Tuesday, November 17, 2020


(This photograph of a bridge over the Chenab river near Kishtwar, was taken by Samuel Bourne in 1864)
                                                                 ( INCA bridge )

                                   ( Crossing river  Jhelum with the help of  dangerous a rope bridge )

One of the challenges that humanity faced in its mobility and movement since ancient time,  has been  the  safe crossing of rivers , canyons and gorges . For this, even the primitive man invented many methods like inflated animal skins, wooden logs kept on water surface , boats, ropes, bamboo and other trees and many other innovative tools . We know about the twisted  grass and rope bridges of INCA civilization or how our own people from Arunachal Pradesh continue to build rope and bamboo bridges to cross rivers. Iron and RCC structures used for bridges is a late story . And the beam bridged, truss bridges, cantilever bridges,arch bridges, suspension bridges or a cable-stayed bridges are also a later concepts and developments for crossing rivers .
In olden days , river Chenab posed a great challenge to people in J&K . Although inflated animal skins were also used to cross this river, history records that rope suspension bridges were also used to cross the river that mostly passes through hills and ravines . Dangerous to cross, the centre of these bridges usually fell close to water surface of the speeding river. In olden days, at some places below Baramulla town , river Jhelum was also crossed by people using rope bridges .
G.T. Vigne, a British traveller who stayed in India during the first half of the 19th century and travelled extensively through the inner Himalayas , has written beautiful anecdotes about crossing rivers by walking over some dangerous rope bridges . He visited Jammu, Kishtwar, Bhaderwah and almost every part of J&K. Here is one such anecdote.
Doda was winter capital of erstwhile state of Kishtwar. Maharaja Gulab Singh had conquered Doda in 1822 AD for the Lahore Darbaar . G.T. Vigne visited Doda in 1829. Vigne writes this :-
“I travelled from Bhaderwah towards Doda along the nullah there is a deep and rocky nullah, where the Chenab joins it, which I crossed over one of the dangerous bridges I had seen in Himalayan range. The distance of perpendicular rocks is about sixty yards and the bridge is about fifty feet height over the nullah. These pillar less bridges are usually of two types. One like that of Doda. Its structure is like this: A strong rope is spread up to the banks of the river without a swing and tied strongly with the rocks. Like the seat of the cradle a wooden structure slips over the rope. Other ropes are tied to this structure by means of which the structure comes and goes backwards and forwards. The other type of bridges is crossed on foot. Small ropes are bound with small pieces of bark of the boughs and then a thick rope is made of these small ones. This is tied on both the banks of the river, which provides the traveller to place his foot on it. This rope is not thicker than six, seven or eight inches but it is intertwined in such a manner that the tips of the boughs stay outwards and prevent feet from slipping. On both the sides of this rope about four feet high there are hanging ropes, made of the same stuff, which a person crossing the river catches hold of. These ropes are tied with the big rope at a distance of one yard each. The local people do not need any guidance that they should catch hold of the rope strongly and that they must ensure their back foot is firmly fixed before taking the second step.’’
In 1864, Samuel Bourne was another traveller who embarked on a nine-months long expedition to Kashmir and its adjacent districts accompanied by forty-two helpers, personal staff and six palanquin bearers. Starting from Lahore on 17 March 1964, Bourne journeyed through the north and halting in Kangra, Bijnath, Dharamshala, Dalhousie, Chamba, and reaching the Chenab valley in the middle of June. He had his camera with him enabling him to click some priceless pictures of that period all along his journey. He published these photographs in the British Journal of Photography.  Bourne writes  this :-
“I soon found myself again at the Chenab, but this time only to cross it by a rather nervous bridge. The bridge was made of twisted twigs, and swung from the rocks on each side like a suspension bridge, dipping very low in the centre. As this was an interesting object in itself, and with the river and surrounding rocks made a fair picture, I took two views of it but was almost broiled in doing so. I then crossed it without fear or accident, and without the assistance of the man in charge, who is there to conduct timorous travellers across.”
(Avtar Mota)


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