History of Shahi Bridge in Jaunpur

Shahi Bridge, variously recognized as Mughal Bridge, Akbari Bridge or Munim Khan’s Bridge, was built by Munim Khan, the commander of the state of Jaunpur during the regime of Mughal emperor Akbar.

Formulated by an Afghan architect, Afzal Ali, the bridge was erected over the river Gomti during 1568-1569. It is one of the rare important milestones of Mughal style architecture presently prevailing in Jaunpur.

The bridge, strutting upon ten openings or gateways for the flow of water, is designed upon huge pylons. There are hexagon-shaped chattris or umbrella-like pavilions built upon the pillars. These are projected beyond the bridge and are supported by brackets. These roofed structures enable people to stand securely from the traffic and gaze at the picturesque grandeur while appreciating the scenic flow of water under its arched gateways.

History Of Shahi Bridge

Shahi Bridge is placed at a distance of 1.7 km in the north of the city of Jaunpur and is still being used for traffic.

Jaunpur probably was initially founded in the 11th century but was worn by Gomati floods. It was rebuilt in 1359 by Firoz Shah Tughluq, whose fort still exists. The city was the capital of the independent Muslim kingdom of the Sharq regime (1394–1479). It was overthrown by the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1559 and fell under British rule in 1775. Mughal Emperor Akbar sanctioned the construction of the Shahi Bridge, which was finalized in the year 1568–69 by Munim Khan. It was constructed by Afghan architect Afzal Ali.

This distinguished bridge of Jaunpur was built by Munyeen Khankhana in 1564 on the orders of Akbar during his reign. This is a one of its kind bridge in the country and its carriageway is at ground level. The width of the bridge is 26 ft. with 2 ft. 3 inch wide kerfs on both flanks. At each junction of adjacent spouses, pillboxes have been established.

Earlier shops used to be arranged in these pillboxes or gumtrees. On a square platform in the middle of the bridge, there is a large sculpture of a lion with an elephant underpart its forepaws. It had previously been installed in some Buddhist monastery from where it was brought and inducted at the bridge. There is a mosque in front of this and there are 10 spans of the bridge to its north and 5 spans to the south which rest on octagonal pylons. It is a speck worth seeing.

Amongst so many visitor locations in Jaunpur, eg. Sheetla Chaukiya, Temple of Maihar Devi, Atala Masjid, Trilochan Mahadev Temple, Sadar Imambara, Temple of Sheetla Devi, Tomb of Nawab Ghazi Khan, Lal Darwaza Masjid, one that looks distant is The Shahi Bridge.

The Bridge is built across the Gomati river  comprising ten arched openings that are supported on huge and massive piers. There is an additional extension of five arches that were built to insulate the diverted channel. The bridge initially possessed a hammam (public bathhouse) at the northern end, but it is no longer used and is perpetually shut down.

To provide junctures on the bridge so that people can halt and gaze at the flowing river below, Chhatris (small pavilions) was built by the Collector of Jaunpur in 1847, which lined both the viewpoints of the bridge. These chhatris (kiosks) project beyond the bridge and are given support below by brackets that substitute the weight to the piers.

The piers are elongated and extended hexagons in plan with the longer sides subsidizing the bridge and then there are the skewed sides that assist the chhatris above. To prevent the piers from appearing like some solid mass that has soared from the river, there were recessed and adjourned rectangular niches with blind arches built on the skewed walls of the piers. The bridge has become erratic.

The bridge was badly wrecked by an earthquake in 1934 when seven of its fifteen arches were severely deteriorated. These have been refurbished and the whole bridge has been effectively retained. Although a public road operates over it, it is bolstered as an ancient monument. The Bridge has been on the Protection & Conservation list of Directorate of Archaeology, (U.P.) since 1978.

This bridge is still used today as an ordinary bridge and generally recognised as Jaunpur’s most considerable Mughal structure. In the words of General Cunningham, this bridge is one of the vastly picturesque in India. Its scenic beauty can best be left to the imagination when the bridge is often submerged during the monsoon and boats pass over it.

The structure of Shahi Bridge

The structure of Shahi Bridge is still unscathed with all of its resilience. Although Jaunpur is also confronting ignorance of development authorities (like another part of eastern Uttar Pradesh), it certainly worths a Visit along with other great relics of Jaunpur.

The Munim Khaan’s bridge is still wielded today and generally recognised as Jaunpur’s most substantial Mughal structure. The bridge”, in the words of General Cunningham, ” is one of the most extensively picturesque in India”. Its spectacular beauty can generously be left to the imagination when the bridge is often submerged during the monsoon and boats pass over it.

One Mughal correspondent states that,”although Munim Khan I khana has no matters, this Jaunpur Bridge will retain his name for ages”. On the southern end of the bridge is an impressive lion climbing over an elephant exemplifying the deterioration of Buddhism. Historians theorize that this zone was once a battalion of Buddhists which eventually gave way to Brahmanism as is apparent from the sites of the large cities inundated by fire on the banks of the river.

Shahi Pul is an incredible illustration of Mughal architecture that is endeavoring to retain its existence due to the market that thrives on it. The hundreds of sellers that do business on it hardly comprehend how they are systematically destroying it. One uncovers filth all around, posters, banners, strings and wires hanging here and there.

Even the commissions which should have given the historical past of the bridge are forfeiting. The royal emblem of the Pala kings located nearby too is faultless. One should not overlook the Imarti shop on one end of the Bridge as it is an equally important landmark. The famous sweet of North India owes its ancestry to Jaunpur.

The takeaway

The history of this Shahi pul can be traced back over thousands of years, with legacies of several different kingdoms reigning at different periods. Each dynasty brought their unique blend of architectural styles, leaving behind a generous legacy of brilliant artistry. One must visit this splendid bridge when you visit Jaunpur.