Root Bridges

21st November 2021 Dr Beena

Hello everyone! Yea, can you believe that? Root bridges! I got very excited when I read about root bridges😊. Allan wrote about the bridge in Ba Ha Hills of Vietnam in the  early part of this year. I have always been fascinated by bridges. Wherever you go, you will find bridges. The design for bridges varies from the most intricate to the most basic. Bridges suggest connectivity.

Maybe, that is the reason for my love of bridges😊. I have gone on some scary bridges, the ones hung by ropes with missing wooden planks. Have you ever tried to walk on them? They swing as you walk, and when you come to the broken planks, you freeze☹☹. Please share your experience on any bridge that you found memorable.

Here I will discuss root bridges. In the Northeastern part of India, in Meghalaya, unique bridges are made from the roots of trees. More than two centuries ago, the two tribes, the Khasi and Jaintia, conceptualised root bridges.  These roots are from rubber trees and cultivated by placing them in hollow areca nut palms. Then these tribes created these bridges by twisting their form. It will take about 10 to 15 years to get a shape. They are strong enough to hold up to fifty people (not sure if they were lightweight as obesity was not an issue then😉). These bridges last about 500 years. The most famous are double-decker and single-decker root bridges in Cherrapunji and Shillong, respectively, protected by UNESCO. By the way, Cherrapunji is the wettest place on Earth😊.

I like the concept of how we as humans can work with Nature and create sustainable projects. However, root bridges may not work in a place where it is challenging to cultivate roots. Our greater awareness about Nature could lead to endless possibilities😊.

I would say I did not do great justice to this painting on the root bridge. To create the effect of how the roots would entwine was not easy to paint. Hence, I hope the readers will check out the root bridge to envisage its beauty.  I try to learn something new and share it here. On that note, I hope you too enjoyed this musing on root bridges😊.

14 thoughts on “Root Bridges

  1. Thanks for the bridges painting
    Often when I see a bridge I remember the Simon & Garfunkel song Bridge Over Troubled Waters and so thanks for bringing the memory. …

    When you’re weary
    Feeling small
    When tears are in your eyes
    I will dry them all
    I’m on your side
    When times get rough
    And friends just can’t be found

    [Chorus]
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down

    [Verse 2]
    When you’re down and out
    When you’re on the street
    When evening falls so hard
    I will comfort you
    I’ll take your part
    When darkness comes
    And pain is all around

    [Chorus]
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down
    Like a bridge over troubled water
    I will lay me down….

  2. i am awestruck by the uniqueness of your perception of bridges. i had an opportunity to travel a bit in the N.E India, crossing over to the kingdom of Bhutan ( memories of Kipling’s “Man Who Would Be King”) where i crossed some pretty rudimentary structures they considered bridges.
    In the heart of Alappuzha town in Kerala, there used to be a sort of “backyard” called Chungom. Many deep and shallow canals crisscross Chungom. There were some truly scary coconut palm “foot bridges” (thengin thadi paalam) there.
    Your writing brought back memories of the beautiful film “Bridges on Madison County”.
    Thank you for a whole new perspective on bridges.

    1. Hi Jayachandran

      Thanks for sharing a whole new area about natural bridges and your own experiences in Bhutan. Always wanted to go there but never happened😃😃😃.

      I hope the other stories in this website will interest you too.

      Thanks

      1. Sure. i have already finished the Penan story. Thanks to Dr Thomas for introducing me to your writing and painting…
        Fascinating work, doctor.

  3. Your story about natural bridges and connectivity is really awesome. It brings back memories of people’s patience, creativity and sustainability. It would be wonderful if these qualities were maintained over the generations. Somehow technology has replaced these unique bridges to levels of unimaginable comfort where crossing of bridges is concerned. The numerous bridges that span over all the little islands in Hong Kong is one to cherish where modernization is concerned. However, nothing compares to the one that is passionately intertwined over time with only nature to thank. Let’s all work towards conserving and preserving nature.

    1. In the pursuit of modernization and comfort one needs to preserve what Nature gives us. It means we need to spend time learning from Nature and not destroying it.

  4. I’m fascinated by the Meghalaya root bridges you’ve described. It’s something new to me. I’m guessing the rubber tree must be the Indian rubber tree or Ficus elastica that has plenty of aerial roots. Just right for weaving! I’d love to see a real one.

    1. Me too. I was so fascinated that I decided to paint. But I have not done justice to the real beauty of the bridge but I learnt something new.😄😄😄

  5. Don’t get me wrong Beena, at first glance the bridge in the painting seemed to be somewhat like the tail of a dinosaur! It looks pretty tough. Roots being used to make bridges is indeed new to me. Tree trunks yes I have heard of that but not roots. Well I’m learning through you Beena.
    I liked your views about nature and connectivity. Living in the city’s concrete jungle with concrete bridges mean nothing. However in the villages people have ways to make a bridge using anything available like those root bridges. Talking about bridges brings me memories of the numerous bridges connecting the canals in Amsterdam not because they were unique but simply because it was the first time I had seen so many of them and all beautifully decorated with flowers cos there was a Parade then. Thanks Beena for bringing to us nature’s uniqueness through your work of art.

    1. 🤣🤣🤣thank you for your honesty. I need more practice.

      Heh I too just learnt about root bridges. I love to share what I learn and hear the views of others. Another place where I loved brudges was Lyon. Its amazing.

  6. Beena you know what, after posting my writing I suddenly felt so silly for that comparison that I had made. But you are sport. Yes we are all learning. Never too late to enrich our knowledge. By the way where is this Lyon located? Also I’m actually beginning to enjoy writing here. Thanks to you.

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