Meghalaya’s Bio-Bridges: Sustainable, resilient architecture

By Rady Ananda

Known as the wettest place on Earth, the eastern area of Meghalaya (a state in Northern India) sees 50 feet (over 15 m) of rain each year, flooding all the rivers. Steep vertical canyons mark the land, some over 3,500 feet deep.  For the past 500 years, this matriculture has dealt with monsoons by building natural bridges immune to rot and white ant infestation.

The Khasis guide roots and vines from the native rubber tree (Ficus elastica) across streams, using hollowed out betel nut trees to guide the roots. When the roots reach the opposite bank they are allowed to take root. Taking 10-15 years to complete (and sometimes much longer), these bio-bridges can last for centuries.

The earliest known ethnic group of settlers to East Meghalaya, the Hynniewtrep people, comprise the Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, and War tribes.

The Khasis have a matrilineal society, which passes the ancestral property to the youngest daughter. If the mother dies without any daughter surviving her, her next elder sister inherits the ancestral property, and after her, the youngest daughter of that sister.

The men contribute to educating the children, collecting food and defending the family. The training covers constructing paths and bridges, crop cultivation, and religious ceremonies.

The area is also known for the Nartiang megalith, which spans 325 feet in diameter. The tallest stone in this “Stonehenge of India” is 27 feet high, 7 ft wide and a foot and a half thick. Today it is the site of the weekly market and the annual February Festival. Popular culture states that two giants built the market hundreds of years ago.

These giant tombs, circles of standing stones and sacrificial stone tables span all of India.  At many of the megalith sites, people still gather to celebrate the summer and winter solstice and the spring and fall equinox.

Sources:

Planet Oddity http://planetoddity.com/the-living-bridges-of-the-cherrapunji/

Government of Meghalaya http://meghalaya.nic.in/culture/people.htm

Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2035520/Meghalaya-villagers-create-living-bridges-training-roots-river.html

Megalithic Sites http://www.megalithicsites.co.uk/Ummonoi.html

Megaliths of India http://www.megalithindia.in/

S. Gajrani, “History, Religion and Culture of India,” Isha Books, 2004.

P.R.T. Gurdon, “The Khasis,” Echo Library, 2007. http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Khasis1.html

Hat tip Next World TV.

6 responses to “Meghalaya’s Bio-Bridges: Sustainable, resilient architecture

  1. Unbelievable beauty and commitment to our Earth. The Standing Stones are no surprise, since many of what became the UK’s Druids came from the Indian continent. Let’s hear it for sustainability!! I think I might like to live there, it looks like paradise.

  2. yeah, it’s a rainforest… and a matriarchal society!!

    sign me up!

  3. Geoffrey Whitlock

    I’ve lately been hanging out for a feel-good story .. .. this one will do nicely. For the sake of my mental balance I need to know such places still exist on earth …
    Great work, Rady, this is an excellent site

  4. moving there tomorrow! tx for sharing Rady!

  5. These places need help! LaFarge, the French mining company, is building a HUGE limestone mine/quarry in Meghalaya, with a 17-km track to carry blocks of limestone to a processing plant in Bangladesh. The people of Meghalaya need international support to create governmental pressure. Right now, the Indian Forest Ministry thinks no one cares. Change that!

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