Bangalore was the first Indian city to get electric street lights …

It was on August 5 in 1905 (112 years ago)  (this piece says it was August 3)that saw an Indian city get electricity! The chosen city was not Calcutta or Bombay or Madras but Bangalore. Though Calcutta was the first city to get electricity which was from a thermal plant.

Infact the article says that Bangalore was the first Asian city to get electric streetlights:

Asia’s first streetlights came up in Bengaluru in August 1905 when the city got nearly 100 of them installed at prominent locations. Within a year, there were 861 streetlights and 1,639 domestic connections.

Older Bengalureans may still remember the kerosene lamps – used as standbys during those days when the power supply wasn’t something to take for granted. We can’t take the power supply for granted these days as well, but there are things such as gensets and inverters and candles that are cheaper and much more easily available. These kerosene lamps – or a variation of these lamps once lit the main roads of Bengaluru, more than a century ago.

Lighting up the city’s central areas was dirty work. “The local administration had appointed three men for the street lamps – one would clean the black smoke left by the burning fuel, the other to pump gas and the other to light the flame. This was a daily evening affair and there was one Light

Inspector appointed by the government to monitor the lighting scheme then,” says city historian Vemagal Somashekar.

On August 5, 1905, Bengalurueans saw their first electric streetlights. More than a year earlier, William McHutchin, a Briton trained in the Madras Civil Engineering College and the then chief engineer of Bengaluru at the Public Works Department, wrote a letter to the Maharaja of Mysore. “He was a true visionary who saw the prospects of Benguluru turning into a larger city. So, in his letter to the Maharaja, he pressed the need for electrifying Bengaluru with the 300 to 400 HP of surplus power generated by the Shivanasamudra hydro-electric power station which was at the time generating power for the Kolar Gold Fields,” says historian Gajanana Sharma, a retired superintendent engineer of the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL).

Sharma knows what he is talking about, being the author of ‘Belakaithu Karnataka’ (Illuminated Karnataka). The book describes the spread of electricity through the state and was launched in 2003 to celebrate the centenary of the electric power in Karnataka.

According to Sharma, the Maharaja gave his formal approval for the electrification of Bengaluru in a letter dated May 30, 1904. The project was estimated to cost Rs 7.46 lakh. “Work on the power lines to Bengaluru began at Kankanhalli (now Kanakapura), with the installation of a switch station and lines running 57 miles to the city were laid in just nine months. Interestingly, the numerous twin wooden poles carrying the wires to Bengaluru were specially imported from Australia. The original Kanakapura station building still stands today next to the new one constructed much later,” he says.


It is a tragedy that most Bangalore streets don’t have lights currently and also the first lamp post is in shambles..

One Response to “Bangalore was the first Indian city to get electric street lights …”

  1. Karnataka – A Glimpse of Incredible India – Gift of Paris Says:

    […] few of my fellow Indians, Karnataka is and always has been a futurist state. For example, in 1905, Bengaluru became the first Asian city to get electricity. Karnataka is also arguably most cosmopolitan state after Maharashtra. As mentioned already, […]

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