In the depths of northeastern India, in one of the wettest places on earth, bridges aren't built—they're grown.
The root bridges, some of which are over a hundred feet long, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional, but they're extraordinarily strong—strong enough that some of them can support the weight of fifty or more people at a time. In fact, because they are alive and still growing, the bridges actually gain strength over time—and some of the ancient root bridges used daily by the people of the villages around Cherrapunji may be well over 500 years old.
The lower reaches of the southern slopes of Khasi and Jaintia hills are humid and warm and are streaked by many swift flowing rivers and mountain streams.A species of Indian Rubber tree - botanical name: Ficus elastica - thrives and flourishes alongside these streams and rivers.
Our ancestors, the early war-Khasis, had noticed these qualities of this tree and had adapted it to serve their need for bridges to cross rivers and streams.In order to direct the roots in the desired direction, betel nut tree trunks, sliced half in the middle for their entire length, are hollowed out and are positioned according to the requirement of the bridge.
Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort has brought the focus on these Living Root Bridges, which are exclusive only to Meghalaya and are not found anywhere else in the world.
At the base of India's Meghalaya Plateau, the local tribes have created bridges across the area's rivers using living tree roots and branches. These bridges last for hundreds of years (the lifetime of the tree).
On the surface of the bridge, which you can see below, rocks and bits of wood have been added to the mix to make for an easier crossing. There is an additional reason for the bits of wood though. As the wood decomposes, it provides nutrients for the tree roots growing around it:
These wonders of bioengineering are an eloquent testimony to man’s capacity to live in harmony with nature.