About 100 km north of Kochi is a bridge called ‘Cochin bridge.’
The bridge across the Bharathapuzha connecting Shoranur and Cheruthuruthy is a reminder of the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin, which extended far outside the city of Kochi into the present Thrissur district and other places. The ‘Cochin bridge,’ believed to be around 110 years old, was the first bridge across the Bharathapuzha. The river marked the boundary between the Kingdom of Cochin and Malabar at some places. The ‘Cochin bridge’ broke the divide and brought Cochin closer to the north.
Many more bridges have come up across the Bharathapuzha, even as the river itself has lost its earlier strength and glory. The ‘Cochin bridge’ is today a sorry sight after a portion of it collapsed into the river bed in November 2011.
The bridge was built by Rama Varma Thampuran, who ruled Cochin from 1895 to 1914. The King, who was hailed as a progressive ruler, wanted to extend the railway line that came up to Shoranur all the way to Cochin. Shoranur was a key point on the rail map as two arterial rail routes met there. Under the King’s initiative was built the Ernakulam-Shoranur railway line, on which the first train ran in June 1902. Railway historian Devan Varma says that the King sold some of the royal family’s prized possessions, including the nettipattam (caparisons) of their elephants, to fund the railway project.
According to local history enthusiasts, the ‘Cochin bridge,’ built with the technical aid of the British, was part of the original Ernakulam-Shoranur railway line. The railway bridge that is now part of the rail line was built later. The ‘Cochin bridge,’ over 300 m long and with 15 spans, was first only a rail bridge. It was later given over for the road to be constructed. The bridge had been out of use for a few years before it fell as a ‘New Cochin bridge’ was constructed a few metres away to relieve the old bridge.
The people of Shoranur and Cheruthuruthy, however, still hold on to the old bridge as a link to the past. Before it fell down completely, the ‘Cochin bridge’ was a favoured haunt for people looking to enjoy the beauty of the river. There have been demands to restore the broken old bridge and preserve it as a historical structure. But almost two years after the bridge fell, its debris still remains on the river bed, a sad reminder of fading history.