Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pro bono bridge

According to legend, Thomas Didymus - Doubting Thomas, as he is also known - was martyred somewhere on Parangimalai, or the hillock known to us as St Thomas' Mount. That hillock was south of the Adayar river, which made it slightly inconvenient for the Europeans - the Portugese initially, but also the British later - who were predominantly based further north of the river. There were several bridges fording the Adayar, but it was only after Coja Petrus Uscan built the Marmalong bridge connecting Saidapet (though it was not called by that name, most likely) and Little Mount that access to the township of St Thomas' Mount became much more convenient.

Coja Petrus had settled in Madras barely three years before he had this bridge built. He was quite well off, having been involved in trading between Madras and Manila, where he was based before moving to Madras in 1723. The Marmalong bridge cost him 30,000 pagodas (Rs.100,000), not a small amount in 1726. He did not stop with that; he also gave 1,500 pagodas as a corpus towards regular maintenance of the bridge - that gesture goes a long way towards proving that the bridge was truly built "Pro bono publico".

The Marmalong bridge lasted for over 200 years; it was only in the 1960s that the bridge we use today was built - rather, looking at an old photo of Marmalong bridge, it appears that the existing bridge was strengthened and new lanes added on. The bridge itself was then renamed Maraimalai Adigal Palam. I haven't been able to find too many photos of the old bridge, but here's a painting that supposedly has the bridge in the background!

1 comment:

Ramaswamy N said...

Hey check my post on the same here ... ....