pillarWhile the cry for protection of our rich cultural heritage getting louder and louder, here is a historical monument remains un noticed in the heart of Chennai city. And, of the 85 protected monuments under the State Archaeological Department, this is the only monument located in Chennai city.

Adrian Bridge was built in 1786 over ‘Long Tank’, a canal which once existed on the edge of Mount Road between Nandanam and Saidapet. It was built by Adrian Four Beck, a British merchant, for the benefit of the general public and a pillar was erected to commemorate the construction of the bridge. Apart from the inscription on the pillar, very little information is available in the official records about the bridge. The website of the state archaeological department mentions it as ‘Memorial pillar’.

Over the years, Long Tank has been reduced to a sewerage carrying city’s waste and the bridge, with no proper maintenance, is hardly noticeable. Though the government has declared it as a protected monument, the pillar is lying unnoticed under a tree inside the mechanical section office of the rural highways department at Saidapet, a few metres away from the Bridge.

“Most of the important historical monuments in the city are under the direct control of the ASI. State archaeological department maintains 85 protected monuments spread across the state. Memorial pillar is the only monument protected by the department within city limits,” said V Ramamurthy, nodal officer, archaeological department.

A brief history of the bridge has been inscribed on the pillar in Latin, English, Persian and Tamil. The inscription reads, “The bridge erected as public benefit from a legacy bestowed by Adrian Four Beck, a merchant of Madras, is a monument useful as lasting of the good citizen’s munificent liberality. It was erected by his executives T Peling de Fries and P Bodkin under the direction of Lt Col Pat Ross.” “Since the pillar contains valuable information about the bridge, a few years ago, it was shifted from near the bridge to a safer place and put inside the highways department complex,” said an official at the state archaeological department. Even though, the Archaeological Survey of India restricts construction near the historical monuments, commercial buildings have come up close to the pillar.

“There are laws restricting constructions near monuments, but many times implementation is a difficult task. However, following the ASI notification of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, we are drafting a proposal on protection of each monument, to be sent to the government. But it may take some time to get it implemented in letter and spirit,” said an official at the State archaeological department who does not want to be named.

Experts say public has to play an important role in the protection of monuments. “We have to admit that many of our monuments are under threat of encroachments. Even though the authorities taking steps to protect them, the level of public awareness is very low in the state,” said Dr PD Balaji, head of the department of ancient history and archaeology, University of Madras.

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