India’s Iconic Howrah Bridge in Kolkata recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, this crucial gateway to the city that ferries one lakh-plus vehicle and over 1.5 lakh pedestrians daily. It was on February 3, 1943, that the bridge was quietly thrown open to the public, replacing a pontoon bridge linking what was then Calcutta and Howrah. It is hard to believe that this bridge is without nuts and bolts. Yes, the gigantic bridge spread across the width of River Hooghly does not have a single nut and screw joining the array of metallic structures. Instead, the unique bridge was built by riveting the whole structure, which means a metal piece (rivet) is used to connect two or more plates inserted through the hole in plates and pressed on the other side.
As lakhs of commuters daily cross the bridge now either by foot on cars and buses, but during its initial days of existence, trams used to ply on the bridge transporting people to and fro from the twin cities. In fact, the first vehicle to use the bridge was a solitary tram. The tram services on the bridge were discontinued in 1993 owing to rise in vehicular traffic. The bridge has been not only been a part of history, literature, and art but also a significant part of popular culture – be it in commercial cinema or magazine art and caricature. From Satyajit Ray to Richard Attenborough and Mani Ratnam to Anurag Basu, the popular iconography of Kolkata has been celebrated by film-makers and photographers alike. (Also read: Chinese Consulate holds ‘Spring Festival’ in Kolkata)
Photographers from across the world add the Howrah Bridge in their checklist. There is in an insight for them, the bridge isn’t that interesting as you drive or walk over it, and there aren’t enough photo angles from the sidewalks. However, pass onto the East side of the bridge and walk into the flower markets, staying as far right (close to the river) as possible. There’s a little temple, full of homeless people, that leads out onto a small ghat. The view of the bridge from there is stunning.
The engineering marvel defines the Kolkata skyscape and inspires countless photographs every day. Currently, the bridge is one of the busiest in the world and handles traffic. While it was renamed the Rabindra Setu on 14 June 1965, it continues to be popularly known as “The Howrah Bridge”. It is the sixth-largest cantilever bridge in the world right now.