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On August 5, 1905, the first lights came on around KR Market.

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Before the arrival of electricity, kerosene lamps dotted Bengaluru’s roads. Three men were specifically appointed to handle street lighting. One would clean the black soot left from the fuel that burnt the previous night, another would fill it with kerosene, while the third one would light the flame. An inspector oversaw the lighting scheme across the city. This was the standard practice until 7 pm on August 5, 1905. A large crowd that gathered around KR Market was wonderstruck when lights came.


“Hydroelectric power was harnessed from the Cauvery Falls at Shivanasamudra to power mining operations at Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). The transmission lines passed through Bengaluru. Later, when the hydroelectric power station generated excess power, it was used to light up the streets in the city,” said urban historian Yashaswini Sharma.


In 1905, when about 2,000 HP of surplus power was generated, Maharaja Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar decided that the excess power would be diverted to Bengaluru. Electrification in the old city was monitored by the Mysore maharaja, while the British controlled it in the cantonment. The plans for substations and circuits had to be drawn keeping in mind the latter’s Indian Electricity Act.


“The first power substation ‘A’ was installed in KR Market, which was a prominent city square back then. Sir John Hewett, member of the viceroy’s council, inaugurated the street lamps. Also present was Dewan PN Krishnamurti,” said Sharma. Initially, over 800 lamps — a cluster of four lights on a tall castiron pole — were lit at prominent locations across the city. According to Sharma, the power station at KR Market was moved to Anand Rao Circle in the 1920s. Two more substations were created on


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