The natural marvel of jing kieng jri or the living root bridges of Meghalaya, built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree, have been serving as connectors for a long time. Literally meaning ‘Abode of clouds’, Meghalaya receives abundant rainfall, and the Khasi tribe of this region devised a way to cross flooding rivers to reach another village.
The rubber tree trunks being elastic in nature are planted on either side of the river and the roots are put into hollow betel nut plant trunks to guide them to grow in the right direction. Over time the roots are pulled and woven to meet the tree on the other side. The roots are then tied with one another and by a process of fusion called anastomosis they merge together. Once the trees reach a certain level of maturity they add more roots to the network which are woven into the bridge by the localites.
After 15-20 years the bridge attains the perfect shape and becomes strong enough to hold about 50 people. These roots can last for 500 years; while some of the roots decay due to association of water, others grow and provide stability to the bridge.
The living root bridges have been recognised as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, with the double-decker bridge in Cherrapunji being the most unique bridge in the world.