India / Places We Go

The Living Bridges Of Meghalaya

At the base of the Meghalaya Plateau are a series of bridges unlike any I have seen or heard about elsewhere in the world. The Khasi tribe in the valleys leading to Bangladesh have trained the roots and branches of banyan trees to create living bridges spanning the rivers that separate their villages. These bridges look as if they belong in a Lord of the Rings movie.

The living bridges, which keep growing stronger by the day, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional. After they have been fully formed, their life span is estimated at five to six hundred years – much longer than a conventional bridge.

This is the local guide we hired to get us down into the canyons where the bridges are found:

the living bridges of meghalaya

It is 1,000 meters down from the Meghalaya Plateau. You may think you’re in good shape, but descending 1,000 meters on this extremely slippery StairMaster will leave your legs a wobbly mess at the bottom. And then, of course, you have to hike back out as well!

the living bridges of meghalaya

It all seems worth it though when you start encountering the bridges. This is the first one we came to on the route we took down:

the living bridges of meghalaya

On the surface of the bridge, which you can see below, rocks and bits of wood have been added to the mix to make for an easier crossing. There is an additional reason for the bits of wood though. As the wood decomposes, it provides nutrients for the tree roots growing around it:

the living bridges of meghalaya

Here’s a quick video that captures the entirety of the bridge:

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Looking back the way we came:

the living bridges of meghalaya

Just after this, a crude bridge leading through the treetops…

the living bridges of meghalaya

…Takes one to this view of the river that the living bridge shown above crosses. The river may not look like much now, but during the monsoon season it becomes a raging torrent. You can see the top of the Meghalaya Plateau in this picture which is where we hiked down from:

the living bridges of meghalaya

A little farther on is a “double-decker” bridge. And if you look closely you can see that they have started a third one in order to make this a “triple-decker” bridge:

the living bridges of meghalaya

The living bridges may look flimsy, but our guide told me that they have had more than fifty people at a time on the bridges. Below is the surface of the upper “double-decker” bridge:

the living bridges of meghalaya

There are also cable bridges crossing some of the rivers. These are fun to run across if one is not afraid of heights as they are not as sturdy as the living bridges and swing around all over the place:

the living bridges of meghalaya

This, the longest living bridge, crosses over the Ummunoi River:

the living bridges of meghalaya

The steps leading up to the bridge:

the living bridges of meghalaya

A view of the supports for the bridge:

the living bridges of meghalaya

Looking across the living bridge:

the living bridges of meghalaya

These wonders of bioengineering are an eloquent testimony to man’s capacity to live in harmony with nature.

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21 thoughts on “The Living Bridges Of Meghalaya

  1. Been a silent subscriber for a while; your blog posts are always so interesting, thanks for sharing your adventures!

    love the bridges!

  2. What a great post. I had never heard of such bridges before…and I’m also thinking George Lucas must have been there as well since the pictures you posted really reminds me of Endor. Delhi sounds like hell on earth to me…glad you lived to tell about it.

  3. What an amazing creation! I particularly appreciate your final comment about living in harmony with nature, rather than destroying everything around us.

  4. BBC Human Planet: Rivers
    Thursday, 24 February 2011, 8-9pm, BBC1

    This episode focuses on rivers, the lifeblood for humans all over the planet.

    In the remote North Eastern state of Meghalaya, India, rivers play a unique role in people’s lives, with Cherrapunjee being officially the wettest place on earth. During the monsoon season, locals endure so much rain that overflowing rivers threaten to isolate communities for months on end. Luckily, the local Khasi villagers have found an ingenious solution. They train the roots of the ficus elastica tree to form beautiful living bridges over the floodwaters. Incredibly, as the roots grow stronger on either side of the river, so too does the bridges, which are expected to last some 500 years.

  5. Meghalaya is a North-Eastern State in India. The BBC Documentary was wonderful which reminds us that even after exploiting the Mother Earth this much, we still can find a way to keep her dear.

  6. Now how the hell did I get here in Coto format. Hmmm can anyone here enlighten me? I downloaded from Next World TV on subject and went online to view more on Meghalaya’s Living Bridges and here I am. This reminds me of the movie ” Avatar” and the world we can live in not the one we do.

  7. Thank you for the info and images of the Living Bridges. I’m writing a book about architecture and biology and would like to feature some of these photos and profile these works? Can you contact me?

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  13. i’m from pakistan………..and this place has been added on my”places to see in india” list………..if i ever get to go there

  14. am from south Africa n I saw n learned about the living bridge in an article of a magazine since then I could only think of challenge we face n solutions we decides on to help a better tomorrow

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