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Travel Thursday: The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Last month as we travelled through Meghalaya on a Journeys with Meaning trip, what struck me the most about the State was the people. They were an amazing people with an equally amazing culture.

Let me explain this with an example. The living root bridges of Meghalaya are famous, mostly in India but slowly it’s becoming famous internationally too. And they should be, for the bridges are unique and astounding.

Made from the aerial roots of trees, these bridges are still living, the roots are alive and growing. Some bridges are young, maybe 50 years old but some are over a 150 years old, some have small narrow paths and some bridges are triple decker.

The bridges are usually made from trees of the rubber tree family, but other trees with aerial roots have also been used.

It all starts off with heads of a village choosing the spot for a bridge. On the spot trees are then planted on both sides of the river or stream. The trees are nurtured and cared for over the years until they grow big and strong and start to give out aerial roots.

The young roots are then guided into bamboo poles or hollowed out arecanut trees. These roots then grow long and straight inside the poles until they become big and strong and split the pole.

The time is now ripe start making the bridge. The strengthen straightened roots are connected across the river and the process of weaving begins as young roots are tied and wove into the initial roots to weave a bridge.

Slowly over the years the roots grow into each other, getting strong and taking strength from each other until they are ready to take the strength of cobble stones. Rocks are then placed into the weave of roots and over time the roots curl up around it and become one with it.

Finally the bridge becomes a smooth cob stoned pathway with a beautiful weave of root railings along it. The whole process from coming to make a bridge to actually crossing it, takes over 100 years.

That means that the people who first thought of the bridge and started working on it, will never get to actually use it. They didn’t build the bridge for themselves but foresaw the use of it two generations later and started to work on providing the need of a future society.

It’s a selfless society that made me sit back and wonder. We live in an instant gratification world but these guys seemed to be taking delayed gratification to an all new level.

They seem a happy people without ego, who believe in the strength of many rather than the power of one. Each generation works with the previous and for the next. Each bridge changes in design and character with each generation that works on it. The bridges are not the dream of one man but a coming together of the dreams and ideas of many.

And it goes on as the current generation continues to weave the roots, strengthen the bridges, make new tiers and plan new bridges.

If you’d like to know more about Meghalaya and the bridges, or would like to go on a trip there, please contact Journeys with Meaning on Facebook or email them at journeyswithmeaning at gmail dot com. I highly recommend these guys.

Photo Credit: Chenthil Mohan

P.S. – Day Three of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

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