The state government has declared the last intact Mughal Bridge of Punjab on the Old Grand Trunk Road as a protected monument, a notification for which was issued by principal secretary, department of tourism and cultural affairs Anjali Bhawra, on February 11.
Conservator Balwant Singh, who looks after monuments in Sirhind, confirmed the development. “Though my office has not received any notification, senior officials have confirmed that the bridge has been declared protected in February,” said Singh.
Made by Mughal emperor Jahangir more than 350 years ago, the bridge had been in continuous use. Earlier, it was on the Old Grand Truck Road, connecting Lahore and Delhi. However, after the construction of the New GT Road, it was a link between Fatehgarh Sahib and Sirhind. Experts say the centuries-old bridge needs conservation as it is bearing thousands of tonnes of loads every day.
“If we ask a civil engineer, he will suggest that this centuriesold bridge still can take three times load of what it’s bearing today. But the situation will not be the same in future. It needs conservation or we will lose a monument of historical importance,” said director, cultural resource conservative initiative (CRCI), Gurmeet Sangha Rai, who was here for inspection of old monuments, recently.
“No one is taking care of its maintenance. Despite of its age, the administration is installing railing along the bridge which may prove harmful. We should not spoil its cultural and historic importance,” she added.
THE BRIDGE AND ITS HISTORY
Constructed on the then Hansla River on Badshahi Sadak (Grand Truck Road), the 73.8-metre-long bridge is divided into three parts. Total spread of the bridge is 8 kanal and 15 marla. Situated in the heart of Fatehgarh Sahib, it connects Sirhind and Bassi Pathana. With due course of time, the GT Road was shifted more than two kilometres away and Hansla got converted into a drain (Sirhind choe).
The road on the bridge is under the jurisdiction of the public works department and the drain under the irrigation department and the ownership of the bridge remains with the provincial government. However, the responsibility to conserve it seems to be with no one.
“The government should make a new bridge at a certain distance from it with advice from experts or we will definitely lose it any day,” said Sangha. There were only three Mughal bridges in Punjab and the other two — one near Sultanpur Lodhi and another in Malhian of Jalandhar — were in a dilapidated condition.