Living Root Bridges

Once upon a time there lived a magical bridge.  The bridge was alive and breathing just like you and me. Oh wait! It’s not a mere figment of my imagination or a story I cooked (though I’m pretty good at that).The living roots bridges do exist in reality.  Thriving in the north eastern state of Meghalaya, these century old bridges have grown from tangled roots.  The Ficus elasticia plant produces roots which can grow high from the trunk of this tree and penetrate through rocks and boulders.

Now how did these roots turned into bridges?

The credit for these bridges goes to the war sub tribe of the “Khasis “in Meghalaya. The khasis observed these roots and channeled them through hollow trunks of trees in the direction of the riverside. When these roots reached the other side of the river, they were covered by soil allowing them to penetrate deeper into the ground. Then these roots were engraved with stones and side railings were attached to them. Voila! That’s how these mesmerizing structures came into existence. Would you believe if I told you that these bridges grow stronger as the time passes by?

Here are some interesting facts about these marvelous natural structures:

  • Living Root Bridges in Meghalaya are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Sites.
  • There is a double -decker living Root Bridge in Cherrapunji and a single decker bridge in Shillong which are prime tourist destination of Meghalaya.
  • Some of these roots last up to 500 years while others may decay gradually.
  • These bridges are quite sturdy and have the capacity to hold more than 50 people.
  • These living root bridges take more than 10-15 years to grow. How intriguing, isn’t it?
  • Out of many living root bridges found in Meghalaya only 11 are functional.
  • These bridges are a legacy passed on from one generation to the other in Meghalaya.

Double Decker living root bridges

This picturesque double decker bridge is located in the Nongirat village. You have to undertake a steep trek in order to witness this surreal view. Yes, this trek isn’t an easy one but definitely worth the effort.  The trek is amidst lush forest and rains accompany you wherever you go. That’s because Cherrapunji once held the record of receiving highest rainfall in the world.

Umshiang, the double decker living Root Bridge, is quite close from the village of Nongriat.

Tips for travelling:

  • Make sure to carry an umbrella/raincoat with you.
  • Plastic bags would come in handy. But ensure not to litter around

And after a strenuous trek, you will experience a landscape like never before. Nature; at its ever best.  This view will make sure your tiredness fades way into nothingness.

Restoring Living root Bridges

Villagers in Meghalaya came together to restore these 200 year old living root bridges which faced a threat from tourists. These root bridges were getting damaged as people lined them up with heavy stones to make it easier from them in crossing the bridges. Consequently, it weakened the roots making the bridge fragile.

Villagers used dead wood from jackfruit trees mixed with a light layer of soil serving as a great source of nutrients for the roots. The Khasi tribes also planted Areca nut trees on top of this layer so that people could walk on the bridge without stepping directly on the roots to prevent damage.

Lessons from the Khasi Tribe

While the world is facing ecological crisis, griped by issues such as mass extinction, environmental threats and global warming. The Khasi Tribe presents an excellent lesson in environmental conservation. We don’t Environmental summits or protocol if we realise our responsibility towards nature. Villagers of Meghalaya treat these bridges as a part of their heritage and take good care of them that too without any external pressure.

“Charity begins at home”. We can’t just wait for the governments to come with protocols. For the nature is not a place to visit, it is our home.

P.S. Make sure the Living root bridges do find a spot in your travel Bucket list .