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Across Nongriat's double decker root-bridge

By GEORGINA UMDOR
April 08, 2022 11:54 IST
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UNESCO is looking at adding another Indian locale to its prestigious index of World Heritage Sites -- Meghalaya's Living Root-Bridges.

Please click on the images for glimpses of Meghalaya's Living Root-Bridges.

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph: Kind courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: The exotic doubledecker root-bridge at Nongriat, East Khasi.
Photograph: Kind Courtesy Arshiya Urveeja Bose/Wikimedia Commons

 

If you have ever been to Meghalaya, and had the rare opportunity of walking across the root-bridges there, you would know just how unique and breathtakingly beautiful they are.

What's even more marvellous about these botanical masterpieces, that Nature has munificently bestowed and man has preserved and added to, is the manner in which they live on and flourish undisturbed in the state's 70 odd villages.

They are not merely a feature of the landscape but, like hoary elders in a village, are sacredly revered and a part of the socio-cultural lifestyle. Further the bridges are home to an unbelievably wide range of flora and fauna.

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: Villagers grow the living root-bridges by training the rubber fig or Ficus elastica tree on both sides of a river to 'walk across' the water with their root legs. It takes about 10-15 years to get a new bridge.
Photograph: PTI

 

That will now be celebrated for posterity if Meghalaya's 100 or so living root-bridges do find a permanent place on UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. The good news is they were recently shortlisted. Fingers crossed, fingers crossed!

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph: Kind courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: A Rangthylliang root-bridge. Have you ever seen anything so wonderful?
The UNESCO Web site defines the bridges thusly: 'Grown by indigenous Khasi tribal communities, these structural ecosystems have performed in extreme climatic conditions for centuries, and encapsulate a profound harmony between humans and nature... validating the resilience of an ancient culture, where collective cooperation and reciprocity were the fundamental building blocks of life.
'Each living root structure reveals a distinct ethno-botanical journey rooted in profound culture-nature reciprocity and synthesis'.
Photograph: Kind Courtesy Anselmrogers/Wikimedia Commons

 

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma posted on his social media account: 'Delighted to share that Jingkieng Jri: Living Root Bridge Cultural Landscapes of Meghalaya has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list. I congratulate all community members and stakeholders in this ongoing journey'.

Reapiring a root bridge. Photograph: Kind courtesy Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE: Constructing a new root-bridge.
Photograph: Kind Courtesy Elbowmacaroni/Wikimedia Commons

 

Georgina Umdor, perhaps to mark the occasion, recently went trekking through the pouring rain to the most outstanding of these beauties at Nongriat.

Scroll on... Here's your chance to have a great look at these treasures...

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: It was only possible to cross the upper bridge at Nongriat on the wet day Georgina was there because "the lower one was too close to the water."
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: Living root-bridges need constant maintenance and villagers devote much time to pruning, repairing and manipulating the growth to keep the bridges strong.
Maintenance would be vital given the buffeting the bridges receive all year round due to Meghalaya's often tempestuous weather or as Georgina terms it: "All seasons in one day."
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: On a wild, wet day crossing the Nongriat bridge, called locally simply as Double Decker, over the turbulent Umshiang river was daunting. Georgina remembers it was quite scary and "the roar of the river didn't help."
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: It took Georgina and her group four hours to make the trip and they gave the nearby Rainbow Falls a miss because of the downpour.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: Pineapple Country.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: One the two suspension bridges that have to be crossed to get to the Nongriat root-bridge.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: The root-bridges are surprisingly sturdy and upto 50 people can cross some of them at one time. These bridges, many close to 50 metres in length, are often the only access for many remote high villages in this rugged, misty, ravine-packed countryside and are therefore arterial pathways essential to people's daily life.
Pretty much anyone, anything passes across the bridges -- schoolchildren, bicycles, broom grass, livestock, politicians, garbage, vegetables, pastors, farmers, flowers, tourists, betel nut, dogs, cement, bamboos, rice beer...
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: Technically a root-bridge can last for hundreds of years and some are believed to be more than 500 years old.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: No one really knows how old the root-bridges are. There is mention of the Cherrapunji root-bridge in an entry in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1844, according to Wikipedia.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Nongriat's double decker root bridge. Photograph Courtesy Georgina Umdor

IMAGE: The joys of such a magical trek, as tough as it was, through dense forest across Meghalaya's enchanting and legendary jingkieng jri bridges, cannot be overestimated.
Photograph: Georgina Umdor

 

Dear Reader:

Have you visited one of Meghalaya's root-bridges?

Do you have a photograph that perfectly captures the beauty of the place? Share it with the world.

Simply send in your photograph (original photos only) to getahead@rediff.co.in with the subject 'My Meghalaya root-bridge travel pic', along with your name, the name of the place and a short description of the photograph, when you visited and what you liked most about the place and we'll feature the best pics right here of rediff.com!

With inputs from PTI.

 
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GEORGINA UMDOR