The Howrah Bridge

The City of Joy, Kolkata (Calcutta) has its own charm, and never fails to please a visitor or its residents. Though this city has lots of JOYs for everyone, e.g. the Victoria Memorial, the ghats along the river Hooghly (Ganges), the (still) running Tram lines, Dakshineswar temple, Belur Math, Eden Gardens, Mother House, etc. and above all the Howrah bridge.

Above all these is the magnificent Howrah Bridge, which still is the center of all the JOYs. The bridge is the first thing that you notice once you de-board from your train at the Howrah station. I was born and brought up in Kolkata (Calcutta), and have grown up being in the vicinity of the bridge. But still today when I visit the city, I make it a point to stand for a few moments and admire the beauty of this bridge before proceeding on.

Memories flash through eyes and make me nostalgic, and I start recollecting the times spent walking on the bridge, visiting the flower market that is held on a few days of a week in the by lanes on the bridge.  Feeling the movement of vehicles zooming through the bride, taking a tram on the bridge and feeling the minute swings of this cantilever bridge, and admiring the thousands of rivets on the massive steel structure are some of the other activities one can indulge in while at the bridge. Standing in the middle of the bridge and watching the ferries cross the river on cloudy evening can be hypnotising.

Though there now is another bridge over the river commissioned to reduce the load on the old bridge, but I still prefer to use the old one. You won’t believe I have till date not used the new bridge to cross over the river.

The iconic bridge connects lives across two banks of the river Hooghly, Kolkata and Howrah. The bridge has seen many emotional and myriad struggles, joys and hopes of Calcuttans as they go about their everyday business. Howrah Bridge is used to move in and out of the city in search of livelihood. The bridge has been witness to countless lives being spent on its footpaths by aspirants who come to the city in search of JOY and livelihood for their families back in their native places.

The iconic Bridge is a propped cantilever bridge with a suspended span over the Hooghly River and was commissioned in 1943 in place of a pontoon bridge floating at the same location linking the two cities.  On 14 June 1965 it was renamed Rabindra Setu after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, but I still call it the Howrah Bridge.

There are otherwise 4 bridges on the river which joins Kolkata with other cities. One is this Howrah bridge and the other bridges are the Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly Bridge), the Vivekananda Setu, and the newly built Nivedita Setu.

The iconic Howrah Bridge is the busiest cantilever bridge in the world, the sixth-longest bridge of its type in the world. Howrah Bridge stands on two 270 feet high pillars and this is the only cantilever truss which was constructed without using any nuts and bolts. Instead it was built by riveting the whole structure. It carries a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, making it one of the busiest cantilever bridges in the world. The Howrah Bridge stretches across 705 meters and has a width of 71 feet, plus 14 feet footpaths on both sides.

26,500 tons of steel was consumed in the construction of Howrah Bridge, out of which 23,000 tons is of high-tensile alloy steel, and it needs about 27 thousand liters of paint to paint the entire bridge.  The bridge was constructed in and was opened to the public in 1943. The first transport to make the journey across the Hooghly, via the newly opened bridge was not a car or a bullock cart; it was a tram.

Though no more trams ply on the bridge now days, the tram lines are still there. The bridge has been featured in numerous movies, the most notable ones being Amar Prem, Gunday, Barfi etc from Bollywood, and Malayalam Film Calcutta News, Roland Joffé’s English language film City of Joy and so on and so on…

So friends, whenever you go to Kolkata, don’t miss to enjoy the splendour of the iconic bridge of the city of Joy. You wont miss it – its always there where it was.



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