The Living Root Bridge

The living root bridges of Meghalaya are a unique feat of bio-engineering. Instead of building bridges, the Khasis grow them. Although I had never seen a living root bridge, Lotusleaf’s recent visit and description lured us to the site!! This is the picture of the bridge at Wahthyllong, near Mawlynnong.

On Friday we left for Shillong and the next morning we took the long and winding road to  East Khasi Hills. The drive was beautiful. Wildflowers greeted us all along the way and the weather was wonderfully pleasant.

Baskets for dumping litter on the way to the root bridge. This place is close to the Mawlynnong which has been named the cleanest village in Asia. Bamboo baskets are placed all across the village. Unlike most Indian villages, not a scrap of paper or any sign of litter can be seen on the village streets. But more about that in a future post.

A common feature of this area…huge rocks!

You hear the rush of the water well before you see the sparkling stream. The local people discovered an ingenuous way of crossing these fast-flowing streams hundreds of years ago. This bridge at Wahthyllong is believed to be at least 100-150 years old.

The pathway that is used everyday by people in the area. Because of the terrain, the best mode of transport is on foot!

How are these bridges made? Bamboo or the hollowed out trunks of the betel nut tree are placed across the stream. Then the roots of the Rubber Tree/Ficus elastica (native to the north-eastern region) are trained to grow in a straight line across the bamboo or betel nut trunk. When they reach the other side they’re allowed to take root on the soil. Over a period of time, as the roots keep growing, the bridge is sturdy and ready for use. Stones are inserted in the gaps later making it look like a stone-covered pathway.

According to a site that I checked, no timber constructed bridge would survive the seasonal battering of these water courses nor the depredations of the ubiquitous white ant colonies living in these jungles. Source.

The region receives a high amount of rainfall. Cherrapunjee, once known as the wettest place on earth before the title went to Mawsynram, are all in the vicinity.

Criss cross patterns created by the roots. The root bridges are strong enough to support fifty or more people at one time. Some bridges are over a hundred feet long and these bridges take about ten to fifteen years to become fully functional.

My husband on the bridge.

All man-made structures grow weaker with age but for these living bridges, they get stronger and stronger with the passing of  time.

I’m linking my post to Lotusleaf’s. You can check out more pictures and details @ http://lotusleaf-gardentropics.blogspot.com/2011/04/magical-bridge-of-mawlynnong.html

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About Kanak Hagjer

Hello from north-east India! I love to blog about all things floral and foliar and sharing the beauty of my region is what I am most passionate about!
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21 Responses to The Living Root Bridge

  1. Mildred says:

    Such beautiful and amazing photos Kanak. Thank you for sharing your world with us. How I would love to see this in person!

  2. Andrea says:

    Hi Kanak, that is amazing resourcefullness of the people there. I am familiar with Ficus elastica and i can relate to the bridge structure. That tree when already big looks eerie, so i can imagine the alien-looking site there. Very ingenious, i love it.

  3. An amazing landscape!

  4. Never in my life have I seen anything like this! If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it!! So you both went on the bridge? How many are there?

  5. Elu says:

    You should also consider visiting the ” sacred groves” of Mawphlang.It’s near Upper Shillong,but of course none should go too near to these groves.These groves are a testimony to the traditional Seng Khasi faith in which respect for nature is pivotal.

  6. joco says:

    Fabulous post. Such an unexpected way of constructing and the fact that it remains sound and safe makes it even better.
    Hmmm, did you cross?
    Just wondering.
    And what beautiful scenery. Those rolling hills/mountains.
    So very different from what I’m used to.

    • kanak7 says:

      Thanks Joco. Oh yes, I did! Most of the pictures were taken after crossing the bridge. The light was better on the other side.

      The state of Meghalaya is indeed beautiful…spectacular scenery, I must say!

  7. lotusleaf says:

    lovely pictures and information Kanak. I was so glad to see your posts.mrvpadma@yahoo.co.in

  8. daisugi says:

    what a beautiful place! I love it

  9. Shailaja says:

    A man-made biological wonder! and, a not-to-be-missed post peppered with some terrific pics !!

  10. Pingback: Mawlynnong : GreenCamp.in

  11. Thanks for giving our reference and for this post. We have also linked this post with a photo of Living Root Bridge on http://greencamp.in/2010/06/mawlynnong/

  12. Adhar says:

    Hi,
    I need some info from all you guys about a visit to the living root bridge . II will be staying in Shillong on 29th and 30th December .I want to visit the living root bridge on any one of these days . Can you please share the details about how to reach this place from Shillong .

  13. Hi, Please update the “Mawlynnong” link to http://ontrip.in/mawlynnong/ (g r e e n c a m p (dot) i n was permanently removed)

  14. ladyfi says:

    Those living root bridges are amazing. Wonderful!

  15. Pingback: Ontrip | Mawlynnong

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