An Autobiography of a Pharos
Hey! The visitors of Ganga Sagar… You people come here, offer Puja in the Ashram of the great saint Kapil after having a holy bath in the Bay of Bengal. This place is considered as one of the holiest pilgrims of India. Every year, lakh and lakh of devotees come hereto perform their holy bath in the Makar Sankranti. On a full moon night, the sea looks extremely beautiful. I execute a breathe of relief that without me, at least for a single day in every month, my fisher men brothers are able to control their boats... But for all other days, from dusk to dawn, I am the one and only constant source of friend, philosopher and guide. I am the sole one who shows them the right path for their livelihood. Now friends, can you guess who am I? Well, the last clue--- though I throw the light for the right path for innumerable people in the sea but I basically stand idle and isolated over hundred of years with no companion of mine. Now, I know, my identity is revealed. Yes… I am the “lighthouse”, the light house of Ganga Sagar area.
Many years ago, people lived in a primitive way, hunting and growing their own food. Eventually, they decided to explore the water in a boat in search of what the sea had to offer for food. During the day it was easy for them to find their way home, maybe by a pile of rocks they had left on the shore or some other type of sign. Night was a different story since much of the shore looked the same. Friends would often help them out by building bonfires on top of a high point to guide them safely home. Sometimes, nature even helped by providing a glowing volcano as a guide in aiding the sailor to find their way home. As bigger ships were built and mariners sailed further from home, many were wrecked as the waves pushed them into rocky shores or dangerous reefs. So the need for some type of warning signal arose. We, the species of lighthouses came into being. India has had a glorious maritime tradition. From the dawn of civilization and for the past 30 centuries, India has had commercial dealings with foreign countries and has maintained herself as a foremost maritime nation. India was part of the British Empire until 1947, so the lighthouse heritage is British. However, only a fraction of the original British lighthouses remain in use; new towers have been built at most of the stations. India has also built many lighthouses at new locations in recent years.
Excavations relating to the Indus Valley Civilization in 3000 B.C. have revealed that Lothal in Gujarat was then a flourishing port with excellent dock facilities. When my earliest ancestor, the famous Pharos of Alexandria was built in Egypt by Ptolemy II in the 3rd Century B.C., it is quite likely that Ashoka who was his contemporary was also responsible for building similar lighthouses on India's coastline. The first one was built in Egypt around 280 BC. Records tell us that the Pharos of Alexandria, Egypt was the tallest lighthouse ever built - 450' (about the size of a 45-story skyscraper today). The source of light was an open fire at the top. Pity the poor keeper who forgot to bring the matches, or whatever they used, after climbing all the way to the top of the lighthouse. The Pharos lasted for 1500 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in the 14th Century. It is a pride for all of us, scattering all over the world, till date even.
Now, let me present you with my vivid descriptions. My foremost ascendant of this area was constructed in the year 1821 on a 20m wooden tripod situated at a nearby location. The light source was a revolving reflector array consisting of 14 lamps. In 1852 the same source was shifted on to a new tower. In 1897, the source was replaced by the revolving optic. However erosion of coastline necessitated planning a new Lighthouse away from the coast. Accordingly the present cast iron tower was erected in 1909. The same tower is still in operation. I got my birth in 18th May1911 with a revolving optic with 35mm P.V. burner light source My station is under control of Kolkata Port Trust.
I am a structure with a light at the top which is located in a place which is considered to be important or dangerous to navigation. The two main purposes of a mine are to serve as a navigational aid to help sailors know where they are and to warn mariners of dangerous areas. I am to a sailor what a Seeing Eye dog is to a blind person. . I am here to warn sailors of dangerous reefs under the sea, rocky coasts on land, and to guide ships to the entrances of bays and harbors. The message has always been; STAY AWAY, DANGER, BEWARE, or COME THIS WAY. I, no matter tell every mariner, THIS IS EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE. So, to always avoid the hazards, navigate to a safe harbor, and to always know where you are, please let me beacon forever shine.
My Sr. No. is F-1028. I am positioned in 21° 39.4’ N and 88°02.9’ E. I flash in white colour in every 3 seconds. I am a 24m high Cast Iron Tower with red & white bands. My height above MSL is 26 m with 17 nautical miles. I am basically a 250mm of 4th order revolving optic. The upper most portion of tower functions as murrette of Lantern house. I am illuminated by a 35mm PV burner. My source of energy is kerosene oil. I commissioned my first light in 1821 and my telecom RT link is with DLL Office, Kolkata.
I often think in my leisure time that why are so many people drawn to me, whosoever visit here? There are probably a lot of different reasons. Maybe it is because I am situated in one of the most beautiful places in India, on rugged coast lines dotted with trees, others along the sandy beaches with numerous offshore shoals., To some, I appeal to their nostalgic or artistic senses Yet it may be that they are drawn to the me due to the multitude of heroic rescues associated with them. It does not matter, whether warning mariners of danger or aiding them in finding safe passage into the harbor, I stand today as in the past stand as beacons of safety and security. I am the mystic part of our past, present, and future. Let my lights forever shine.
In the earlier years when we were in the first decades of our existence, some deaths took place due to the non-availability of Medical Aid. As such a doctor and a compounder were posted at the station dispensary. Then there was a Teacher for conducting primary classes for the staff children. The Light keepers, Sailboat crew, Shikari, Watchman, Lascars, Bhandari, Dhobi in all about 25 strong contingent lived at the station. The barrack accommodation was provided to all of them. The LH expert Mr Alan D Stevenson during his visit to the station in 1926 made a critical reference to the staff strength and recommended for reduction. However due to improvements with the modernization, shifting of Radio Beacon, there were left only the three Light keepers and two attendant staff towards the end of 20th century.
While you often think that we are as a tall cone shaped tower, in many colours, shapes, and sizes. Depending on where we are built, we may be tall, short, or squat. We can be square, octagonal, conical, cylindrical or even skeletal. While many of us stand alone, some have a building attached where the keeper of the lighthouse stayed. As a general rule, lighthouses were built of whatever materials were readily available. This could be stones, wood, concrete, steel, cast-iron, or even a mixture of shells, lime, water, and sand. Therefore, we are tended to be unique. We are found in a variety of locations; rocky cliffs, sandy shoals on land, on a water swept reef at sea, and at entrances to bays and harbors. We are also found where there are hidden rocks and reefs on which ships could be wrecked and are found on jutting headlands and peninsulas and wherever the seascape poses danger to ships.
Lastly, let me share with you all some of my inner feelings. I stand here alone, isolated in a far off land like “Ozymandias’. But though physically I dwell deserted but I am never the same mentally because I feel not only proud to perform my duty also I love to be “the Lady with the lamp” in its true sense. Can you ever imagine the measure of my joy and responsibility when I feel that only and only due to me, some hundreds of family survive? Safely and peacefully. In rain, cold and in heat too, I can never ever get ceased from my duty. I want to convey this message to you all that – we must go on performing our own duties without bothering about our own botherations and lonliness.If we can do a little bit or the others, you can never know how much your contentment you feel at this!
I would love to invite all of you to come to me and have a visit during your stay in the Ganga Sagar. Sagar is a large Island situated on the mouths of Ganges. Regular buses ply from Esplanade, Kolkata to Harwood point jetty for crossing the river Ganga by a passenger barge to reach Kochuberia. From Kochuberia buses ply up to Kapil Muni Ashram at the southern tip of the Island at the confluence of Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. Lighthouse junction (about 25 km from Kochuberia) falls on this route. The 3 kms approach road to me from Lighthouse junction is brick paved road.