Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

May conjures up images of sweltering Indian summers, but in the north-eastern mountains of Meghalaya, it is the time for the Indian Summer Monsoon. 
Cherapunjee in Meghalaya is among the rainiest places in the world; but you can easily visit it before the monsoon arrives in full force. Apart from the cool weather and beautiful clouds, the chief attractions of Cherapunjee are the famous Living Root Bridges. 

The Living Root Bridges are a man-made natural wonder. The local Khasi people developed an ancient network of bridge building that leaves visitors stunned. The secondary roots of the rubber fig tree (scientific name: Ficus elastica) are directed around a hollow betel nut bark until they stretch across the opposite bank of the river. As the tree grows, the roots are woven together and the bridge strengthened to withstand significant weight.
It takes anything from 15 to 30 years to get a bridge started, and then they go on and on, until the tree itself dies.

Here is one bridge, in the making. Perhaps in another 10 years it will be ready. Ficus trees have very long lives; so these "Living Bridges" of Meghalaya continue to live and grow for many decades.

The bridges are not easy to reach. Meghalaya is made up of valleys, and the bridges are usually at the bottom of the valley, where there is a river flowing below. It's usually a long trek down, for example, this one in Cherrapunjee.
There are several Living Root bridges in Meghalaya. There's one bridge in fact, which has been used to create seats to watch a football match :) Some bridges, like the first one in this blogpost, are on two levels (called double-decker bridges). Some are twin bridges built parallel to each other.

It is a fully developed Culture of Bridges, in which one generation invests patiently for the coming generation. How amazing is that!

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