Kolkata's iconic Howrah Bridge completes 75 years: 10 interesting facts

Feb 07, 2018, 13:10 IST | online correspondent

The British-era Howrah Bridge christened Rabindra Setu in 1965, has become a symbol of Kolkata over the decades, ferrying one lakh-plus vehicle and over 1.5 lakh pedestrians daily. The bridge is celebrating its 75th anniversary

Howrah bridge in Kolkata
All Photos: AFP

The British-era Howrah Bridge christened Rabindra Setu in 1965, has become a symbol of Kolkata over the decades, ferrying one lakh-plus vehicle and over 1.5 lakh pedestrians daily. The bridge is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Here's a look at ten interesting facts about the famous bridge

1. Operations begin
The bridge was quietly thrown open to the public on February 3, 1943. It replaced a pontoon bridge linking what was then Calcutta and Howrah. The work at the site began in October 1936, and it took around six years to make the bridge ready for traffic.

Howrah bridge in Kolkata

2. Renamed as "Rabindra Setu"
The steel colossus was christened Rabindra Setu in 1965 after one of Kolkata's greatest sons, Nobel Laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore. The bridge has become a symbol of the city over the decades, connecting the bustling eastern metropolis with the terminal Howrah station over the Hooghly river - a distributory of the mighty Ganges.

3. Survives air attack during World War II
However, the beginning of the journey, of what was the world's fourth-longest cantilever suspension at that time, was unheralded, amid the dark days of World War II. The Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, "weighed heavily on every mind" and the government feared that Howrah Bridge would be a target of another Japanese air raid

4. Engineering marvel
One of the marvels of this unique 26,500-tonne structure is that it was built without any nuts and bolts, but was formed by riveting the whole structure over Hoogly river. It is now the sixth-largest bridge of its kind in the globe.

Howrah bridge in Kolkata

5. In the news
The bridge aroused much interest worldwide. The London-based monthly magazine The Engineer -- considered the voice of authority on all matters related to engineering, technology and innovation - followed and reported every major discussion on the upcoming structure.

6. The men behind the construction
Rendel, Palmer and Tritton were the civil engineers, and the British company Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company Ltd secured the contract for the whole work. The Calcutta-based Baithwaite, Burn and Jessop became the sub-contractors for the fabricated steelwork. The Tata Iron and Steel Company supplied 23,500 tonnes out of the total 26,500 tonnes of steel for the project. The remaining 3,000 tonnes were made in England.

7. Bollywood calling
The iconic bridge has been used in the backdrop of many Bollywood films, including Ajay Devgn and Abhishek Bachchan starrer Yuva, in Ranveer Singh's film Gunday. The bridge has also featured in numerous films by Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Raj Kapoor, Roland Joffe and Mira Nair, to name just a few.

8. Unique camaraderie among labourers
A commemorative coffee table book "Howrah Bridge: An Icon in Steel" brought out by Tata Steel mentions how the construction work brought together all communities. "(It was) built in an environment of religious bonhomie between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. There were also the Nepalis, Gurkhas and even Pathans making valiant contributions... and never was a day lost to labour trouble." 

Howrah bridge in Kolkata

9. Maintenance issues
On June 24, 2005, a private cargo vessel had its funnel stuck underneath for three hours, causing Rs 15 million worth damages. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, the original bridge consultants, were called in, and they provided matching steel used during the construction, for the repairs.

10. Worldwide obsession
The obsession with the bridge has spread far beyond India's shores. Even Herge's Tintin finds himself placed before the Howrah Bridge, on the Facebook page of the Belgian Embassy, without the boy detective ever having visited the city.

(With inputs from agencies)

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