What makes it so special is that it is the first vehicular suspension bridge in South India. And this marvel which dates back to 1877, is the crowning glory of the Kollam district of Kerala. Connecting two historical places across the Kallada river, Kollam in Kerala and Thirumangalaom in Tamil Nadu, the Punalur Hanging/Suspension Bridge was constructed during the reign of Ayilyam Thirunal as King of Travancore and Nanupillai as Divan. It joins the Kollam-Chenkotta state highway which is now NH 208. Albert Henry, a British engineer is a man behind this stupendous marvel which took more than 6 years to complete.
Kerala – a magical backdrop, pretty sure to nurture you with the love of nature. It is home to some of the spellbinding architectural marvels of the world. From the remarkable craftsmanship of the famous Padmanabhaswamy Temple to the marvelous Paradesi Synagogue, royal Kanakakunnu Palace, giant keyhole shaped Bekal Fort, the list goes on, exhibiting that Kerala is architecturally rich. Another significant engineering masterpiece of Kerala which is worthy of mention is the Punalur Hanging Bridge.
A visit to this Hanging/Suspension Bridge built across the Kallada River in Punalur is that you have visited the only hanging bridge in South India and an engineering marvel of the colonial period. This 400 m-long bridge was built during 1871-72 under the leadership of a Scotland national named Albert Henry.
Unlike other hanging bridges, the construction of the Punalur Hanging Bridge used no cement and was majorly imported from England. And only its pillars and woodworks were done in Kerala. At the two ends are the suspension pillars to support the deck and the bridge is seen hanging from two massive twin steel bar suspension chains that are affixed to 4 wells built on both sides of the bridge.
Why a hanging bridge instead of an ordinary one? The choice of a hanging bridge over an ordinary one shows how genius the ancient engineers were. The first reason was that the heavy flow of the Kallar River cannot support ordinary pillared bridges. Another reason was to prevent wild animals from trespassing on the human settlement of Punalur which was once enveloped with dense thick forest on one side. As the Hanging bridge starts shaking when someone walks on it, can scare away the wild animals.
Another interesting thing is about how the engineer proved the strength of the Punalur Hanging Bridge. After the construction of this bridge, the people were unwilling to walk on the bridge as they doubt about its strength. So, to prove this, six elephants were made to walk through the Hanging Bridge, at the same time the engineer Albert Henry and his family passed through the river under the bridge in a country boat.
Punalur Hanging Bridge is now a protected monument under the Archaeological Department of Kerala. Recently, the Kerala Government has repaired and renovated the bridge. And no vehicles are now allowed through the bridge. A new park with a beautiful garden and resting place is built near the bridge, spotted with night lamps to make it a tourist spot.
Thenmala Ecotourism Park, Palaruvi Waterfalls, Courtallam waterfalls and the ancient Pattazhi Devi temple are some of the popular places you can visit near Punalur. The Shenduruny Forest nearby is well-known for adventure activities like hiking and mountain biking.
Trivandrum International Airport is the nearest airport to Punalur which is situated at a distance of 73.3 Km. On reaching the airport one can hire a cab or board a bus to reach Punalur.
Punalur Railway Station is the nearest railway station to Punalur which is situated just 3 Km away. On reaching the railway station one can hire a cab or board a bus to reach Punalur.
Punalur is well-connected to major cities of South India via Kollam Thirumangalam Road NH 208. Punalur can also be reached by the SH-8 Highway (Punalur-Muvaputtaza Highway), the longest highway in Kerala.
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