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Shaping Up a 'Bridge of Love'

(September, 2002)

           HYDERABAD: The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department is all set to convert its oldest bridge, popularly called the Purana Pul, into a Bridge of Love. Legend has it that the bridge was built to facilitate a prince to meet his sweetheart even during floods when crossing the turbulent Muse on boat was pretty difficult. The girl lived on the other side. This was nearly 400 years ago. (The Damsel and Her Sultan)

          On an occasion recently hundreds of couples who had inter-caste marriages walked across the bridge to relive the spirit of love. It is said the 424-year-old Purana Pul, was built to unite Muhammad Quli Qutab, the prince of Golconda (now Hyderabad) with his beloved Bhagyamati, an ordinary Hindu girl who lived accross river Musi.

           The young prince's father Ibrahim Qutab Shah was initially firmly opposed to the match but his son's obsessive love for the girl finally melted him. He not only consented to the marriage but also ordered a bridge to be built to unite the two communities.

          The state tourism department is picking up the pieces from where the Qutabs left it. It is all set to renovate the bridge in the name of "true love". The department aims at reviving the legend and turning it into a major tourist attraction.

          Director of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department G. Krishan Rao said: "This is a bridge of love, it has a great history behind it. There was an inter-caste, an inter-community marriage. So now we are asking all such couples who have had a love marriage and inter-caste love marriage to come and walk across the bridge. We want to relive the spirit of love". But while the toursim department is busy hardselling the legend to foreigners and locals alike, historians beg to differ.

          Muhammad Saifulla, an expert on Hyderabad's history, says that there is no historical evidence that links the bridge to the legend. But he is happy that at least the heritage is being preserved even if it is for the wrong reason. "There is no historical evidence linking the legend to the brigde. In fact, when the bridge was built the young prince was only 12 years old and it is ridiculous to think that he would be expected to be so mad in love at that age," said Saifulla.

           But an unfazed tourism department is busy renovating the dilapidated bridge to bring it back to its majestic form. The 22 arches which give the bridge its characteristic Qutab style are being redone and the hawkers and encroachers on the bridge are also being evacuated.

           The department also plans to organise a cultural fest with live ghazal programmes and musharias on the bridge.


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