Walk on the Living Root Bridges near Shillong, Meghalaya

Shillong is home for a lot of natural forests and tourist attractions. Some of the amazing attractions we found in this beautiful place are the bridges made of real, living roots of trees. Read more about some of the best tourist attractions in Shillong.

Ever came across a bridge made up of living roots of a tree? Want to know how the bridge is grown? Are you interested in knowing more about these bridges? Well, we saw one such bridge during out trip to Shillong and we were amazed! On this page you will find the information about the living root bridge at Riwai, and how to reach, what to do and what else to see near about. Soak in the beauty of such a bridge and you may be inspired to visit some of the best tourist places in Meghalaya.

In the far north east, the wettest place on the earth you will be astonished to see some man-made natural wonders. These are the living root bridges, not built but grown. So while on a holiday in Shillong, we went deep into a dense tropical forest of Meghalaya in Riwai, near Shillong and the place was masked in cloud and rain for much of the year. We saw a living root bridge, we walked on it and enjoyed the beauty and serene atmosphere of this place. In this article I have shared my experience of visiting Riwai.

About the bridge

North East areas experience heavy rainfall and lengthy monsoons. So tribals here do not believe that building wooden bridges is worth since they may decay and get destroyed. Hence, root bridges provide a stable alternative to wooden bridges. Living root bridge is a form of tree shaping like bonsai. This beautiful art of growing bridges is only found in North East Areas. The bridge is handmade from aerial roots of living banyan and fig trees by the local Khasi and Jaintia tribes. Did you know that it takes about 15 years to build a new bridge which can bear the weight of people crossing it. Over a period of time, the bridge will grow and become stronger. Some bridges are believed to be hundred years old but no one knows their exact age. Living root bridges are created to overcome frequent and fierce floods which can blow away normal bridges. This is because root bridges have many pores which allows the water to flow away and leaves the structure intact.

How is the bridge built?

The way the tribals have been building the bridges has always been kept a trade secret. The tribals noticed that the banyan tree and ficus elastic produced very strong secondary roots higher up in the trunk and these could be used to create a bridge. These roots could be perched on the boulders hung on the river banks. Now to make the roots grow in a specific direction, betel nut trunks were sliced and hollowed to create a root guiding system. So the new roots were controlled from fanning out by the betel nut trunks. When the roots reached the opposite banks of the river, they were sown into the soil. Over a period of time the roots went deep into the soil and a sturdy living root bridge was evolved. The tribal have built many such living root bridges across the deep forests. We came across one such root bridge in Riwai, about 70 kms from Shillong.

Where is Riwai?

Riwai village is well connected by road and about 80 kms from Shillong and is only a few kilometers before Mawlynnong. From the village it is 15 minutes walk into the forest. there, it's approximately a 15 minute walk one way. The best way to get to Riwai is to hire a taxi or a jeep from Shillong since the public transportation to Riwai is very poor. You can also take MTDC coach from Shillong for a day trip. This trip also covers Mawlynnong village.

The descent to the bridge

Once you are in the village of Riwai, you have to walk through the forest buffer area for about 300 meters till you reach the living root bridge. The walk an easy hike through the Riwai village rain forest. The villagers of Riwai collect a nominal entry fee to see the living root bridge and the fee collected is used towards the development of the village and maintaining the root bridge. Now when you are halfway, you will come across a sloping bamboo walkaway built among the trees which leads you to several viewpoints. You can see the Bangladesh plains in front of you and the deep forests below. The tribal family maintains this walkaway and charges 10 rupees for the entry. The view from the top is beautiful and this is must for all ages. The walkaway is quite safe and sturdy. Enjoy the view, click a few photos and resume the walk to the root bridge where a man made natural wonder awaits you.

Onto the wonder

The trek downhill is across uneven mossy steps of stone and you can hear a rumbling sound of water in the distance. The place is silent, and you can hear your own breathing. Slowly as you move down the stairs, and suddenly you come to an arched gateway and right in front of the living root bridge. There in front of you is a massive and splendid banyan tree. The trunk stands out tall as compared to other trees in the forest. You can clearly see the roots spread across to the other bank. The tangled roots look eerie and look quite out of place in the scene. This is definitely a forest of enthralling green magic. A little further you come across a rive leaping across the stones. You can take a leisurely walk : across the bridge, on the stones near the river, on the riven bank or trek up to watch the Bangladesh plains. Enjoy the man made wonder, the enchanting green forest and the riven flowing with mirth. One you have your fill of the bridge you can start the uphill climb. It takes around 20 minutes at a slow pace.

About the village

There are no restaurants in the village, but you get some home cooked food which consist of dal, rice, local chicken curry and pork. There are a several make shift bamboo stalls which sell coldrinks, biscuits, noodles, fruits. Enjoy these on the way back. The tribals are usually involved in stone cutting. They manually bang the stone and these small stones are sold. We found even the children as young as 2-5 year olds trying their best to hammer the large stones to pieces. What a wonderful way to passing skills down the generations. When we spoke to a few tribals they claimed that the root bridge as over 300 years old and still getting stronger. It may be interesting to note that till date, the bridge is maintained by the community who lives in the village.

To close this article, take an opportunity to visit Shillong and enjoy the man-made wonders not found anywhere else in the world! The memories put up in the photos are etched in my mind forever.


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Guest Author: Tshering Songpo03 Jun 2016

People in mainland India underestimates us North Easterners and our states. Meghalaya is a wonderful state gifted with natural beauty and welcoming people. We are cosmopolitan and in sync with Western culture much more so than in your cities like Mumbai or Bangalore. Welcome to Meghalaya and especially Shillong. Experience it to appreciate!

Anyone here ever visited Shillong before? How was your experience?

Guest Author: Gaurav Gujjar03 Jun 2016

This is interesting. Shillong is very clean compared to our north Indian cities. Also, there are a lot many unexplored tourist places that needs some publicity!.

By the way, is there any good wildlife parks in Meghalaya with wild safaris and all?

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