I realize my brother is going to laugh at the exclamation points… sorry, it’s how I feel!)

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  2. Amazing!!### (couldn’t resist adding a few explatives) I felt I was walking through the market with you. Thank you for taking me along. This is a must see when we come to visit. Good thing you didn’t bring too many things with you from Amerika. Your house must be getting full with all the beautiful colors and aromas India has to offer.

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  3. Wow. So incredibly colorful, diverse and full of a sense of movement and quick energy. This is a culture that highly values meditation and connecting inward to peace, serenity and universal calming energy. I can certainly see the value of that in a city with so much stimulus and activity everywhere. Put this tour on the list of things we want to do when we come visit. We love your posts.

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