Umshiang: A Double-Decker living Root Bridge

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Umshiang Double Decker, or the Jingkieng Nongriat or Bridge, is 30 m long and 2400 m high. Well, building these bridges is not random; It is by design. The entire process takes at least 15 years to stabilize the structure. And the best part – like aged wine that tastes the best, the older the bridges are, the more sturdy they are. I was fascinated to see nature’s artwork but guided by men. Simple fact- they are not built but grown.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Living Root Bridge

I woke up as early as 4 am; we had to reach the tiny village of Nongriat before 5 am. We drove through the deep jungle to Tyrna Village, where the hike began. It’s a 20-30min drive from Cherrapunjee. I was all set for the epic trek of Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, but the guide needed to look at my weight. The attendant asked me if I could complete the expedition of 3000 stairs(one way), and I affirmatively said yes. However, my mom was enjoying the astonishment on the guide’s face.

Way To the bridge

We started the long road, which seemed like a never-ending series of steps down. Are the steps whole 3000? As there are many more to cover, I asked my inner self. I even saw deceiving chalk numbers on the stairs, making me think the number I’ve covered needed to be more accurate. However, I kept walking down, taking a few breaks as it could get tiring. I was becoming an inspiration for many hikers on the way.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
The 3000 steps


I was surprised when my guide confirmed that there is more than one living root bridge in Nongriat. Aside from the Umshiang Double Decker, I could see a few after completing 1500 steps. I entered the world of a fairytale; it reminded me of the movie Avatar. I took a break to explore the area by ordering a cup of tea from the village shop. Meanwhile, I walked up to the single-decker living bridge.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
1500 steps- just one way

These Umshiang Double Decker bridges are grown from a particular rubber tree. The roots keep growing, strengthening the bridge. Generally, the roots take around 25 years to develop. Post then, it can be operated to carry the weight of 50 people and function for 500 years. I was mesmerized as I walked across the bridge. I just asked if they feel hurt as we walk; I am so heavy!

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
The single Living root bridge

After sipping my tea, I started my trek; we passed two beautiful wire bridges. As I crossed the first steel bridge, I looked down at some most beautiful blue water I have seen lately. The colour was jade but looked more blue to me. It was clear & fresh.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Steel Bridge

As I walked further, on rocks, I saw a few hikers sunbathing on the rocks. Others were swimming in the freshwater. All happy faces around walked forward.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
The clear blue water

Make sure you use caution when crossing the wire bridge since there is only one group at a time each way.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Warning for Bridges

After 2.5hrs of trekking, I finally went to the small village of Nongriat. I saw huts of local Khasi tribes, beautiful and cosy. Well, walking a few more steps, the Umshiang Double Decker. I finally made 3000 steps trek; More than me, my guide was satisfied. 

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Kahsi Village in Norngriat

Firstly I sat on the last step and inhaled fresh air to catch my breath. I pinched to confirm I had reached my destination- Umshiang Double Decker. My jaw dropped as I looked at the surrounding. All sweaty & panting, I walked over to the Umshiang Double Decker and just touched them to feel them alive. I cannot explain the feeling of calmness it’s passed through me. 

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge

I Sat near the flowing stream & dipped my feet, a perfect cure for swollen feet. There were fish in the pond who started to nip my feet. It feels weirdly satisfying after the long trek. One can spend as much or as little time by the Double Decker Root Bridge. And If you plan to trek till Rainbow falls, it’s another hour, approx 500 steps more added. Hence be mindful if you need to make your way back! I spent some time before returning as I was not visiting Rainbow Falls.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
The clear cool water of the spring

I took multiple breaks on the way back and kept counting steps. Though I was not the only one, all others took breather breaks. And passing looks of despair and encouragement to one another. My legs were on the verge of giving up & my soul had already left my body. But I was amazed at the local women who would make this journey almost daily carrying sticks and all sorts on their backs. Ladies, I salute you!

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Khasi woman

Finally, I reached the top and settled myself at four brothers’ and two sisters’ café. I ordered tea & maggie for me & mom. It was a legendary trek; long after my legs will forgive me, the fabulous memories won’t leave me. Moreover, the guides appreciated my adventurous zeal. It was 12.30 pm by the time we went. 

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Maggi & Tea

 Ramkrishna Ashram

We drove towards Ramkrishna Ashram, built in 1931. On the was stopped by a small shop to have momo & coffee. As we arrived, I felt happy upon visiting this institution and seeing their work in propagating education and culture in the North East of India. There is a museum depicting the cultures of local tribes through models and artefacts, a school with a library, a large playground, and a modest temple built in memory of Shri Ramkrishna, making this an excellent place for peace lovers. Moreover, religious books & handicrafts of the local region are also available in a small shop inside the Ashram campus.

Ram Krishna Mission

Nohkalikai Falls

It was almost 3 pm when we started for Nohkalikai Falls, and the clouds began to settle down. The fall is one of the most dramatic and tallest plunge waterfalls, with a drop of about 340 m. As we drove, the mist was covering the area, & I feared missing the sight of falls enveloped with a lush forest plunging from red-rock cliffs into the clear turquoise pool. And it happened upon reaching; we could only see the white sheet of mist covering us.

Umshiang: The mysterious living Double-Decker Root Bridge
Mist all around

I patiently waited for the mist to clear, at least to get a glimpse, when I heard a legend from the locals. Nohkalikai’s literal meaning is “Jump of Ka Likai”, wherein ‘Noh’ means to jump, and ‘Ka’ means female. Behind the ghastly legend was ‘Likai’, the name of the Khasi woman. ‘Likai’, a young widow who lived in the village of Rangjyrteh with her baby girl. She worked hard to sustain their life. But it was hard to take care of the child, with many jobs. Therefore, she remarried on the perusal of village women. She thought about the welfare of her child.

My mom, amidst the fog.

However, her new husband became a means and nasty fellow. Jealous of all the attention on the child from Lakai, he did something horrendous. He killed and chopped the little soul. She then cooked the child dinner. Lakai assuming her baby might be playing with the neighbours, ate the cooked meal prepared by her husband. While she was eating her after-meal betel leaves and nuts, the sight of tiny fingers petrified her. It took her a minute to understand what exactly had happened, and when she did, she was filled with rage and grief. As helpless as her baby, Likai ran until she reached the edge of the waterfalls and jumped to death. Hence the waterfall is renamed ‘NohKaLikai.’ 

Nohkalikai’- the history

I was shocked listening to the story and walked up to the iron rails. And tried to look for the falls since I could hear them amid the mist. And suddenly the fog cleared, and what a view. I captured a few pictures before the mist covered us again. It was getting dark and time to head back.

Nohkalikai Falls

The day was fantastic, but my legs were sore & dead. I had to dip in hot water for 30mins to relieve the pain. Since we had an early drive tomorrow, so had an early dinner & drifted to sleep with loads of memories. 

How to reach

By Air: 

The nearest airport to Guwahati is about 181 km from Cherrapunji. You can book a cab or prepaid taxi or even board a bus outside the airport to reach the Cherrapunji. 

By Rail: 

Guwahati Junction railway station is well connected with most of the cities of India. Upon reaching, one can book a cab or take the state buses to contact the respective destination.

 By Road:

State buses, as well as private buses of Guwahati, regularly ply from various cities. One can also hire a cab or taxi and reach the city. You cannot drive a personal vehicle as it is not allowed.



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