A Bridge worth Crossing
Mother Nature indeed has her way of impressing and fascinating us. Aside from the amazing biodiversity of the Amazon jungle and the most beautiful street in Brazil, Mother Nature is giving as another breathtaking view of her majestic creation, India’s living root bridges – bridges that are worth crossing.
In the depths of Northeastern India, another magnificent masterpiece of nature along with man’s creativity, are the bridges that are made out of roots from living trees. And these incredible root bridges do not rot or get destroyed but grow strong over time.
The southern Jaintia and Khasi hills in India are heavily crisscrossed with long swift-flowing mountain streams and rivers, crediting the northeastern India as one of the wettest places on earth. On the slopes of the Jaintia and Khasi hills grow a species of Indian rubber tree with an amazingly strong and powerful root system. These incredibly great trees with its tough roots have been thriving and flourishing in this area for centuries.
These rubber trees, known as Fecus elastica, generate a secondary root system that can be seen on the upper part of their trunks. Being grown higher up the trunks allows these secondary roots to crawl atop huge stones along the riverbanks, and stream shores, and at times even at the center of the river themselves.
When an ancient Mhegalaya tribe, the War-Khasis noticed the existence of these trees and their strong roots, they took the chance of using them to easily get across the numerous long winding streams and rivers. With this discovery, people began taking advantage of the rubber trees capability to form bridges. So, whenever people need to cross the bodies of water present in the areas, they simply use those roots to create their bridges.
But how do the people in that part of India grow and make their amazing sturdy root bridges? The tribes living in the area discovered great and useful techniques to make those living root bridges. To make the rubber tree’s roots grow straight, like across the river, the tribe made use of the trunks of betel nut trees. The trunks are sliced down in the center of it and then hollowed out wherein a root-guidance system is created.
The tender, thin growing roots of Fecus elastic grow straight out as the betel nut trunks prevent them from going out different directions. As the roots continue to grow inside the trunks, and get across the riverbank, they are allowed to thrive in its soil. Given a few years, a powerful living bridge is formed.
These bridges woven from the living roots of the Indian rubber tree can be over a hundred feet long. However, they take about 10-15 years to be fully functional. But as time pass, the root bridges become extremely powerful and extraordinarily strong and sturdy that they can even carry the weight of 50 or more individuals at the same time.
Because the roots are living and they continue to grow, the bridges acquire strength as time passed. Some of these ancient living bridges where people used to cross the rivers daily are over 500 years old.
The breathtaking handiwork of man and nature makes anyone speechless. The root bridges are indeed incredible and are worth crossing.