Incredible Bioengineering by Khasi Hill tribesmen!

The Khasi hills receive lot of rains throughout the year. It’s fair to say that this part of the world gets a hell of a lot of rain. And here you find the acclaimed Living Root Bridges which are specialty of the Khasis. Bridges always bring to our mind concrete and iron bars. But these bridges are different; they are not “Made” but “Grown”.

All around, even on the banks of high velocity streams, Ficus tree (Rubber Tree), thrive and flourishes a lot in the Khasi hills. These trees can even perch themselves strongly over boulders on the banks of streams. They have adapted themselves well from soil erosions around these rivers and streams. These trees shoot out many secondary roots. The War-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya, long ago noticed this tree and saw in its powerful roots, an opportunity to easily cross the rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges.

By realizing they could tap into the power of these roots and use them to their own advantage, they started manipulating and directing the secondary roots to create ultra-strong living bridges with which to cross streams and rivers. To make a tree grow in a certain direction, the tribes’ people use the trunks of a betul nut tree, sliced down the middle and hollowed out, as a guidance system. The thin, tender roots of the rubber tree are placed so they grow in the direction of the tree trunk rather than fanning out. Eventually, the roots reach the other side of the river and grow into the soil. Or they would take two trees on both sides so as to make the roots move and meet in the centre of the trunk.

After this the roots are allowed to branch and the tender roots are intertwined to form a mesh. The development and upkeep of bridges is a community affair. At later stages in the evolution of the bridge, stones and rocks are inserted into the gaps and eventually forms the beautiful walkways.  Later still, the bridges are improved upon with the addition of hand rails and steps. The whole process can take up to 15-20 years for becoming fully functional.

Unlike the conventional man-made bridges which grow weak over time, these living bridges gain strength over time as the roots are ever growing. The monk who took us had a sharp small knife sort with him. He made a slit on one of the rails of the root bridge, a sticky fluid oozed out proving the bridge roots are very well living. Some of these bridges are more than five hundred years old and can support 50 people at a time. Thus Khasi tribe people create living pathways by training roots across a river thus becoming an eloquent testimony of man living in harmony with nature! Below are some photographs to show how these bridges are made.

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The bridge at  Wahthyllong. Talking to the locals, all that I can be certain of is that it wasn’t planted by someone who is still alive today. They say it could be more than 60yrs old.

 

The one side of the bridge. See how the roots of the Ficus plant have branched profusely, taking a grip of the soil and the boulders while also branching out to form the bridge.

The one side of the bridge. See how the roots of the Ficus plant have branched profusely, taking a grip of the soil and the boulders while also branching out to form the bridge.

 

Organic engineering at its best. The view from above reveals the majesty of this masterpiece.  Over the years, stones and earth have been lodged between the gaps of the tree roots to form the beautiful pathway.

Organic engineering at its best. The view from above reveals the majesty of this masterpiece. Over the years, stones and earth have been lodged between the gaps of the tree roots to form the beautiful pathway.

 

… and underneath, the ancient organic mesh work, weaves its beauty.

… and underneath, the ancient organic mesh work, weaves its beauty.

 

Khasi tribe people busy with the creation of a new Living Root Bridge. Currently the hand rails are being tied by the community people.

Khasi tribe people busy with the creation of a new Living Root Bridge. Currently the hand rails are being tied by the community people.

 

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7 thoughts on “Incredible Bioengineering by Khasi Hill tribesmen!

  1. Amazing!! In full harmony with nature. People living in such regions are generally fit and healthy and have a long life because of unpolluted air and food. They need not devote separate time for work out like we people living in cities as their daily routine itself is a good exercise. As long as man swims along with nature’s current there will not be any problem but when tries to swim against it, the whole trouble starts!

    Like

  2. Super genius idea of making this structure. Even rains would not damage it, infact it would grow better. Thanks for sharing, excellent post!

    Like

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