THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : Oozing an old-world charm across the Kallada river is an architectural wonder, a 19th-century relic that attracts curious visitors-the Punalur Suspension Bridge. Right at the heart of Punalur town, overlooking the Kallada river. History sleeps here. Architectural enthusiasts will be in their element here, as it is one structure that continues to elicit awe in passersby. As you saunter across the bridge, know that you are taking a peek at a major point in history.
The massive arches and the structure leaves you awestruck, the bridge being unlike any you will come across in south India. It was constructed during the time of erstwhile Travancore King Ayiliyam Thirunal Rama Varma. It was diwan Nanu Pillai who gave sanction to construct the bridge. This 400-ft bridge was set up in 1877. It was British engineer Albert Henry who supervised the work which had started in 1871.
The construction of the suspension bridge is unique. “Its engineering is still a mystery. The bridge was instrumental in changing the face of Kollam. Although it was built to prevent the entry of wild animals, which used to destroy crops, the bridge paved the way for massive development and helped in furthering trade in Kollam,” said history researcher Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan.
“More than 200 labourers are believed to have worked on the bridge. And most of the materials were brought from England,” he added.Walking across the bridge is itself an experience as it gently wobbles with every step. The wooden planks are made from Kambakam wood. The bridge is suspended from iron chains, all of which are connected at one end to the inside of the four wells via four huge discs.
It is a monument protected under the Department of Archaeology. The bridge is now only open to pedestrians. “It is an engineering marvel. Had we used the bridge continuously, then we could have let light vehicles pass over it even now. We are not planning to bring in any more developments there. The bridge comprises 50 per cent iron. The rest fifty per cent is masonry and wood. Periodical checks are required to ensure that the iron doesn’t rust. It is a great example of perfect engineering,” said an official with the archaeology department.
It was in 2014 that the bridge was opened after renovation. Conservation works for the first phase was completed then. Later, more work on addressing safety concerns, general lighting and seating arrangements were carried out. The bridge was later opened in 2018. The bridge remains closed on Monday and is open from 8am till 8:30pm.
ABOUT THE BRIDGE
●Constructed during the time of erstwhile Travancore King Ayiliyam Thirunal
●It took around 7 years for its construction.
●The bridge comprises 50 per cent iron. The rest fifty per cent is masonry
●It is now a protected monument under the Department of Archeology.