The first week of August 1905. The time was 6.30 pm in the evening. The rich and the poor of Bengaluru city gathered near the Delhi Gate, the present-day Victoria Hospital, to see the first streetlight light up in the city.
Among those who were present were JW Mears, the electrical adviser to the government of India, Colonel PH Benson after whom Benson town has been named, and Dewan PN Krishnamurthi who was the then dewan of the Mysore state. This was the first instance when the kerosene lit lamps were replaced by electric streetlights in the whole of southern India.
The Story Behind It
The Cauvery Falls Power Scheme was the first project to be green-lit after the hydroelectric plant that was established in Darjeeling in 1896. The idea was first originated from Major ACJ de Lotbiniere who was then working for the Mysore kingdom. A hydroelectric plant was set up in Shivanasamudra in 1902 and the operations of power scheme began in Kolar Gold Fields. It was India’s second hydroelectric plant after Darjeeling.
The dewan of the Mysore Kingdom decided to bring the power from Shivanasamudra to provide electricity to Bengaluru. After several plans, the city was ready to be electrified in the first week of August 1905. According to Meera Iyer,
“There was a ceremony with a tent erected to celebrate the occasion. Residents who came from the Cantonment area celebrated the occasion but it was not until a few years later that they got electric lights in their streets. But this day in 1905 was the start of the electric age.”
The man who put the switch on to light 104 lamps in the city was Sir John Hewett who was the then member of Viceroy’s council who looked after the matters related to the Commerce and Industries Department. However, the transformer where the switch was turned on is not there in the city.