Of trigonometry and towers — and two centuries of history

Shiv Sahay Singh has a piece in Hindu:

Often believed by locals and passersby to be abandoned churches or lighthouses, these lofty towers built of fired bricks can be spotted in and around Kolkata.

Not many are aware that these structures, rising 20 m above the ground, were built to undertake one of the greatest surveys in the 19th century — the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS) — aimed at measuring the entire terrain of the Indian subcontinent and the great Himalayan mountain peaks including Mount Everest.

Almost 200 years after the GTS was undertaken, a group of geographers and archaeologists have surveyed 15 such towers spread around 50 km radius of Kolkata under the project, “Legacies of the GTS in West Bengal.”

Keith Lilley, professor of historical geography at Queen’s University Belfast and the principal investigator of the project, said that some towers have survived while some others are soon to be lost forever.

“Restoration of these towers is possible and is also important. What is required is an assessment and consolidation of these structures. These structures have been built on firm ground and have survived almost 200 years,” Prof. Lilley told The Hindu.

How in India we just neither preserve nor care for these historic constructions.

More stories:

There are other fascinating stories about the GTS towers.

Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, was named George Everest, the first Surveyor General of India who had described the GTS as “perhaps of itself the most herculean undertaking on which any Government ever embarked.”

“George Everest was particularly pleased with the towers erected in the north of the city, now on the Barrackpore Trunk Road, which was referred as Calcutta Baseline for the survey. Interestingly, these towers were built under the guidance of Radhanath Sikdar, a city-based mathematician who played an important role in the survey,” said Rajat Sanyal, also an assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology.

In an attempt to highlight the cultural significance of the heritage, an exhibition titled “Legacies of the GTS in West Bengal” will be organised by the National Library, Kolkata, later this month.

“There are hundreds of thousands of such towers and trigonometrical stations across the sub-continent and a detailed study can bring more awareness about the collective value of these towers and the significance which GTS has not only for India but for the world,” Prof. Lilley said.

 

2 Responses to “Of trigonometry and towers — and two centuries of history”

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