Two lions in sitting position looking alert and majestic on the two sides of Ganga Canal in Roorkee can never be missed by anyone entering Roorkee and Haridwar via Ganga canal road route.
There are five statues of lions in Roorkee around which are significant landmarks since the colonial era when the Ganga Canal was constructed under the supervision of Colonel PB Cautley.
Cautley was an army officers who was made in-charge of the canal construction. These lions which act as marks of danger zone in canal must be conserved, say the local residents and IIT engineers.
Four lion statues are built along the Ganga canal, two each at Roorkee and Mehwar village while the fifth one is installed in Sher Kothi in Roorkee.
This fifth lion was first built as a model and after it was perfected and finalised in design, the four other statues were built along the canal, say the IIT engineers. The famous Ganga canal stretches till Kanpur traversing through Muzaffarnagar.
Retired professor of IIT Roorkee SC Handa said, “Going from Roorkee to Haridwar there is a village called Mehwar located 2.5 kilometres from Roorkee on the upstream side.
Two lions are built on the two edges of the canal at that point. Lot of land filling had to be done for the canal to keep the required level between Roorkee town and Mehwar.
The two lions at each point were built to indicate that the canal in the filled up portion is in danger zone and lions are there to safeguard the region. If there can be a breach in the zone, the canal being at greater height compared to the surrounding land will inundate the surrounding area and flood so many villages nearby.”
The reference of these lions comes in the book titled History of Thomsan College of Engineering (earlier name of IIT Roorkee), which is the oldest engineering college of India wherein there is mention of the figure of a lordly lion, sitting but alert, paws stretched out and head held high, confident in his majesty and power, but showing neither fear nor ferocity. This lion was adopted as the embodiment of the spirit of Roorkee college. While the design of the emblem changed a few times over the years, the lion continued to be its integral part and is still very much appearance in many places.
The apathy of district administration and irrigation department has led to encroachment of the area Sher Kothi, where Cautley used to live.
“These are historic landmarks and the government must take measures to conserve them. Irrigation department paints the lions after years but Sher Kothi sample lion is in shambles,” said a local resident, Kamal Kumar.
It is said the lions are similar in structure to the ones erected in Trafalgar Square in London, England. They are made of black granite while the lions in Roorkee are of bricks and lime mortar since cement was not available at that time but dimensions and form matches that of the lions in London.