Mandvi is a Sea Town and once was a major port of Cutch Region. It already has a 400 year old Shipbuilding Industry. The 18th Century time period was the prime time of Mandvi, Merchants of the town had a fleet of over 400 vessels and Mandvi was one of the important trade centers for maritime trade. So many adventurous stories of brave and noble people were of the time we know today. More on that later in posts and films.
Breakwater lighthouse was damaged several times, one time by cyclone and was repaired by britishers of the time. It is an iconic symbol of Mandvi with running walls into the Sea and beacon at end. It is wondered how the lighthouse would look at nighttime from standing on boat in Sea far away.
Building of the Main Lighthouse at Mandvi
The Trade was conducted from years on with the Arabian Sea. The Port was built in 1580 by Rao Khengarji. Prior to that, there is less history about the trades which needs to be further researched.
In the 1600s, a fort was built to protect the town from pirates. A total of 7 bastions and walls covered the entire town. One of the bastions was used as an observation post. Whenever Ship was expected, the flag would be hoisted in daytime and light in nighttime. In 1856 a tower of 14.38m was built on a 10m high bastion. The height of lamp from sea level was at 12.38m
Electricity was not invented yet, the source of light was oil lamps, coal or wood pyres continuously maintained by the light keeper. It was the time when lights were new and just coming into use widely. In 1873 a fixed light was installed at Mandvi, and they kept on upgrading it for years and the flames improved. It was very costly to keep a lighthouse running and maintain it.
After many upgrades, a modern light of 1000W was installed in 1964. By this time, the lighthouse was a 21m concrete cylinder tower on top of a 10m bastion. It was painted with red and white bands horizontally. This is done to make the lighthouse stand against the horizon. It flashed white light 3 times every 30 seconds and had a range of about 38 kms. This was the last upgrade until the fall of lighthouse in 2001
Taking Down of the Iconic Lighthouse of Mandvi
Every local knows that the lighthouse was damaged in the Dark Earthquake of Kutch, 2001. It was a foggy winter morning on 26 January. India was celebrating its 50th Republic Day. The Head lightkeeper was climbing above for the flag hoisting ceremony. From the top of the bastion, Mandvi under fog was visible, many vessels were anchored at port getting ready to load and sail at 8.30 AM, all the lighthouse staff together saluted the flag and sang the national anthem. They were down to see the parade on TV and sweets distribution was going on at the base.
10 minutes after 9 AM, Earth started to shake violently, and they could see the lighthouse moving back and forth like a spoon. The lantern room's glass started falling and everyone ran to the open space. Earthquake of Richter scale 7.7 was recorded and fortunately no one was hurt. Damage in Mandvi was less compared to other places where thousands passed away and hundreds of families were broken forever. It was the darkest day people of modern times had ever seen. No one still could forget that event. A separate article will be dedicated to it in future.
The electricity and communication were cut off for weeks and major connecting roads were damaged. Almost all the nearby lighthouses were fully damaged or abandoned. Some needed heavy repairs. Government inspectors came for damage check on the lighthouse and alas it was decided to decommission Mandvi Lighthouse as damage was beyond repair.
February 25, undamaged things were all taken out, ropes were tied to the tower and an earthmover pulled it. The Historical Tower made by the King and people of Cutch came down with bang and crashed into the edge of the bastion and broke into two pieces. Even today talking about old lighthouse brings nostalgia to the seniors and grown-up people of Mandvi.
Trying to restore the above monochrome images with modern technology and AI tools:
New and Current Lighthouse of Mandvi
After the old lighthouse, a temporary iron tower on bastion was installed for light and finally after years the New Lighthouse of Mandvi was completed in 2012 with radar and various sensors. It stands at a height of 45m. The new lighthouse located just beside the bastion of the old lighthouse is the new symbol of Mandvi.
It is not the highest among 8 lighthouses of Kutch. Most of them have similar designs and most new ones were commissioned by the government around the same time across Gujarat. It has a powerful light and control room above it. It will be a decade for this lighthouse this month. It now stands as the symbol of Mandvi. Here are some views taken from the light room floor recently.
Update: It looks like main halogen light is now replaced with more power efficient LED.
There are lighthouses that were engineering marvels of the time and still inspire structural designs today. Some are very complexly built, and engineers innovated many things to improve its usability as navigation aid. Even the lighthouses have several types such as offshore or onshore. Yes, some still stand in water. They are so well-built creations of great engineers; these structures stand still as a symbol of help or home is near.
What Should be the Future of Lighthouses
The use of them is very less in the days of advanced technology of satellite navigation. They also require huge maintenance and electricity to keep them running. So, preservation of old lighthouses is taking place and they should be converted as a tourism opportunity. The New lighthouse is being built at Ravalpir, nearby beach of Mandvi which already had a decent lighthouse for years.
People would love a lighthouse theme park on the Sea based on old designs with rides of great adventurous stories of the Arabian. They should never be allowed to fade. New Lighthouses in heritage style that connect to the tone of Sea and Help should be built to inspire the young generation.
The Adventurous Spirit of Lighthouses keeps firing
Lighthouses in old time consisted of lightkeeper living quarter, fuel house, boat house, fog signaling building. Imagine a room inside offshore lighthouse for single keeper and he alone handles everything. It horrifies but it is always good to hear as a story. Not as in The Lighthouse Movie, 2019.
Lighthouses are built well to stand in storms and be running on lighting strikes. The scenes coming into mind just by reading this, juices the thrill of lighthouses. Beacons, warnings, sea storms, lightships, foghorns, range lights - these words give goosebumps when spoken that there will always be something standing as help in the dark times. I just love looking at them curiously and imagining stories of the time.
The motive behind this post was to make people aware. There are many who do not know the story of the structure, they see daily and a little informational experience for travelers.