Cherrapunjee is located in the East Khasi Hills in the northeastern state of Meghalaya in India. It is 1,290 metres above sea level and perched on the southern edge of the Shillong Plateau.
The locals living in and around Cherrapunjee are known as Khasis. They have a matrilineal culture in which women own the property of the family and children take on the surname of the mother.
Cherrapunjee is famous for having one of the world’s highest average annual rainfall levels and is known as "the rainiest place on Earth". Much of the torrential monsoon rain runs off the mountains into the valley below, which receives an annual rainfall of 1,270 centimetres. The monsoon clouds fly unhindered over the plains of Bangladesh then hit the Khasi Hills that rise abruptly to a height of about 1370 m within two to five km.
This area is also famous for its living root bridges. One of the most amazing structures I have ever seen.
Over hundreds of years the Khasi have been using the qualities of the Ficus elastica, a species of Indian rubber tree with an incredibly strong root system, to build bridges to cross rivers and streams.
Betel nut tree trunks are sliced half in the middle, hollowed out, positioned according to the requirement of the bridge, and then the thin, long tender roots are passed through these hollowed out betel nut tree trunks.
The roots start growing towards the directed end. Stones are used to fill any gaps and over time they get embedded in the floor of the root bridge. The process of building a bridge takes 10–15 years. These bridges last hundreds of years with one of the oldest being over 500 years old.
Copyright: Claudia Leisinger
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