Two-lane traffic … one of the living tree bridges in Meghalaya, India.

The ‘Abode of Clouds’ where Women Rule and your Neighbors are just a Sky-Bridge Away.

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More often than not I subtly push my writing in the direction of tropical shores and underwater worlds, why? Because I want to go there, it’s the best part of my job. That being said, today I will introduce you to the tribal territory of the Khasi people, deep in the forest of India where they receive nearly 40 feet of rain annually causing the locals to move through their land on high bridges woven out of tree roots, oh yes, here we go!

These people are fascinating, not only in the way they live but the hierarchy of their tribe, adopting very different values and systems to the rest of India the Khasi people have developed a Matriarchal female dominated Christian society, which is enough to raise eyebrows in many continents and quite unheard of amongst other Indian provinces.

This place is called Meghalaya, or ‘Abode of Clouds’ in local Sanskrit. It makes up one of the ‘Seven Sisters’ a name given to the seven Northeastern states where the rainfall reaches magnificent levels, the little known village of Cherrapunji took on the world record for amount of rainfall in one year with a full 87 foot. This brutal weather often turns the forest floor into a network of white water rivers forcing locals to take to the trees.

The Khasi people have dealt with these distressing conditions in an ingenious way, by freeing long tree roots and intertwining them across dips and valleys, fashioning rough but surprisingly strong Skybridges throughout the land. This gives them the freedom to walk almost unseen high in the branches away from freak floods and wild animals, many can go weeks without setting food on the ground. Known by early explorers as ‘The Scotland of the East’ the land is inhospitable but unlike Scotland, hiding high in the trees far away from the floods one can simply visit other friends and relatives by using this web of living ladders and walkways that can stretch for miles.

The land is not only populated by the Khasi people, who share the forest with the smaller populations of the Garos and Jaintias, three tribes who are all linked by one interesting society system, to cut a long story short, the Women own the land, the family name and make the important decisions.

As the wealth of a family will pass from the Mother to the Daughter, unlike Europe and America in the not so distant past, some of the men of the Meghalaya are campaigning for change, highlighting their feelings of worthlessness and oppression. A small weak sapling is masculine, but when it grown into strong wood it becomes feminine, when a daughter is born there are great celebrations but a boy will bring quiet mutterings and mild acceptance, the men of the Khasi people say they don’t want to bring the Women down but hope to one day be recognized as equals.

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Travel Writer TraveleZe
Jack Van Toorn, International Travel Writer and Guide Editor, currently Island Hopping from Thailand to Micronesia.

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