BHUNTAR, KULLU VALLEY HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA

Ugly but architecturally sound: The Bhuntar-Hatithan Bridge.

Though the river Beas flows furiously from her source the Beas Kund to her union with the Sutlej, in Punjab, some 470 kms away, she is usually a peaceful river not given to violent outbursts of temper as some of her other notorious Indian cousins are known to do on a frequent basis.

The mid 90s, however, was an exception to the rule. Heavy rains and what was possibly a glacial meltdown made the Beas seethe, fume and run amok, flooding her banks with volumes of icy cold water speeding forth with a ferocity that almost changed the face of the valley.

In a rage, the river wiped out everything in her path from roads, forests, man made structures, rock solid embankments and even the natural earthen walls that had her contained for centuries. Everything expect old iron fast here in the photo, that stood right in the middle and bore the brunt of her force without flinching – and a good thing it was too.

Constructed and maintained by the Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department, the metal structure with its riveted crisscross canvas of iron beams each weighing over a ton bridges a spot close to where the murky waters of the Beas mingles with that of the river Parvati originating from the Man Talai Glacier, in Bhuntar, Himachal Pradesh, India (see Farbound.Net story: Bustling when not sleeping).

It was and continues to be a very busy lifeline for hotels, homes, schools, villages and hamlets on the opposite side of the original national highway 21 (that falls across the river).

Each day cars, lorries and trucks loaded with people and items ranging from grocery to construction material make the crossing as do pedestrians who – clinging to its sides next to its heavy iron railings – make their way over the concrete road that vibrates with the passage of vehicles.

To many dwellers of both banks life is an unthinkable option without this ugly but very purposeful public utility that is gradually developing its own history, like countless other everyday architecture, dotting the surface of the planet.

For incoming tourists headed for the destinations of Manikaran, Kasol, Manali or Diyar, this is the landmark to look out for. The short bridge just in front with its metal plates was built by the army as an reinforced solution after the flood washed away the link way in between.

Travel Tip: The Bhuntar-Hathithan Bypass bridge is the one to take when headed for Manikaran, Kasol, Diyar or Manali in Himachal Pradesh, India.

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