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Exploring past marvels along the passage

iconic: A view of Sirat-e-Judi bridge in Raichur district. photo by author

Sirat-e-Judi, a bridge constructed during the Hyderabad Nizam regime across River Krishna near Devasugur (now Shakhtinagar) separates the states of Karnataka and Telangana. Perhaps the largest and oldest bridge across River Krishna in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana, Sirat-e-Judi possesses features that may interest engineering enthusiasts.

Sirat is an Arabic term meaning path or bridge. In the Quran, Judi has been referred to as the place where the Ark of Noah came to rest after the Great Flood. It is believed that Sirat-e-Judi means a way to cross the great flood.

A landmark

The bridge was constructed to commemorate the visit of infant prince Nawab Javaid Jah Bahadur to Raichur in 1932. In those days, it was the largest bridge in the dominions of Hyderabad and Berar and was one of the landmarks of the empire of the then Nizam of Hyderabad Nawab Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, the Asif Jah VII.

The Nizam chose the most strategic location to build the bridge. The structure connected northern and southern parts of the Deccan region. It served as an important link to the national highway from Peshawar to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari).

The inscription in the Urdu language on a pillar of the bridge states that “Asif Jah VII believes that Sirat-e-Judi will remain a shining example of the farsighted policy of an enlightened ruler whose happiness lies in the welfare and prosperity of his people.”

The construction began in 1933 and ended in 1943. Mohamed Hamed Mirza, who was the chief engineer and secretary of the public works department then, supervised the project. Saberi Yousuf and Farhatulla were engineers, while Balram was the contractor.

The bridge is 2,448 feet in length and has a width of 20 feet. It is located 62 feet above the river bed. It is divided into 35 arches each having a span of 60 feet. The drainage area at the site is approximately 50,000 square miles. Maximum flow passing under the bridge during floods is about 10 lakh cubic feet.

The upper portion of every arch is constructed in V shape so that water could flow easily during heavy floods. Locally available granite stones were used for construction. The bridge was constructed at a cost of Rs 13,28,500.

Over the bridge, there are facilities for people to stand and get a better view of the bridge and the river.

The four Lion Capital of Ashoka, a sculpture of four Asiatic lions standing back to back, on four pillars right at the entrance on both ends, gives a majestic look to the bridge.

K V Magalad, retired superintending engineer, Raichur Thermal Power Station, Shakthinagar, describes the bridge as an engineering marvel.

Non-submersible

“The waterways would swell to threatening volumes and speeds as there were no dams across the river in those days. Maximum flood level, rainfall and water flow in the river for 50 years before the project was conceived were analysed for the design. It has been constructed in such a way that any level of the flood will not submerge the bridge. It has been categorised as a non-submersible bridge. It was constructed without using concrete,” he points out.

For Magalad, the grandeur of the bridge lies in its architectural design. “Each granite stone was perfectly cut and hence the structure looks highly uniformed. Every arch is based on a keystone. Locations to raise pillars were so scientifically selected that they consumed fewer finances,” he explains.

“The keystone is clearly visible on the top centre of every arch. The entire arch will come crashing down if the keystone is separated. This engineering marvel was unparalleled anywhere in the Deccan region,” he remarks.

Magalad considers the bridge as still young. “Though it was built 76 years ago, the bridge is still young considering a high amount of engineering skills and top quality construction work,” he stresses.

“Construction of any bridge of this quality these days definitely demands more finances and time. At a time when bridges collapse before they are inaugurated, we should preserve Sirat-e-Judi, besides developing it as a heritage structure,” he suggests.

The bridge is sure to outlive its lifespan. In 2016, the Karnataka government repointed and grouted all 35 pillars, jacketed 10 pillars and coated the entire bridge with 7.5 cm concrete.

The National Highways Authority of India is proposing to construct a Rs 145 crore bridge next to this bridge to widen the NH-167. The project for the 14-metre wide and 760-metre-long four-lane bridge has been finalised.

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