History is an attempt that demonstrates continuously the contexts of our past describing the glory, power, richness held by our ancestors. It develops a comparison between past and present. As the roots of globalization received complete settlement after the end of erstwhile USSR, a world of advanced technologies came into existence. It perhaps changed all the directions of world affecting the patterns of history. Thus a gap took birth between tradition and modernity once all these trends started reshaping the globe. It became difficult enough to minimize the gap to balance all new shifts.
The need of emergence of a bridge between two generations had been only an idea until it attained a formal structure recognizing the glorious chapter of Namdang Stone Bridge. Reflecting the past events as well as adapting to the new curves of modernization, Namdang Stone Bridge is standing as a living witness for more than three centuries serving the nation on National Highway 37 near Gaurisagar area of the Sivasagar district of Assam.It was constructed by the Ahom king Swargadeo Rudra Singha in the year of 1703. The ancient stone bridge has a total length of about 200 ft. and a breadth of about 22 ft. It has been a witness to several historic 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. Such a stone bridge which demonstrates the unique mindset of the Ahom Kingdom as well as the great architecture of that time should be known to all across the country. It is necessary to mention that different biotic components were used to build the stone bridge without steel and cement mortar.
As the absence of appropriate preservation and promotion of the historic Namdang Stone Bridge have always been felt, in the year of 2013 this writer decided to launch a campaign for preservation and ensuring national heritage status of the glorious Namdang Stone Bridge. Initially the campaign was run among the students and teachers of different corners of the state. It evoked tremendous response from different educational institutions like Cotton College, Assam Jatiya Bidyalay, Sivasagar College, Gohpur Girls’ High School. To take the campaign to the next level government departments and other authorities concerned were moved. In the same year this writer, while studying in Higher Secondary First year in Cotton College, wrote a letter to the then speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly Pranab Gogoi to draw his attention. Mr Gogoi stated, in his reply, the national highway 37 would be diverted from the glorious Namdang Stone bridge and would have a separate RCC bridge along the four-lane highway under construction. In the subsequent year, this writer wrote a letter to the Prime Minister informing him about the historical significance of the stone bridge and also requested him to take necessary steps for the preservation of the historic bridge. The PMO forwarded the letter to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and within a period of four months, a letter was received from the ministry statting that a new four lane bridge has been proposed for construction without affecting the glorious Namdang Stone Bridge. Moreover, the ancient bridge may be looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India once the four lane bridge is constructed. After receiving the reply from the ministry the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India as requested to declare 312-year old stone bridge as a centrally protected monument the latter asked the Director ( Monuments) to examine the issue and also to take appropriate action. Dr. Milan Kumar Chauley, Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India ( Guwahati Circle ), in his letter to this writer on August 6, 2015, stated that the historic Namdang Stone Bridge maitained by the Public Works Department, Assam, cannot be protected and preserved in its present state until the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways diverts the traffic from over the stone bridge.
It is, therefore, necessary to complete the construction of the proposed four-laning of highways from Numaligarh to Dibrugarh at an early period ensuring the preservation of the historic stone bridge for our future generations.
Although the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has indicated the retirement and the preservation of the stone bridge once the four-laning work of NH 37 is completed and traffic is diverted from the historic bridge, the declaration of the bridge as a national heritage site is yet to be ensured.
To garner support for declaration of the histric bridge as a national heritage site, a campaign was launched in January this year and has been on under the banner of ‘PADAKKHEP, a pace of hope’ to promote the uniqueness of the Namdang Stone Bridge. Leaflets have been distributed among students of different colleges, in the last North East Book Fair and also among students of some colleges of University of Delhi to run the campaign for declaration of the historic bridge as a heritage site and for its protection and preservation to remind the future generations about our glorious past.
The campaign needs to be intensified to achieve the desired goal.
(Uddipan Sarma is pursuing his Graduation 2nd semester, Department of Philosophy in Cotton Collge, Guwahati, Assam. Contact number : 7670033818 )