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'Like being inside Jurassic Park': India's living bridges are testament to the power of nature

Locals use the bridges to travel safely between villages.
Locals use the bridges to travel safely between villages.   -   Copyright  FRFT via EBU
By Hannah Brown  with FRFT via EBU

Would you believe us if we said you could build a living bridge that didn’t need any nails, nuts or bolts? Probably not.

But you can find a network of them in the northeast of India, in a subtropical forest.

Hundreds of bridges made from intertwined tree roots cross the forest, connecting small villages in Meghalaya State.

"If this bridge didn’t exist, [...] how would we cross the river? The path is very dangerous, without this bridge we could get hurt," says one local.

How do you build a living bridge?

Some of these crossings have been standing for three centuries and are expected to last for at least 500 years. Woven by human hands, this technique gives rise to spectacular works of art.

The living root structures of Meghalaya have become an icon of the region, attracting tourists. A particular favourite is the ‘double decker bridge’ near Nongriat village in the East Khasi Hills district.

FRFT via EBU
The 'double decker' living root bridgeFRFT via EBU

One local, Morningstar Khongthaw, founded the Living Bridge Foundation to preserve and protect these unique structures.

“We just show [the roots] the way, that this is how you grow,” explains Morningstar.

They use bamboo to construct an initial frame and the roots need a lot of care as they weave around it. The living bridge isn’t for the impatient as it takes around 40 years for the roots to grow and surround the bamboo structure.

Once ready, they are able to support dozens of people at a time and are also resistant to the ravages of times. Though climate change is now affecting the crossings.

"If we don’t take care of these bridges, they will get damaged and might disappear,” says Kroli Khonglam, a resident of Meghalaya.

“These natural bridges are not like all the other modern bridges that you see everywhere. You’ll only see them here. And, I want to spend my life preserving these treasures."

Watch the video above to witness these beautiful Indian constructions.

Video editor • Hannah Brown