Wellesley Bridge under threat of being washed away     

It is the only oldest bridge on Mysuru-Bengaluru Highway near Srirangapatna that still handles vehicular movement

Mysuru: Will the historical Wellesley Bridge near Srirangapatna meet the fate of Lushington Bridge at Kollegal that was washed away last month? Seeing the present state of the Wellesley Bridge that is near-to-submersion due to thousands of cusecs of water being released from the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Dam, heritage lovers feel that the bridge might not be able to withstand the pressure of water for long.

It may be recalled here that the Lushington Bridge, the oldest heritage stone bridge in the erstwhile princely State of Mysore that was constructed in 1818 at Shivanasamudra near Madhyaranga across River Cauvery, was washed away on July 17 in the gushing floodwaters of River Cauvery. Nearly 40 feet of the structure was washed away. Star of Mysore had carried a detailed report on the Lushington Bridge when it became a victim of heavy water currents.

The 400-metre Lushington Bridge is called the Wellesley Bridge by the locals. Historical references say that initially the bridge was named after colonial administrator Lord Richard Colley Wellesley, it was renamed as Lushington Bridge in 1835. Interestingly, the Lushington Bridge looks similar to Wellesley Bridge at Srirangapatna that is now under threat of being washed away.

It is the only oldest bridge on the Mysuru-Bengaluru highway that still handles vehicular movement. But only cars and motorcycles of local residents are allowed to move on it while the movement of heavy vehicles has been banned. Latest reports from Srirangapatna said that no vehicles, even bikes and scooters, are being allowed on the bridge as the water flow has increased. Police said that the ban will be lifted only after the water release subsides.  

The inscription on one end of the bridge that is written both in English and Urdu reads, “Dedicated To Richard Marquess Wellesley K:P: Governor General of India by Krishnaraj Wodeir Bahaudur in a public testimony of his gratitude and as a lasting monument of the benefits conferred on the people and country of Mysore, under the care of Poorniah Dewan.”

Speaking to Star of Mysore, former Mysuru City Police Commissioner C. Chandrashekar said that there is an urgent need for the State Government to restore the Wellesley Bridge before it disappears due to vagaries of nature and the regular water release from the KRS.

The oldest bridge in the region was built by the British in 1735. It was built across Kapila near Nanjangud. A unique feature of the bridge was that it was used for both rail and road traffic. Road traffic was closed when a train passed. The Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) had arranged special trips about 20 years ago only to relive the old times.

“But the oldest functional bridge on which a heavy truck can pass even today is the Wellesley Bridge near Srirangapatna. It was completed in 1804 during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar at a cost of Rs 5.5 lakh. It was built after the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799 during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. It is an engineering marvel built on monolithic stone pillars,” he explained.

Wellesley Bridge served the travelling public between Bangalore and Mysore till a new and bigger bridge was built,” Chandrashekar said and added that wild growth and lack of maintenance and strong water currents during monsoon and during the water release from the KRS have taken a toll on the historical bridge.

The construction was supervised by Dewan Poornaiah and it was named after the then Governor General Richard Wellesley, considering his contribution in strengthening the British military forces.

Before the construction of the new bridge facing the Wellesley Bridge, the old bridge linked Mysuru and Bengaluru and it connected Bengaluru and Kodagu via Mysuru. Then it was called Madras-Canannore Road (present Bengaluru-Mysuru highway). The Wellesley Bridge has immensely contributed to the growth of many places between the then trading port towns Madras and Canannore (now Kannur in Kerala).

The road was extensively used for over a century to transport goods as Kannur and Madras had trading ports. Hundreds of stone pillars, corbels, girders, slabs, and lime mortar have been used for the longevity of the bridge.

“First, the weed growth must be cleared and the bridge must be declared as a historic monument and a site of archaeological importance. Later, it must be handed over to conservation experts,” history lovers said.

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