Voice of an ageless bridge
Assam- the land of several tribes and traditions is not only a geographical phenomenon, but is also known for its wonderful historical events. Different kings ruled the land at different points of time. Among these rulers, the rulers of the powerful Ahom dynasty were the most significant. They had constructed various buildings, roads, bridges, temples and also had dug up many fresh water tanks to signify their glory, sincerity and devotion to God. They always paid attention to the development of transportation and communication system. Places like Sivasagar, Jorhat, Guwahati, North Guwahati, Hajo, parts of the north bank of the mighty Brahmaputra are full of historical monuments constructed by the powerful Ahom rulers.
In image: Team Padakkhep
According to historical records, around ten stone bridges had been constructed by the Ahom swargadeos in different parts of the state. Among these stone bridges, the Namdang Stone Bridge, the Gormur Stone Bridge , the Rupohi Stone Bridge, the stone bridge of North Guwahati etc. are remarkable.
Among all these stone bridges,the stone bridge of Namdang has been serving the nation on National Highway 37, near Gaurisagar area of the Sivasagar district since several years. It was constructed by the Ahom Swargadeo Rudra Singha in the year of 1703. The length and breadth of this ancient stone bridge is about 200 ft. and 22 ft. respectively. It has been a witness to several revolutionary events like the Burmese invasion, World War II and the great earthquake of 1950. The Namdang river is a tributary of the Dikhou river which also occupies a special place in the pages of Assam history. But most of the historical structures alongwith the glorious Namdang Stone Bridge has not been preserved yet and this deteriorating situation leads us to the negative sense of development.
As the absence of appropriate preservation and introduction of these historical structures has always been felt, in the year of 2013, I decided to raise my voice for preserving and ensuring national heritage status of the glorious Namdang Stone Bridge.As the first attempt of this project, I tried to make the students and teachers of different corners of the state aware of the situation. And from different educational institutions, I received tremendous response. Later on my approach moved in government departments and other such concerned authorities. In that year, I wrote a letter to the honourable speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly and within a short span of time I was able to get a reply from him. As he mentioned in his letter, the national highway 37 will be diverted from the glorious Namdang Stone bridge once the four-laning of highways is completed. Later I again wrote a letter to him to express my gratitude.
In 2014, I wrote a letter to the honourable Prime Minister of India informing him about the historical significance of the stone bridge and also requested him to take necessary steps for the preservation of the same. The PMO forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and within a period of four months, I received a letter from the esteemed department. According to the ministry, the bridge should be preserved. It also mentions that a new four lane bridge has been proposed for construction without affecting the existing Namdang Stone Bridge. Moreover the ancient bridge may be looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India once the four lane bridge is constructed. The honourable Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India has also been requested to take up the matter and the Director (Monuments) has also been asked to examine the issue and also to take appropriate action if necessary.
From the letter received from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, we are able to design an idea of retirement of the stone bridge at an early date, but the declaration of the bridge as a national heritage has yet to be ensured. Thus keeping this point in view, I along with some of my friends decided to write a letter to the honourable Director General of UNESCO, France, informing her about the importance of declaring the bridge as a heritage site.
To some extent I think the people of the state have become more or less conscious of the importance of preserving the historic bridge for our future generations.But the scenario can be more appreciable if we all come together to ensure its preservation as well as declaration as a national heritage. Recently, the Prime Minister of the country has again been requested to examine the matter and to declare it as a national heritage.
Namdang Stone Bridge is that sign of mental state which reflects the advanced mindset of the Ahom rulers regarding communication and transportation during the period when modernization was out of imagination for the people of this remtote region. During that period the use of cement was not introduced. A mixture of various biotic components like duck eggs,pulses ( Mati Mah ),Bora Rice (a special kind of rice produced in Assam), jaggery, etc. had been used instead of cement. Namdang Stone Bridge stands as a cultural power which has the strength to bear the weight of more than hundred big vehicles in a single day.
A stone bridge which demonstrates the advanced technology of the Ahom kingdom, which is placed next to the pre-historic Rameswaram Setu by ‘Google’ should be preserved and also should be introduced to all.
Assam is full of such historical resources, along with which a prosperous Tourism Industry can also be evolved. But the preparation of an appropriate agenda is important in this regard. Teachers,students, business persons, etc. all people from different categories must be united to transform the society. Namdang is just an example. There are ample structures which possess historical significance. Thus it is necessary to bring these golden treasures into light and to utilize its potentialities as well as to preserve the same for our future generations.
As we all know a bridge joins two different roads and completes one’s destination, at the same time Namdang is also said to be the bridge between our past and present.
By Uddipan Sarma
Note by Team Unitreed : We want more people to come out and preserve and promote the rich heritage and culture of our motherland Assam.