Living Tree Root Bridges at Meghalaya
You might have seen many bridges in a huge number of cities built with concrete, steels and even with woods as they play a vital role in building bridges. Even Lord Rama built a bridge with stones and mud to cross the Indian ocean between India and Sri Lanka as mentioned in the Epic Ramayana.
But in the Indian State Meghalaya, one of the seven sisters of the North Eastern states of India, bridges are grown or made to grow. This state has three major tribes and the forefathers of War Khasi tribe from this North Eastern state made this bridges to grow. Meghalaya state is also called Abode of clouds. The other two tribes are the Jaitias and Garos. This ancient bridge technology may look easy to do but practically it is difficult as it takes a long time to grow a root bridge.
The hard surface of these natural bridges in the thick forest of Khasi Hills is made with the roots of the rubber tree (Ficus Elastica) which makes incredibly strong. It’s also interesting to note that Meghalaya is also called as East Garo district and West Jaitia Hills district.
The tunnels of hallowed betel nut trunks are covered with strong roots of rubber tree across the fast flowing streams and rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges.
Nowadays constructing a modern concrete bridge may take 3-5 years of time but these natural bridge construction may consume huge time around ten to fifteen years normally. These natural bridges provide a stable foothold and it can grow approximately fifty to hundred feet long with deep and strong roots. It can withstand up to fifty people at a time. But the key point, the life span of these natural bridges is around 450-500years which is higher than the lifespan of most of the modern bridges.
The most famous bridge among those is Umshiang Double-Decker root bridge in Nongriat village, you have to travel around 70kms from the city Shillong. This bridge is 2 centuries old. This place receives a lot of rain, so wooden bridges rot and decay. But Root bridges are alive and growing and so gain strength over time.