Living Root Bridges | Meghalaya
Traditional knowledge passed down generations allow the Khasis of Meghalaya to construct natural suspension bridges, locally known as ‘Jingkieng Jri’. The process can take over four decades to complete with the effort of volunteers of all ages, including some who may not even get to use the bridge in their lifetime. More famously known as ‘Living Root Bridges’ outside Meghalaya, these are raised from the sturdy root system of Ficus elastica trees, a species of the Indian rubber tree.
The process begins by planting tree trunks on opposite sides of a river to serve as solid foundations for the pedestrian bridge. Traditionally, older men draw up the initial construction plans whereas young boys from the vicinity work on the bridge, guiding the growth of the elastica roots over a shaky bamboo scaffolding. As the young roots grow over the years, more roots are intertwined and mud, leaves, straw, stones, and other natural materials from the vicinity are added to build structural integrity.
The Khasis of Mawlynnong are sharply sensitive about passing on their environment as they had inherited it. So, even as they attempt to make life easier for future generations by building bridges to the outside world, they do so without altering the ecosystem.