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Film Location: The Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya

Written on September 18, 2016

The state of Meghalaya, in India’s northeast, is known for its thick tropical forests and lush green mountains. From June to September, the monsoon season makes the area one of the wettest on earth, with waterways impossible to cross by foot. The indigenous Khasi people, who live deep in these jungles, have over the centuries devised an ingenious solution: Living Root Bridges.

Local rubber trees that grow adjacent to water sources grow secondary roots that sit higher up the truck. These roots are known for their strength and durability. In order to make a rubber tree’s roots grow across the river, the Khasi take hollowed out betel nut trunks, and feed the rubber tree roots through, thereby creating a root-guidance system. When the roots grow through to the other side of the river, they take root in the soil. It can take over 15 years of growth for a strong, sturdy living root bridge to connect the two banks. Unlike other constructions, root bridges only grow stronger with time, never requiring major maintenance or rebuilding. Some root bridges are claimed to be over 500 years old, over 100 feet in length, and strong enough to support the weight of more than 50 people at a time.

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There are many living root bridges scattered across the dense valleys of Meghalaya’s Khasi Hills region, but the most spectacular and arguably the most famous is the Umshiang double-decker bridge, which is more than 180 years old. It is found just outside Nongriat, a small village that’s reachable only by foot, about 10km south of the town of Cherrapunji. The bridge’s two levels span the Umshiang River, and local villagers are working on adding a third level.

Meghalaya is located in a very remote part of North East India. As such, there is no local film production infrastructure. Other than bringing in your shooting crew from abroad, the best Indian crews are based in Mumbai and New Delhi. Likewise, film equipment also needs to be brought in.

If you’re looking for a local Indian shooting crew to film your project in Meghalaya, or would like to engage a local fixer for production service support, contact us for recommendations.

Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is the closest airport to Cherrapunji. Local accommodation options in areas with root bridges are basic.

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