How they were discovered?
Denis P.Rayen, the promoter of Cherrapunjee Holiday Resort during the time of construction of the Resort would take time off to chalk out trekking routes around these hills. In one such scouting trip he had teamed up with some people of the village going to a prayer service at village Tynrong. When returning the next day they happened to cross the river by a 200 feet long steel rope bridge strutted across the river about 45 feet above water level. Then while climbing up hill they crossed a small mountain stream. The bridge was made of living roots and wild vines and was about 30 feet long.
Impressed by the bridge, he had taken a few photographs of the bridge. After the Resort commenced operations the photographs of this Roots & Wild Vines bridge was placed in the photo album for the guests with a caption – ‘This is Tarzan land. Bridges are made with roots & wild vines’.
Despite enthusiastic description of this bridge by the promoter himself, the initial guests who came to stay and dine at the resort were reluctant to make the trek that would take about one and a half hour to reach the bridge. Bubbling enthusiasm and perseverance paid dividends after almost six months after a Maharashtrian couple on a honeymoon holiday were keen to see the bridge themselves.
Then, Wanphai, our helper at the kitchen who hailed from the village offered to take them to another bridge close by. On their return, our guests were so thrilled at seeing the bridge and were all praise and admiration for the ingenuity in the construction of the bridge.
The next day Mr. Denis P.Rayen went down to the bridge, extensively photographed the bridge from different angles, did the measurements and collected information about who had made the bridge. These photos were placed in an exclusive album and the bridge was christened Living Root Bridge. One Mr.Snaton Chyne of Sohsarat had made this bridge . This bridge falls in the area of Village Siej across a mountain stream called Umunoi. The Photos were given captions and footnotes giving the dimensions, special traits and a brief write up of how the roots are trained to form the bridges.
Since then whenever the guests dropped in for food or for stay the photo albums were shown to them to provoke their curiosity and capture their attention and interest. Slowly and steadily word started getting around about the Living Root Bridge and many thousands have since gone on these treks to see the Living Root Bridge.
Now, with the construction of a road to village Siej, we have introduced Umkar Root Bridge that is at a driving distance of 3 km from the Resort and reached on foot from the road head in just ten minutes. The enthusiastic response of tourists to see the Living Root Bridges have encouraged the villagers who had started to discard making these bridges and start finding means to get government assistance to make concrete bridges, to revive the art of making these bridges again. The people of Siej have thus started retraining the roots of the Umkar Root Bridge that had been partially washed away by strong currents caused by very heavy rainfall to remake a stronger root bridge. This bridge has been documented in the BBC documentary ‘How the Earth made us’.