04 Jan 2021

Explore the living root bridges of Meghalaya!

You know what it feels like to be in “the abode of the clouds”! I mean Meghalaya! Yes, Meghalaya is one of the wettest places on this planet tucked in-between Assam and Bangladesh. This mountainous plateau will mesmerize you with its surreal locales; be its countless waterfalls, twisty-misty rivers, and above all my favorite living root bridges inspired me to traverse this mystic landscape of Meghalaya and pen them down. Unlike modern building material like steel and concrete, what could be the best inspiring low-cost and sustainable way to connect the remote mountain villages settled in the steeply terrain!

Khasi and the Jaintia tribes are the brainchildren behind this ingenious creation showing their intimate relationship with their jungle. Although there is no record, it’s believed that over a few hundred years ago, these tribes noticed this species of the Indian Rubber tree and chanced upon the opportunity to plant them on each side of the bank and over a period of time, wrapped the thick elastic roots across the temporary bamboo scaffolding to connect the gap. Eventually, these roots grow thick and strong with the favorable humidity and the foot traffic, making it to bear the impressive load of more than 50 people at one go. Now, if the demand arises whenever and wherever across the riverbank, they simply grow their bridges. How cool is that!

There comes a variety of shapes and sizes too when we talk about these root bridges of Southern Meghalaya. Known to be grown as long as 170 feet and as high as 80 feet, most root bridges generally have a single span, but you will come across more than one too. Arranged either in two parallel spans or one above the other like a double-decker, “Umshiang double-decker living root bridge” is the rejoiced masterpiece of these tribes. Interestingly, the double-decker site in the Nongriat area will surprise all of us in this decade possibly with its third span which is currently being grown above the other two. Let’s wait until then!

Once you are in Cherrapunji, you may plan day trips to some of the popular living root bridges like Ummunoi Root Bridge, Ritymmen Root Bridge, Umkar Root Bridge, Mawsaw Root Bridge, etc. But remember one thing! Every root bridge demands some grit and stamina as they need to be accessed with easy to strenuous hiking.

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