The living root bridges of Cherrapunji, India.

Root bridges, Cherrapunji,India.

Cherrapunj (The original name for this town was Sohra), which was pronounced "Churra" by the British) in Meghalaya, NE India, is one of a few places in the world known for the highest rainfall in a year. During the monsoon season - both the southwest and northeast monsoonal winds, giving it a single monsoon season. This region is the one of the few wettest places  on earth  and for this reason it is one of the most fertile places in the country  blanketed by thick rainforest and sacred groves protected by the Khasi people. The root bridges here are sturdy and much stronger than those in the Khasi District, Meghalaya state.
Chirrapunji, India

Seven sisters falls, Cherrapunji, India.

Above image: Water cascades down Meghalaya’s steep cliffs. It is one of the wettest regions on Earth.

An unusual example of this is the occurrences of strong and sturdy roots in the forest areas. A particular species of Indian rubber tree known as ''Ficus elastica'' grows roots that are so strong that they can, at a time, support the weight of dozens of people. They are being used by the villagers  to build bridges, using entirely roots and some old bridges can, at a time, easily support 40 to 50 people. They are almost 18 inches broad and 6 inches thick and rigid. These strange natural roots form strong natural bridges that can be used and served as regular bridges upon which people can walk without fear of sudden snapping in the middle of the bridge. They are really strong and will not give-in that easily. Further, it is a tough job to cut them loose.

Khasi tribal children, Cherrapunji,India944 .

How are the root bridges built?

Engineers build all kinds of bridges world over using latest technology but the tribes living here - Khasis of Meghalaya, grow natural root bridges with skill and dexterity and the knowledge of local trees and plants,  They use tree trunks for areal mobility.

Some of these bridges are more than a hundred feet long. The Umshiang Ficus Elastica or the Rubber tree produces strong secondary roots from their trunks  they  have been set-up to grow in a particular direction using betel-nut trunks as scaffolding  across the gap connecting the trunk on the other side.  They form  sturdy  living bridges over decades. 'The Umshiang Double Decker Bridge' is truly one of a kind in the entire world.  It takes 10 to 15 years for the root bridges to fully grow and join roots on the opposite side of the river. They continue to grow and gain strength as years go by. Later they become fully functional. A double-decker root bridge in Cheerapunji is one of the main attractions in Meghalaya. The growing tourism in the region supports the local economy. These pretty old root bridges continue to stay strong provided they are being taken care of periodically. The extra roots  from the plants need pruning. If unchecked, they might decay and become unusable for the people with the loss of strength. Some ancient  root bridges  are  said to be over 500 years old. .

No cement, no concrete, no steel and no-substandard-contractors and no hard work like sweat hogs lots of energy savings. Here, the people live in the of comforts of mother Nature thus keeping the symbiotic relationship between man and nature along with  numerous fauna, the roots and trees  support.

                                      Root bridges, Cherrapunji, India. Tit-bits:

''Cherrapunji" means 'land of oranges.' This place NE part of India  still holds the world record for the most rainfall in a calendar month and in a year.   It received 9,300 mm (366 in) in July 1861 and 26,461 mm (1,041.75 in) between 1 August 1860 and 31 July 1861.

The local tribes Khasis follow a matrilineal culture-the husband after marriage settles down with the bride's family.