Did You Know There’s Living Bridges Made of Roots in India?
There are bridges around the world, which some would say are the pinnacle of human ingenuity. Bridges constructed with mind boggling techniques, showcasing modern engineering at it’s finest.
However, there are bridges of a different type in Meghalaya, India. Bridges you’ve probably never heard of which are possibly more remarkable than the most technically sophisticated engineering mankind has imagined.
These other bridges are masterful work of creative geniuses for they take an unmatched level of creativity and patience to grow. Yes, you read that right, I said grow. I’m referring to the remarkable Living Root Bridges of India.
These living root bridges located in Meghalaya, India were being built long before the availability of modern construction materials. The Khasi devised an ingenious way to traverse the turbulent waterways and link isolated villages: living root bridges, locally known as jing kieng jri.
Tree trunks are planted on each side of the bank to create a sturdy foundation, and over the course of 15 to 30 years, the Khasi slowly thread Ficus elastica roots across a temporary bamboo scaffolding to connect the gap.
A combination of humidity and foot traffic help compact the soil over time, and the tangle of roots grows thick and strong. Mature living root bridges stretch 15 to 250 feet over deep rivers and gorges, and can bear impressive loads—upwards of 35 people at a time.
Unlike modern building materials such as concrete and steel, these structures typically become more resilient with age and can survive centuries.
They regularly withstand flash flooding and storm surges that are common in the region—a low-cost and sustainable way to connect remote mountain villages scattered throughout the steep terrain. The exact origin of the tradition in this region is unknown, but the first written record appears more than a hundred years ago.
They are grown by trained Khasi and Jaintia tribes who have mastered the art of growing root bridges across raised banks of streams running through the dense woods of Meghalaya
Fast Facts about the bridges
- The Living Root Bridges are made from rubber tree roots also known as Ficus elastica tree.
- Some of the living root bridges are over 250 feet long and take 10 to 15 years to attain the perfect shape.
- Once fully grown, these roots last for as long as 500 years. While some of the roots decay because of their continuous association with water, others grow and make up for the decayed, thus providing the required stability to the bridge.
- Of all the Living Root Bridges in Meghalaya, the double-decker root bridge in Cherrapunji and the single-decker root bridge in Shillong are the prime attraction in the Northeast.
- Living Root Bridges in Meghalaya are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Sites.
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