Bridge to the past


The bridge Feroz Shah Tughlaq (1309-1388) built on the Yamuna at Wazirabad has been in use for over six centuries. The Yamuna no longer flows below it. Instead, filth and overgrown shrubs lie below. But the bridge still looks sturdy. With its arches, colonnades and screened windows, the bridge was an engineering marvel when it was built in the 14th century. With the Delhi Government building an ambitious overpass at Wazirabad—and that too a bit too close to the heritage structure—it's not only the bridge but also the adjoining tomb of Sufi saint Shah Alam, a medieval mosque and a gallery for women devotees that are under threat.

At half-an-hour drive from the Wazirabad Bridge lies the Barapula bridge, just outside the Nizamuddin Railway Station. Hidden behind grilled barricades and shacks covered with blue plastic sheets, Barapula, is barely two kilometres away from Humayun's tomb. With 11 arched openings, 12 piers, each of which is surmounted by a two-metre-high minar, the bridge is about 15 metres wide and 195 metres long. An inscription dates the structure to 1621, built by Mihr Banu Agha, the chief eunuch of Jahangir's court. The repair and beautification plans of the nearby heritage structures at Humayun's tomb and Nizamuddin's dargah have obviously skipped Barapula, but photographs taken by W. Caney in 1870 and available with the ASI show Barapula as an impressive structure sloping over a curvy river, with masonry walls protecting its sides. The bridge once connected Delhi to the road that led to Agra.

Last month as heavy vehicular traffic damaged the Mangi Bridge, connecting Red Fort with an older Salimgarh fortress, scraping the surface of the structure, the Archaeological Survey of India announced its plans of repair. The British-era bridge that was once a link to a bridge built by Jahangir in 1626—long before the Red Fort was constructed—is but a representative of the city's bridges, some of which have just disappeared. Jahangir's bridge is one such example. The Mughal emperor had constructed it to access Salimgarh from Yamuna bank, past the dilapidated Afghan fort which stood at the site now occupied by the Red Fort.

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