January 11, 2015

The Living Root Bridges of Cherrapunjee

We walked down the rough path leading to the river by the village of Mawlynnong. As we approached an jaw-dropping sight awaited - the living root bridges of Cherrapunjee. It takes a lot to impress me, considering what I see in the mirror each day, but I was truly in awe.

Before I could explore it further I was asked to partake in a Bollywood-style photo shoot, heroically posing with my driver’s girlfriend as he captured the magic on camera. After quite a few pictures had been taken, the couple wandered off and I made my way to the bridge to explore it in detail.

Often compared to something that came straight out of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the fantastical living root bridges of Cherrapunjee are in fact a harmonious collaboration between the forces of nature and humanity.

The roots of living banyan trees on one side of the river banks are guided towards the other side using a tree shaping mechanism developed by the indigenous (and ingenious) Khasi people. Betel nut trunks that point in the desired direction that the banyan tree should grow provide a skeletal structure for the roots to wrap themselves around. When the roots reach the other side of the river they take take hold in the soil.

Ever strengthening, the roots grow thicker and thicker as the years pass. The suspension bridges can support up to 50 pedestrians. They have lifespans that can extend to over 500 years. There is even a double decker bridge with two trees stacked on top of each other. It is unknown when the first such bridge was constructed or whose brainchild it was, but the living roots remain one of the world’s most renewable and remarkable constructs.


In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.
~ Aristotle