A bridge that lies in ruins in the Bharathapuzha is still remembered with nostalgic zest. The old Cochin Bridge across the Bharathapuzha at Shoranur may be vanishing slowly from the minds of the people, but its ruins are revisited by many religiously on July 16.
It was 120 years ago on the same day that the first passenger train crossed the Bharathapuzha through the historic bridge. That journey was not merely a rail travel between Shoranur and Kochi, but it was also a historic connectivity between two provinces: Kochi and Malabar.
“The significance of the old Cochin Bridge is immense, especially if we look at it from a historical point of view,” said Prasad K. Shornur, a photojournalist and local history enthusiast. An exclusive blog for Cochin Bridge that Mr. Prasad began four years ago has more than four dozen photographs of the structure he had clicked on different occasions.
Among them is the photo of the completely submerged Cochin Bridge that he clicked in 2019. “This bridge has been a passion for many an enthusiast like me,” he said, snapping a picture of the collapsed spans resting in the swollen, muddy Bharathapuzha on Saturday.
Constructed by the then Kochi ruler Rama Varma XV, known as the Rajarshi of Cochin, in 1902 with the technical support of the British, the 322.5-m long bridge was the first bridge across the Bharathapuzha. It had 15 spans at a gap of 21.5 m.
Although the British offered the engineering skills, the bridge was completely financed by Rama Varma XV who even had to sell the gold caparisons of his temple elephants.
Mr. Prasad keeps on adding all reports and pictures that appear in newspapers since the bridge collapsed in November 2011 to his blog: cochinbridgeshornur.blogspot.com. “It was the attempts of a business lobby to demolish the bridge for scrap that made me open the blog,” he said. “I want the new generation to see and enjoy this historic relic.”
Constructed as a rail bridge with narrow gauge, the Railway had reportedly given permission for bullock carts to cross it in the early days. In 1935, it was converted to broad gauge. It became a road bridge since 1945 when the British constructed a new rail bridge parallel to the Cochin Bridge. It was in 2003 that the Kerala government constructed a new Cochin Bridge to replace the historic one.
Attempts to demolish the bridge were stalled by the intervention of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) a few years ago. Although there have been an increasing demand to conserve the bridge for the new generations, the government has not given any heed to it.
“The strength of the collapsed structure is amazing. It withstood the devastating floods of 2018. But in the 2019 floods, it gave in one more span,” said Mr. Prasad.