Meghalaya's Living Root Bridges Made it to UNESCO's Tentative List of World Heritage Sites; Here's Why They're Extraordinary

SHILLONG: April 10 2022 (PTI Source)

Every Indian state has its own distinctive rich natural history that influences its character in some manner. Uttarakhand's valley of flowers, Maharashtra's Lonar Lake, Andhra's Gandikota Canyon, MP's marble rocks, the Magnetic Hills of Ladakh, and Meghalaya's acacia forest are just a few examples of the country's beautiful geo-diversity. When it comes to Meghalaya, the state is often synonymous with two things – rain and living root bridges.

The concept of a living root bridge is as fascinating as it sounds. These are bridges made out of living tree roots that are trained and intertwined to form a crossing over streams and rivers.

Last week brought good news for Meghalaya tourism, as the United Nations designated it the "Wonderful Living Root Bridges"! Living root bridges are known colloquially as "Jingkieng Jri" among the Khasis of East and West Jaintia Hills districts, with about 100 in 72 villages.

According to the CM of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma, the state's Living Root Bridges, known locally as "Jingkieng Jri," have been considered on the UNESCO World Heritage Site's tentative list. "I am ecstatic to state that "Jingkieng Jri": The Living Root Bridge - Meghalaya's Cultural Landscapes - has been considered in the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site." I want to congratulate all community members and stakeholders who have helped make this ongoing journey possible."

The natural wonder of nature: the story behind the live roots

The suspension bridges that span these rivers are excellent examples of humans merging with nature, utilizing sustainable methods to balance the budget and the environment.

Meghalaya mainly is known to experience devastating rains during the monsoon season. Several centuries ago, people noticed that rubber tree roots snaked around the rocks on fast-flowing rivers, preventing soil erosion. As a result, they planted additional trees along the riverbanks using Areca nut palm trunks hollowed out.

The forest's tribal people noticed that the roots of trees on opposite sides of the stream eventually crossed halfway. The occurrence inspired the tribes to start hand-weaving the roots for themselves. They've now perfected the technique of creating full-fledged bridges out of aerial roots.

The roots need approximately 10-15 years to mature. They don't require much care once they're built since the development of roots continually reinforces the bridge. The constructions are so robust that they can support a combined weight of 35 individuals!

Living root bridges have withstood severe weather and flash floods. The double-decker living root bridge at Cherrapunji is the most popular, having been presented in national events, including the tableau for the Republic Day parade. It's thought to be more than 180 years old!

It isn't easy to stay quiet when you learn about this beautiful marriage of nature and human ingenuity. As a result, if you're as eager as we are to go there, October-November might be the most acceptable time to arrange your visit. Meghalaya is noted for its heavy monsoon rains, which wet the area until May. Because of shorter days in winter, the location is closed until further notice.

The list of reasons to explore Meghalaya is now even longer. With the addition of "Jingkieng Jri" to the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list, we hope it will soon be recognised as a full-fledged heritage site!

Do you think "Jingkieng Jri" deserves a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list? Let us know in the comments!