Lushington stone Bridge, Kollegal - proposal to restore it and build a new one - Is the project on?

 In the matter of saving our historical places or heritage site little attention is paid to them by the state as well as central government agencies. A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is vital and if it is absent at stake will be loss of heritage of aesthetics and cultural identity.  Across India thousands of heritage sites have been lost or left attended to rot for reasons of apathy and negligence. For example in July 2018 a listed heritage structure   Wellesley Bridge, also known as Lushington bridge in Kollegal, Karnataka was almost lost due to heavy rains. Due to incessant rain the bridge that was not properly being maintained by the state agency, could not withstand the surge of excess discharge of water when the floodgates opened and it knocked down several stone pillars. About a 20-m span, of the nearly 400-m long bridge, was washed due to flooding in the river, 

Lushington stone bridge, Kollegal,

Built in 1799 under the early colonial period headed by EIC,  the Arthur Wellesley Bridge (as it is locally known) near Sathyagala in the erstwhile princely State of Mysore, was  a good  example of bridge engineering technology of past era.  It is 400 meters long stone bridge built  across the Cauvery River at Shivanasamudra near Madhyaranga  in Kollegal taluk. The bridge is  supported by dressed stone pillars with  stone girders resting firmly on the rocky  terrain.  It was so  designed  to withstand the force of  surging  river water even when it was  in spate. Though two modern bridges came up later   parallel to Lushington bridge, the stone bridge, despite its  age never lost its grandeur and structural stability.

Cauvery river  in spate 2018

Visitors coming to this place to look at the waterfalls and  Ranganatha swami temple in  Mandya District used to enjoy taking a heritage walk on the old stone bridge standing in the midst of serene ambiance and greenery. They would never miss the panoramic vista from the top of the bridge. With missing spans, now the bridge is out of reach for the visiting tourists. It is quite disappointing, indeed. 

Records point out that the bridge was originally called   Lord Richard Colley Wellesley, an EIC administrator and in 1835 it was renamed  Lushington Bridge in 1835 in honor of Lord S.R. Lushington,the  then governor of Madras Presidency between 1827 and 1835.

Lord S.R. Lushington, then governor of Madras Presidency

Above image: Stephen Rumbold Lushington (6 May 1776 – 5 August 1868), an English Tory politician  was a colonial administrator in India. He became the governor of Madras from 1827 to 1835  in succession to Thomas Munro, 1st Baronet who unexpectedly died while on tour duty.  Earlier the princely  State of Mysore under the EIC was run by a Board of Commissioners which included a Senior Commissioner and a Junior Commissioner. Lushington assumed charge as Junior Commissioner in October, 1831 and later took over as the  Governor of Madras Presidency with HQ in Madras (Chennai) and the bridge was named after him.  The famous Madras Club (now in Chennai) was started in 1832 during Lushington's tenure. Born at Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, he was the son of the Rev. James Stephen Lushington of Rodmersham.............................

The correct date of construction of the stone pillar bridge  of Kollegal is not known.  However according to the  Mysore Gazetteer published in the early part of the last century, the stone bridge came up  sometime between 1830 and 1832 and named after Lushington who was the Governor of Madras between 1827 and 1835. Similar in design, the Wellesley Bridge at Srirangapatana  came up  between 1802 and 1804  when  Purnaiah was at the helm of administration as the  Diwan.

But way back in  1818, major repair work was done on the bridge when Dr. AL. Ramaswami Mudaliar was the chief administrator of the princely state (Vide a copy of letter dated July 23, 1833, published in ‘Narrative of a Journey to the Falls of the Cavery’ by Lt. H. Jervis; he attributes it to ‘Ramaswami Mudeliar, Jaghirdar of Sivasamoodrum.)

lushington stone bridge with missing spans,

Authorised by the State Department of Archaeology and Heritage the repair work on the 200 year old  bridge was planned  soon at the cost of Rs. 2 crore to reconstruct those spans that were washed away in 2018 torrential rains. The work got delayed repeatedly due to surge in water flow in the seasonal  months. During 2019, there was no respite from  incessant rains and release of water from the reservoirs upstream. The Contractors hiked up the cost as they had to rebuild a couple of spans washed away in 2019 due to surge. Earlier increased water discharge from Kabini and KRS reservoirs led to the partial collapse of the bridge

In March 2021, the then government   announced that  the old Lushington bridge would be repaired and conserved as a monument and in addition to it,   a new bridge would be built at cost of Rs. 200 crore. Tourism Minister C.T. Ravi announced this alternative plan.

The heritage stone bridge is close to Madhyaranga en route to Bharachukki falls and Gaganachukki Falls. This picturesque place draws lots of visitors so the stone bridge should not be relegated to the pages of history books.