In the land of the living bridge.
The rainy season. People have been entering the house tickling since evening. There will be drizzle all night. Due to the extreme humidity, the clothes have a foul smell, salt is melting in the kitchen and the bedding has to be kept in place to keep the furniture open. In the morning but no rain. This is a strange country, rainy at night and fast during the day. At seven in the morning in the orange orchard, there is work in the drinking bar, we have to go to the market, the children go to school, climb the gorge or the small river. Such rivers are called Kharsrota that the stones weighing tons of stones roll far and wide in the water. The question of the boat is irrelevant here. Yet in such a hostile environment, hard-working people cross the river, over a strange living bridge. The people of this bridge area build it themselves, not with steel or concrete, but with the roots of living trees.
To the north of Bangladesh is the Indian state of Meghalaya, where Cherrapunji is the wettest place in the world. The Guinness Book of World Records, however, records another place a little higher, called Mausinram, 16 km west of Cherrapunji. In Cherrapunji, if the water of eight months of incessant rain accumulates together, its height will be about the same as that of a four-story building. Tourists visit there in winter, from November to February, during the 4-month dry season.
Cherrapunji can be called Kamala Rajya in Bengali, following the meaning of the name. Apart from oranges, there are plenty of betel-nut trees here. The Khasias started the construction of the bridge with the bark of this betel tree. At first they divided the betel tree into two parts. Then Helali carved her chest like the moon. Through this shell they flow the roots of the tree, one of which is the rubber tree (Ficus elastica). The roots continue to grow slowly, at one point reaching the ground on the other side of the river, several years later. When the roots get nourished by getting soil juice there, it is used to make the main structure of the bridge. The other roots are now flowing into the deck of the bridge. Then some more roots, even if available cheaply, can be made of long woody vine Liana with its railing. All the holes in the deck are filled with rocky soil and thin stone or betel stems are spread on it for movement. In many cases the original and non-native roots of the original bot Ficus beghalensis of Bengal have also been used in the construction of such epoch-making bridges. Perhaps two bot trees have been planted on either side of the gorge at a selected place. The roots of the two trees have flowed in opposite directions. Then in the middle, the roots of two trees were braided and it was hardened.
The existence of these bridges in the area has been known for about 500 years. Due to the decay of heavy rains, the construction of these bridges with wood or bamboo material like other areas of India-Bangladesh has never been fruitful. The Khasia-Jayantia tribes of the cloud-touched hilly region, which is a quarter of a kilometer above sea level, have been building these vital living bridges with the roots of long-lived trees. It takes them 10 to 15 years to build a single bridge that 50 people can walk on at once, and some of which are more than 100 feet long.
With the passage of time, the life expectancy of modern bridges made of concrete and steel has increased, but in the case of living bridges, the opposite is true. As the days go by, the roots of the tree become nourished, the body of the bridge becomes stronger. Bio-engineering or bio-engineering has achieved great success here. In English, it is called the Living Bridge, which attracts people from all over the world. The people of Khasia tribe live in a matriarchal society. These bridges have been built under the leadership of women. However, despite the construction plan, the role of volunteers is also significant here. While crossing the bridge, a Khasia man can fix the stone of the bridge, a Khasia girl on the way back from school can fix the loose root of the railing.
Among these animal bridges, the one that attracts the most tourists is the two-storied bridge known as ‘Umshiang Double-Decker’ bridge in the village of Nangriyat. Its distance from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is 60 km. This bridge is more than 200 years old. It is still strong in the structure of the nourished roots. To reach this bridge, you have to cross some more bridges on the way, including a hanging bridge made of steel. This suspension bridge could not be built with natural materials as it had to be built over a river more than 100 feet wide. It has been created by matching the colors with the environment, which is not very eye-catching but not very eye-catching.
Now is the era of deforestation. Its activities are going on all over the world, even the rainforests of Khasia-Jayantia hills are not getting rid of this trend. Due to lack of water in winter, the roots of the trees are weakening, and even in rainy places like Cherrapunji, trucks have to fetch drinking water from outside during the dry season. Welcoming the modern technology, the steel bridge wants to enter the consciousness of the locals. Fortunately, Dennis Ryan, a nature lover at Holiday Resort, was able to make the locals aware of this unique heritage.