The Palarivattom flyover in Kochi is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Demolition of the recently-built bridge started on Monday, exactly 36 years after 'Panchavadippalam,' a movie about a bridge that collapsed on the day of its opening due to shoddy construction, was released.
Incidentally, the location of the landmark movie was Kottayam district. However, residents of Kottayam have been fortunate that most of the actual bridges in the district are intact and have survived the ravages of time. They include structures that are as old as 120 years.
Illikkunnu bridge (age: 120 years)
The hanging bridge at Illikkunnu on the Teekoy-Adukkam route is the oldest surviving bridge in Kottayam. It was built 120 years ago during British rule.
Pala big bridge (age: 67 years)
Referred to locally as 'Pala valiya palam,' the bridge was built by the Thiru-Kochi administration and inaugurated by Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma on April 19, 1953. The construction was carried out by Gammon, a Mumbai-based company.
Ithippuzha bridge (age: 66 years)
Before the bridge was built, buses on the Vaikom-Ernakulam route had to depend on three ferries during their trips. The bridge made the bus services smooth.
Kalleppalam (age: 58 years)
Known as 'stone bridge' in Malayalam, it the entrance to the high ranges, connecting Kottayam and Idukki districts. Initially, the bridge had pillars of stone and iron, earning it the name of 'stone bridge.' A concrete bridge replaced the old structure in 1962.
Nagampadom bridge (age: 47 years)
The old MC Road passed near the railway goods shed in Kottayam town and when the stretch was rebuilt, the Nagampadom bridge was constructed. The inauguration took place in 1973.
Causeway bridge (age: 30 years)
Located in Mundakkayam town on the Poonjar-Erumely state highway, the bridge was submerged during all the three recent floods. However, it is still intact.
Kannamkulam bridge (age: 11 years)
It was built in 2009 after the boatman and a panchayat member drowned when their canoe capsized 13 years ago. Kannamkulam bridge, which connects Thuruthamma Island in Maravanthuruthu panchayat with the world outside, is 140 m long and 50 m tall. Over 500 families living on the island are benefited.
Aruvikkuzhy bridge (Two months)
The youngest bridge in Kottayam is at the Aruvikkuzhy tourism centre in Pallikkathode. Connecting both banks of the Aruvikkuzhi stream, it a lattice bridge. Such a structure has concrete on both sides and steel in the middle, which can be detached.
Meenachil River bridges
The Meenachil River winds its way across Kottayam district and has several bridges over it. In fact, there are 11 bridges between Bharananganam and Kindangoor alone. They are, Vattolikadavu, Vilangupara, Tharappelkadavu, Kalariyamakkal, Valiyapalam – old and new, Kadappattoor, Nadappalam, Cherpunkal and Kidangoor. Meanwhile, work on a new bridge at Cherpunkal is underway.
Remnants of 'Panchavadippalam'
Travellers along the Illikkal bridge on Kumarakom road can still view remnants of 'Panchavadippalam,' the bridge that collapsed during its inauguration in the movie. The film was adapted from a story titled palam apakadathil (Bridge in danger) by Veloor Krishankutty and directed by K G George.
In the movie, an intact bridge is demolished and a new one built. The new structure collapses as soon as it is opened and all poorly constructed bridges have earned the moniker 'Panchavadippalam' since then. Even the Kerala High Court had used the term while referring to the Palarivattom flyover.
The shooting of 'Panchavadippalam' took place at Kumarakom, Veloor, and Illikkal. Bridges were built at Illikkal and Kavanattinkara for the film. The bridge at Illikkal was parallel to the present bridge there and behind the village office. Some other props like a tea shop and boat landing were set up near the bridge. Even though the bridge was constructed for shooting purposes only, it was strong enough to allow the passage of buses. Its pillars and girders still remain even after 36 years.