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.
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.
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.
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.
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