CIVIL ENGINEERING MARVELS OF THE WORLD by Satyendra Nath Chattopadhyay, Department of Civil Engineering


Civil engineering means an engineering practice, the development of which means more civilization. Ancient people first needed a shelter, a source of fresh water and a means to cross rivers and lakes. Thus, buildings and structures, bridges and water purification, collection and distribution have come under the scope of civil engineering. With time, more areas such as roads, sewage treatment and disposal, water management for harvesting  and controlling of floods, study of soil on which a structure stands have added in the branch of civil engineering. Even, as on date many sub-areas and inter-disciplinary areas are getting added in the branch of civil engineering – the base line is one – it must add to the civilization.

Photo – Great Bath at Mohenjo Daro

Civilization is 5000 years old. The modern day concepts of structural engineering and soil mechanics have started trickling only from 75 years back. It means that with basic knowledge of physics, mathematics, plane and solid geometry along with co-ordinate geometry ancient people could make beautiful layout planning and with the knowledge of arches and domes, the suspended portion could be tackled. The brick preparation technology was meticulously developed and bonding of bricks which can be seen on broken ancient structures shows the adequate knowledge of chemistry was applied for preparation of bonding materials between bricks. The brick bonding is so strong that broken pieces of thousands of years old structures are inseparable even on date.

Old structures are basically of two types. One is the type which is at least one thousand years old. Structures of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, Nalanda, Konark, Ajanta and Elora, Rajgir and many other structures of Europe before industrial revolution come under this category. Seeing these structures, one get astonished how beautiful and simple is the geometric concept, how nice is the sense of aesthetics, how beautifully the structures are oriented to get the best utilization of sunlight, how scientific was the ventilation system and also how nicely the drainage was planned. This is the time when the mud brick concept has not come and the entire structure was made of stone blocks. The question comes how such massive stones were placed one after another without the help of modern day cranes etc. The second astonishing point is that how the stone joinery material was developed. History of course says that there was fantastic development of inorganic chemistry even in the time of Puranas and Vedas.

Photo – Harappan Architecture

The second type is the structures which came post industrial revolution era till mid twentieth century. Then mud bricks were sufficiently developed and usage of structural steel sections had started. Beautiful Victorian structures of Europe and those of Pathans and Mughals era are the examples of this category. Extensive use of timber, clay tiles, surkhi and lime is the special feature of this era. Steel joists were placed closely overlaid by stone slab to cater as suspended slab.

Only time will say whether modern day construction with application of latest technology is superior to other categories or not. For that those have to withstand natural calamities, earthquakes, floods etc. for thousands of years. If not, then ‘The Tajmahal’ may continue as marvel or wonder for another couple of hundred years.

Definitely wonders are designed and constructed even on date. The euro-tunnel, numbers of long span bridges in South Korea and Japan, the rail link through mountain connecting mainland China and Tibet are the examples of such.

Marvels are no more linked with hugeness and elegance of a structure. Now, Marvels are those which are constructed controlling the cost and time disturbing people the least in thickly congested area. From that point of view, many flyovers of Kolkata with prefabricated T-portals are one of the best examples of modern day marvels.


Photo – Ellora Cave Temple

Photo – Buddhist Painting on Ajanta Cave Wall

Photo – Konarak


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