Gerhard Skoff & Brigitte Kössner-Skoff

Indias Living Root Bridges

In the far northeast of the Indian subcontinent, nestled between the Tibetan Plateau in the north and Bangladesh in the south, lies the small state of Meghalaya. Meghalaya is Khasi land. The indigenous hill tribe was granted extensive autonomy rights by the Indian government and lives in a constitutionally guaranteed matrilineal society in which descent, family name and succession are derived only from the mother. The youngest daughter inherits the entire family property and must then ensure the family‘s integrity and provision in her role as clan leader. 

With more than thirteen metres of rainfall per year, the Khasi Hills region is one of the rainiest areas on earth. During the monsoon from the second half of April, the small streams in the lush bamboo forests swell into raging, impassable rivers.

The people here have adapted to these adversities of nature over centuries and have learned to permanently span these rivers with living bridges. On both sides of the bank, they plant rubber fig trees at a safe height. These mighty tree giants, which form the base pillars of the imposing bridges, are interwoven with the forest floor with a dense root construct. Their aerial roots connect them from both sides, allowing durable and robust bridges to grow over the decades, which they additionally reinforce with pieces of rock and clay. Dozens of such ancient, artistic and environmentally friendly bridges constructed in a natural way span the gorges and connect the small villages in the remote mountain regions.

These „Living Root Bridges“ are a unifying cultural asset that exists nowhere else in the world in this form. Only in Meghalaya do the War Jaintia, who belong to the Khasi people, maintain this ancient craft. The highest density of such bridges connects the villages of Mawkyrnot and Rangthylliang in the highlands of the East Khasi Hills, where hidden deep in the forests around twenty of these often centuries-old crossings span the gorges. Among them is the longest living bridge, spanning a deep gorge 52 metres long.

Brigitte Kössner-Skoff and Gerhard Skoff are internationally active managers in the fields of art and culture and in the automotive industry. Both have a great respect and appreciation for the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Together they have travelled to over a hundred countries in search of those places that radiate peace and perfection with their harmony and have captured these magical moments in photographs. Their pictures reflect the creative power of nature and show the diversity and beauty of our planet.

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