India – History and Society – for those who wish to think and learn for themselves
Rajahmundry is a prosperous town in the Godavari district of the state of Andhra Pradesh in Deccan India. It is part of the rice bowl of Andhra Pradesh, a region of rich agricultural produce. Rajahmundry also claims to be the birth place of Telugu, the predominant language spoken in the state of Andhra Pradesh by the Telugu people.
Rajahmundry is also famous of its very long bridges across the Godavari river, which flows into the Bay of Bengal a few miles further away.
Sir Arthur Cotton was a British irrigation engineer who made his name building dams in the Thanjavur (Tanjore) delta in the state of modern Tamil Nadu (old Madras Presidency). His dams across the Cauvery (Kaveri) river led to Thanjavur becoming the rice bowl of Madras.
Sir Arthur Cotton was born in 1803. After first working for the Ordinance Survey of Wales, he moved to India in 1821. His work for the Madras Engineers was soon recognised and he was tasked with working on the Cauvery Basin. Success there led to an invitation to consider building dams across the Krishna and Godavari rivers. Work on the Godavari dam at Dowleswaram commenced in 1847. Cotton left for a brief spell in Australia. allegedly due to ill health. However, he returned in a promoted capacity in 1850 and supervised the successful completion of the Godavari project in 1852. The Dowleswaram barrage was an engineering feat of the mid-19th century, built sourcing local materials and stretching 900 yards.
After the success of Dowleswaram, Cotton then turned his attention to the Krishna river and a dam was completed in 1855.
For his efforts across the British empire, Cotton was knighted in the year 1877. He passed away in 1899 at the age of 96.
Sir Arthur Cotton remains revered in coastal Andhra Pradesh. His efforts are recognised as having transformed the economy and society of modern day Godavari and Krishna districts. Approximately 3,000 statues of him adorn these districts. In 1982, a new dam built upstream from the Dowleswaram barrage on the Godavari was named after Sir Cotton by the then President of India.
Three rail bridges span the Godavari at Rajahmundry carrying traffic on the Howrah (Calcutta) to Madras trunk route. The first rail bridge built in 1897 spanned 3 kilometres and was for many years the longest bridge in Asia. In 1977, a second rail cum road bridge was built. In 1997, a new rail bridge was built and effectively replaced the 1897 bridge.
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Picture of Sir Arthur Cotton statue in Andhra Pradesh – courtesy of GNU Licence – photo taken by Chavaikiran on October 31st, 2008.