Puranapul restoration: Hawkers hope for government intervention

Hyderabad: The historic Puranapul (old bridge) has been in a pitiful condition for years, with promises of restoring it remaining unfulfilled. Several cracks also appeared under it after heavy rains last year. But hopes are up again that the bridge will be saved after Telangana Special Chief Secretary (MAUD) Arvind Kumar earlier this week promised to restore it “to its glory”.

The Puranapul (old bridge) was built in the year 1578 by Ibrahim Qutb Shah (1550-80), the third monarch of the Qutb Shahi or Golconda dynasty (1518-1687). It was built as a link between the Golconda Fort, which was a walled city until 1591, the year Hyderabad was founded by Mohd Quli Qutb Shah, Ibrahim’s son.

The bridge that is closed for vehicles, has been occupied by hawkers for years. Many of them sell fruits, vegetables, betel leaves (paan), flowers and other household plastic.

The hawkers on the Puranapul said that repeated promises have been made to improve the situation, but that nothing much has been done in earlier years by the state government, apart from a few occasional visits.

Speaking to Siasat.com, a fruit and vegetable seller, Anju, said, “We have been here for ages, since the time of my grandparents. Not a lot of officials visit the area often. The last visit was after cracks were noticed in the bridge due to heavy rains in October, last year,”

The vendors have reportedly noticed some “unusual activity” at the bridge lately.

“5-6 years ago we were given permissions to set up stalls and were promised proper cabins but so far no progress has been made. Lately, we have noticed that before we arrive in the morning, GHMC workers come and clean up the garbage lying around in the open,” Anju added.

Fruit and vegetable remains that lay around in the open after vendors packed up for the day are only disposed off the next morning when they returned to set up stalls.

“We set up our stalls by 9 am or 10 am everyday and we ourselves have to clean up whatever garbage was lying around our stall before we began sales. My grandmother used to set up stalls here, and now I do. I live just around the corner, under the bridge and set my stall up by 10 am return home only by 9 pm,” said Sai Lakshmi, a fruit seller.

She added that there is not much hope of restoration from the government. “We are happy that some initiative is being taken by them and that cleanliness is being maintained,” Lakshmi said when asked about her expectations from the government’s initiative to restore the bridge.

Historic significance of the Puranapul

According to various historians, Ibrahim had constructed this bridge for Mohd Quli Qutb Shah to go and meet his supposed lover or courtesan, Bhagmati. The story goes that after Ibrahim’s death, his son founded Hyderabad and first named it after Bhagmati calling it Bhagnagar. However, many historians have denied the existence of Bhagmati citing a lack of evidence.

More importantly, it may be noted that in 1578 when the Puranapul was constructed Mohd Quli Qutb Shah was only 12-years-old. According to H.K Sherwani, one of the most well-known historians from Hyderabad, the bridge was most likely built by Ibrahim Qutb Shah with an idea to expand outside the Golconda fort towards the Musi river due to the availability of water.

Though Ibrahim Qutb Shah passed away in 1580, two years after the bridge was constructed, his son built upon the idea and founded Hyderabad eventually. As far as Bhagmati is concerned, her existence is still debatable.

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