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3.1.5 Bridges

Bridges as a mode of crossing a waterway have been widely used from the time of the Romans. Arch and pillar are it’s main constituent elements. Although in Bengal we hear of bridges from ancient times, it’s use as a structure-type appears to have been popularised from the time of the Sultanate period. There are literary references of a number of bridges from Gaur of which the bridge of ‘five arches’ is still in existence, now hidden under a modern pucca road. Of the Mughal period a large number of them are known from Dhaka and elsewhere, but now mostly gone.

The Mughal bridges are of camber type and consisted of several spanning-arches depending on the width of the water. The number is generally odd-one¯ three, five, seven etc, the middle one being wider and higher than the gradual decreasing side ones. This has a symmetry with all Mughal structure-types, of which the central arched-entrance is always the larger and loftier, the most attractive element with it’s majesty. In bigger examples the bridges are decorated with corner-towers surmounted by cupolas. In addition the archways were also put in rectangular panels with plaster decorative devices on the spandrels and pillars. The pillars are always provided with cut-waters¯ triangular or diamond-shaped in sections. The material is brick with occasioned use of stone on the springing of arches. Most of the extant bridges are now noticed in and around Dhaka and renovated. They appear to date from mid 17th century.

Hadaf Bridge. This bridge situated at Hadaf on the main Shahebganj-Rajmahal road appears to be the earliest known example extant in Mughal Bengal. It consists of six spans of 3.5m each, five piers with diamond-shaped cut-waters at both the wings, and four round bastions, one at each corner, with the top for prayer.2 The bridge is situated near the Akbari Mosque built by Raja Mansing in 1592, and is suggested to have been contemporary with it as an access to the city of Rajmahal, also known as Akbarnagar.

image

Pagla Bridge. The bridge was constructed under the order of Subahdar Mir Jumla in 1660 CE on the 9 km spot on Dhaka-Narayanganj road. According to Tavernier, it was constructed across the ‘Pagalon River’

now known as Kadamtoli Khal, a northern branch of the Buriganga River. The river was also known as Dholai Khal. The bridge consisted of three four- centered stilted arches, and a further blind arch at each end. The middle one was broader and higher. At the middle of the spandrels of the arches there was a decorative rosette. The most attractive part was it’s four octagonal towers or

image

2. Even number of spans appears to be an exception.


Fatullah (Narayanganj): Paglar Pool

Photo: Asheque Ahmed (1967)


bastions at the four corners. All the towers have multi-cusped arched openings with crowning fluted cupolas. At present, the entire structure of the bridge is ruined, but remains still seen at a dilapidated condition.

Tongi Bridge. The bridge is situated nearly 20 km from Dhaka on the Dhaka-Gazipur

road. It was constructed by Subahdar Mir Jumla in 1661 CE. At present it is widened by the Roads and Highways Department of the government of Bangladesh, and reconstructed and renovated with a modern look.

Sutrapur Bridege. The bridge is now in the area of Gandaria under Sutrapur Thana. It was constructed across the Dholai Khal in 1664 CE.

Fatullah Bridge. On the right side of Dhaka-Narayanganj-Pagla road under Fatullah Thana of Narayanganj District, there is the Fatullah Bridge. It is on the Nolkhali Khal. The brick-built bridge is presently on a semi-circular arch. It is 8.6m high and 4.2m wide. Chapatoli Bridge. The bridge is located at about 1.5 km south of the Dhaka- Chittagong highway and 1/2 km west of Madanpur Bazar and lies on the eastern side

of the Shitalakhaya River. The almost dilapidated bridge is on a branch river where a canal exists under the name ‘Akailer Khal’ that once flowed through the Kuripara Bazar of Chapatoli village. It is a gargantuan bridge on three Mughal arches. Recently, it is closed for heavy vehicles. It is in modern Horipur village of Madanpur Union. On the basis of a stone inscription, one Lal Rajmal constructed it by the order of Subahadar Ibrahim Khan in 1102 AH 1690-91 CE. This bridge contains three black basalt stone on the capitals of it’s pillars. The bridge is 30.17 long and 5.79 wide. There is no railing on either side of the bridge. The pillars are all strong and four-sided. All are within a rectangular frame.

The Panam Bridge. This is a beautiful bridge, over the ‘Pankhiraj Khal’ of Sonargaon, and connects Aminpur and Dulalpur village. The brick-built bridge is curvilinear in form with three arched openings, the central arch being higher than the flanking corbelled ones. The piers of the arches have triangular breakwaters on both sides and are topped by octagonal cupolas having vaulted roof. At the top of an abutment wall there is a brick built pavilion. The bridge has towers on it’s sides which originally flanked a gateway. The bridge is elongated in the north-south direction. It is 53m long, 4m wide and 9m high and once connected the fortified area of Sonargaon with the outskirts of the city.

Little Panam Bridge or Panamnagar Bridge. The bridge is located about 60m south of the Panam Bridge. It is built over a narrow canal connected with the Pankhiraj Khal to enter the Panamnagar. It is elongated towards east-west direction with a measurement of 22m long and 5m wide. The bridge is originally built on three arches, but now seen standing on only one arch because the smaller arches having been filled with mud for many years. There is a black basalt stone at the springing point of middle arch. Once there existed similar black basalt stone piece on the connecting road of the bridge. However, there is nothing left on the road at present. The bridge has much similarity with the Chapatoli Bridge.



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