India Travel

The Majestic Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Living root bridges have become a topic of intense curiosity around the globe, and suddenly, there has been a sharp increase in the number of tourists coming to have a look at them. If you still don’t know what they are or are just curious, continue reading.

Why Were Root Bridges Made?

Meghalaya is one state that gets more rain annually than any other place in the entire world. Because of this, the state is filled with dense tropical forests, massive waterfalls and mesmerising streams.

Rainbow Fall in Nongriat Village
Rainbow Fall in Nongriat Village. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

In the tribal villages of these dense forests, the water level of the streams can get to a steep level. The villagers realised more than a century ago that building wooden bridges above these streams would be worthless because the heavy and never ending downpour of rain every day would wear it out. As a result, the tribals (especially the Khasi tribes) found a unique, brilliant and indigenous way to solve this problem. Thus, the concept of living root bridge was invented.

What Are Root Bridges?

In almost all the areas of Meghalaya, rubber trees are plenty. Therefore, the indigenous tribal communities made use of the strong roots of these trees to cross the streams.

The firm and aerial roots of the rubber trees are made to grow through betel trunks. It usually takes 15 years for the growth of the roots to complete. To these intermingled roots, sticks, stones and various such materials are included. This aids in making the bridge more stable.

The major benefit of making these bridges are that even though they might take a longer time to be created, they’ll get stronger with time. They will not wear out with the constant and torrential rains. Instead, they’ll grow more stable and stronger because of the favourable climatic conditions. Some of the existing root bridges are said to be older than 150 years! Now compare that with a wooden or steel bridge. Not to mention the hundreds of benefits that come with such a natural initiative.

Where Are Root Bridges Found?

As mentioned earlier, these are only found in areas of Meghalaya and not anywhere else in the world.

The Jaintia tribes and the Khasi tribes living in the West Jaintia Hills and East Khasi Hills respectively were the first ones to make these bridges. A must-visit living root bridge is in Cherrapunji. The reason for this one to be so special is that it is the only double-decker root bridge. Because of the increasing water level of the stream, the first bridge got submerged most of the time. As a result, another higher bridge was made, and it became the most visited root bridge by tourists.

Double-decker root bridge
Double-decker root bridge. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

What To Expect

  1. Most of the tourists love visiting Cherrapunji for its double decker root bridge but keep in mind that Cherrapunji has the title of being the wettest place on earth. Therefore, you can only imagine how much it rains here. Be prepared for the wetness then if you plan on making a trip to Meghalaya.
  2. Another important thing to remember is that most of these root bridges are situated deep in the forest. A taxi will only take you so far. After that, you’ll have to trek for hours until you reach them deep in the tropical woods. But trust me, when you do reach there, it’ll be all worth it.
  3. Most of the villagers living near these bridges are used to the constantly increasing tourism. Therefore, they’ll give you an accommodation to rest. They’re very friendly and helpful as well so you can expect to receive the best service that they can provide.
  4. Most of all, the bridges and the area surrounding them is magical. It’s like a scene from a fairytale. The bridges don’t only have a stream under them, but there are also waterfalls and a bunch of butterflies nearby. The entire area and the people living there are so interconnected and one with nature that it’ll leave a great impression on your mind. It’s an out-of-this-world kind of feeling. Besides, you have to visit something that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, right?
Natural Pool near the double-decker living root bridge.
Natural Pool near the double-decker living root bridge. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

By Merlin Chacko

Currently studying English Literature at Delhi University. Obsessed with Harry Potter and NOT Shakespeare. I believe that nothing nourishes the soul like books and travelling. Constantly amazed by the Indian culture and its history. Personally feel that the old forts and ruined palaces in India are almost magical.

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