Narrow bridges

Iconic and historic Indian bridges that have stood the test of time

Between the living bridges of Meghalaya state and the mighty Pamban of Tamil Nadu, India’s first sea bridge, the nation has had a long winding past with the structure, which not only speaks of the important moments in history , but also connects otherwise distant regions. with another.

Today, the country boasts of exemplary technical prowess which governs the construction of great bridges such as the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and the Mahatma Gandhi Setu. Here are eight iconic bridges that show us how we learned from ancient India in this regard, and how these structures have stood the test of time.

1. Pamban Bridge, Tamil Nadu

The iconic Pamban Bridge, which connects Rameswaram Island to the mainland, is nothing but a true marvel of engineering. Built over a century ago, the bridge is 2.2 km long and was once the longest sea bridge in India until the construction of the Bandra-Worli sea link in Mumbai.

The construction of the bridge was started in 1911 during the British rule in India, and it finally opened in 1914. A highlight of this historic bridge is the unique central part, which opens to allow the movement of the ferry. This double-leaf section located halfway along the bridge and designed by German engineer Scherzer is called Scherzer Span.

The century-old Pamban Bridge, which has survived several cyclones and calamities, will soon be replaced by a new bridge built parallel to the first. In a first for the country, the new bridge will have a panel that lifts vertically to allow the cross movement of trains and seagoing vessels.

2. Namdang Stone Bridge, Assam

A view of the Namdang Stone Bridge in Assam. (Photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

Although worn and less aesthetically pleasing than other historical bridges, the Namdang Stone Bridge in Assam is known for the way it was constructed.

It was built by King Ahom Rudra Singha II in 1703 on the Namdang River and is made from a single piece of stone. It was built by craftsmen from Bengal who used materials like rice, eggs, black lentils and lime for construction.

The bridge has endured several natural calamities like earthquakes and floods for over three centuries, and is still strong and operational. Currently, a road bridge over which the NH 37 passes, it connects Sibsagar to the districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia.

3. Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge, Meghalaya

The two-story root bridge in Meghalaya.
The two-story root bridge in Meghalaya. | Photo credit: Chethan Y (@chethany210590 on Instagram)

The famous two-story root bridge of Umshiang is located inside the thick rainforest of Meghalaya. Created by the Khasi tribes, it involves no building labor or materials, just the living roots of trees.

To build such a bridge, the Khasis drag the roots of a kind of Indian rubber tree, along with a secondary root system, to form a path over the river.

Believed to be over 500 years old, there are several of these types of living root bridges at Cherrapunji. Among them, Umshiang is popular for its double root stacks which form bridges over each other, which makes it very unique from others.

4. Shahi Bridge, Uttar Pradesh

A beautiful view of the Shahi Bridge in Uttar Pradesh.
A beautiful view of the Shahi Bridge in Uttar Pradesh. | Photo credit: Mohammad (@shot_o_sama on Instagram)

Shahi Bridge, also known as Mughal Bridge or Bridge of Munim Khan, was built during the reign of Akbar by Munim Khan, the Governor of Jaunpur State.

The bridge was built over the Gomati River between 1568 and 1569 and is a beautiful remnant of Mughal rule in Jaunpur.

Designed by Afghan architect Afzal Ali, the bridge’s roadway is at ground level. It has ten gates for water to flow and umbrella-shaped pavilions erected on the pillars.

The 16th century bridge was badly damaged in the 1934 earthquake and seven of its arches were rebuilt. The architectural marvel is open to the public.

5. Howrah Bridge, West Bengal

Among the most popular and iconic bridges in India, Howrah Bridge is located between the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata.

Built in 1943 over the Hooghly River, it is considered one of the longest cantilever bridges in the world. A few years after its construction, it was renamed Rabindra Setu in honor of India’s first Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. It is an important landmark in West Bengal that should definitely not be missed.

It would carry around 100,000 vehicles and countless pedestrians each day.

6. Bridges 226 and 541, Kalka-Shimla Railway

The Kalka-Shimla Railway is a narrow gauge railway between the mountainous road of Kalka and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The railway was built under the order of Herbert Septimus Harington between 1898 and 1903 to connect Shimla, the summer capital of India under British rule.

This Kalka-Shimla Railway was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2008.

The line has about 864 small and large bridges, of which bridges 541 and 226 are the most unique. Bridge No. 541 has four floors of arched galleries, located between Kandaghat and Kanoh stations. Number 226 spans a deep valley and was built with five-tiered arched galleries. It is located between Sonwara and Dharampur.

7. Aryankavu Bridge, Kerala

A view of the iconic 13-arch Aryankavu Bridge in Kollam, Kerala.
A view of the iconic 13-arch Aryankavu Bridge in Kollam, Kerala. | Photo credit: Ranjith Ram Rony (@cyclotographer on Instagram)

The Aryankavu Bridge in Thenmala, Kerala is a fine specimen of European architecture in India.

Built on 13 arches in 1904, a meter gauge line ran over the bridge as part of the Kollam-Sengottai railway line. The bridge connects two hills and rests on thirteen granite pillars, each nearly one hundred feet high.

It is sandwiched between the Kollam-Thirumangalam National Road and the Kazhuthurutti River.

The bridge is over a century old but shows few signs of deterioration. The railway has been completely converted to broad gauge.

8. Golden Bridge, Gujarat

Entrance to the Narmada Bridge in Gujarat.
Entrance to the Narmada Bridge in Gujarat. | Photo credit: Shubham (@apertures_x_oo7 on Instagram)

The bridge connects Ankleshwar and Bharuch in Gujarat and was built in 1881 by the British over the Narmada River.

Also known as the Narmada Bridge, it was built by a team led by architect Sir John Hawkshaw. The bridge was called the Golden Bridge because of the heavy expense (Rs 45.65 lakh) that the British government incurred during its construction due to the damage caused by the heavy flow of water.

It was originally designed for a single railway line, but was later converted to a narrow two-lane road bridge, and is said to have carried over 10,000 vehicles and over a lakh people every day. Although it still remains sturdy and strong, it retired from service in July 2021 when a new four-lane road bridge was built.

Sources:
Pamban Bridge: 10 Awesome Facts About India’s First Sea Bridge, published by The Economic Times on November 13, 2013.
Namdang Stone Bridge – Things to Know Before Visiting, published by Travalor.
Exploring Umshiang, home to the Living Roots Double Decker Bridges, by Shuchita Joshi; published by Outlook Traveler on September 26, 2018.
Shahi Bridge by Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Howrah Bridge by India. com

Edited by Divya Sethu