Ever since childhood, I have always been fascinated by the architectural marvel of bridges. One of my favorite activities was riding my bicycle on a bridge. The initial back-breaking effort of pedaling to overcome the slant of the bridge and then the speedy free-flowing descent downhill, without even pedaling, gave me tremendous adrenaline-induced happiness.
In Indian history, there are many architectural wonders such as heritage buildings and monuments that have stood the test of time. None fascinates me as much as the architecture of bridges because of their utilitarian nature. For centuries bridges have acted as a facilitator of the movement of goods and people across cities and, more often than not, borders. While some may have been destroyed because of natural calamities there are some historical bridges in India that have carries weight for ages and are still as sturdy as ever. Let us explore a few of those historic bridges and my personal favorites:
I. Pamban Bridge, Tamil Nadu
The Pamban bridge is India’s first sea bridge and was also the country’s longest sea bridge until the construction of the Bandra-Worli sea link. The bridge, more than a century old, was built by the British and still opens up to allow the movement of the ferry. Until 1988, it was also the only link between the mainland and Rameswaram. The bridge’s sturdiness can also be assessed through the fact that it survived the major cyclone of 1964 that uprooted the coastal town of Dhanushkodi.
II. Godavari Arch Bridge, Andhra Pradesh
Admired for its arch structure, the Godavari Arch bridge is a bow-string girder bridge that spans the Godavari river, the largest river in South India. Made of concrete, the bridge has a series of twin arches running one after the other. The bridge stands on 28 piers and the arches resemble an inverted parabola. It is India’s third longest road-cum-rail bridge crossing a water body.
III. Howrah Bridge, West Bengal
As someone born and brought up in Kolkata, the Howrah Bridge is the pride of the city of joy. It is an unmissable sight for anyone visiting Kolkata. Suspended over the Hooghly River, this cantilever bridge is one of the busiest, carrying vehicles and pedestrians throughout the day. The bridge is reminiscent of the city's colonial past and has also been featured in many movies.
IV. Jadukata Bridge, Meghalaya
This marvelous bridge seems to be rising out of the dense vegetation on either side. Situated in the West Khasi hills, it is a cantilever bridge, meaning, it is projected horizontally into the space but is supported only on one end. Built across the Jadukata River, the bridge lies close to the Indo-Bangladesh border.
V. Shahi Bridge, Uttar Pradesh
Mughal architecture has always been an important part of India’s historical legacy, however, it’s not just restricted to monuments. The Shahi bridge, or colloquially pul, was constructed during Akbar’s reign and is one of a kind in India, with a carriageway at the ground level. Characterized by its blue pillboxes and arched gateways, the structure bears a clear affinity to the Mughal architectural style. Earlier, the pillboxes were used to set up shops, but now are used by pedestrians or visitors to either marvel at the bridge or watch the Gomti River flowing beneath.
VI. The Fitzgerald Bridge, Pune
The Fitzgerald Bridge in Poona, now known as Pune, was built in 1867 and named after Sir William Vesey-FitzGerald who was the Governor of Bombay at the time of construction. The bridge has thirteen arches and there is a low dam just in front of it. There is a road on the riverbank to the left. It was the first spandrel arch bridge in the city of Pune, connecting the Bund Garden to the Chima garden.
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