The mystical land of the seven sisters, India’s North Eastern States, is blessed with natural beauty – hills, rivers, waterfalls and lush green vegetation, due to rains aplenty. Tucked away in the regions around Cherapunji in Meghalaya is a wondrous fairyland where the synergy between man and nature has created some marvelous phenomena. Here, the ‘living’ bridges over mountain streams link villages and people, while the crystal clear waterfalls connect the sky above with the earth below, ending in limpid emerald pools.
Once the wettest place on earth, today Cherapunji (60 km from Shillong) is ranked second after Mawsynram, though it remains a tourist magnet with breathtaking landscapes and unique offerings.
On every tourist’s list is the double decker living root bridge, but the only way to reach it is by an arduous 3 km (one way!) trek, which includes around 3500 steps through Nongriat Village in Cherapunji.
With picturesque mountain streams flowing below it, the first iron bridge, gateway to the double decker root bridge, is an easy one to traverse, though it feels like one is on a trampoline.
Then comes the beast: the second iron strings bridge sways alarmingly when several people cross it at a time, as its made by just iron ropes, a feature unique to the bridges in the area.
An inside view of the second iron strings bridge; one can see people treading carefully, walking close behind one another to minimise the swing action.
The single decker living root bridge in Nongriat Village is one of several fashioned by the native Khasi people from the tangled roots of the Ficus elastica tree and anchored steadfastly by massive boulders along streams or riverbanks in the rain forests. The perfect example of man’s ingenuity, these rare treasures of Meghalaya are a viable alternative to traditional wooden bridges that would not survive the region’s incessant rains.
At last, the double decker living root bridge — the lower tier is visible to the left. A partnership between nature and man, it is made by intertwining the roots of rubber trees around a betel tree trunk.Taking 10-15 years to become fully functional, the root bridges can stretch up to a hundred feet and are extraordinarily strong.
A front view of the over 150 years old bridge from the check dam. Remember, these bridges are alive and still growing!
Five km from Sohra, better known as Cherapunji, are the multi-layered Dainthlen waterfalls, named after a gigantic python in folklore (Thlen is the Khasi word for python).
Dropping fearlessly from a height of 1115 feet, the rainwater-fed Nohkalikai Fall near Cherapunji is the tallest plunge waterfall in India and the fourth highest in the world.