India’s Enchanting Living Bridges

Flooding rivers, vast mountains and scattered villages characterize Meghalaya, the northeastern state of India considered one of the wettest regions in the world. For centuries, the Khasi people have learned to navigate this challenging terrain by creating living root bridges called jing kieng jri. Like something out of a fairytale, the bridges are feats of nature, innovation and architecture. They are crafted from rubber tree figs (aka Ficus elastica), planted on either side of a river. After 10 to 15 years, they produce aerial roots, which the locals coax across the river using bamboo scaffolding. As the trees continue to grow, the builders weave the roots to the other until they merge together via anastomosis. The natural process means each bridge is unique, grows stronger with age and adds to the environment’s ecosystem. “My mind was buzzing with thoughts of how much knowledge these bridges hold—for engineers, architects, ecologists, anthropologists and others. They are living, breathing examples of life in the past that can help us create sustainable lifestyles for the future,” says photographer and journalist Prasenjeet Yadav at NPR, where you can view and learn more about the bridges.

Image courtesy of Prasenjeet Yadav