Situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, Meghalaya - the abode of clouds - is home to the Khasis, Garos and Jaintias. The climate is suitable for a rich and diverse forest and vegetation cover. Ficus elastica, a large tree with much spreading, is confined to north-east of India and is found in Meghalaya within dense evergreen forests, particularly along river banks. It is epiphytic in juvenile stages, and is well adapted to the soil and climatic conditions as also to the fast-flowing rivers and mountain streams of the state. It is comfortable on huge boulders along the river banks and sends its roots down to the river bed. It also spreads out secondary roots from its trunks.
The local people have used the tree to serve their need for making bridges to cross unfriendly rivers and streams, like seen in the nearby areas of Cherrapunjee. These bridges usually have more than two base spans. Stones are used to fill any gaps in the base spans and, over the period, they get embedded in the floor of the root bridge. Some of these bridges have roots brought down from branches to join the middle of the bridge as support spans. The roots keep growing in strength and it takes 10-15 years for a bridge to be fully functional. Some of these root bridges are made by entwining the roots of two trees planted on opposite banks or in the middle of the river on huge boulders. These bridges may be 50-100 feet in length and are strong enough to carry 50 people at a time. One such bridge has two bridges stacked one above the other, like a double decker. The life-span of these bridges is thought to be between 500-600 years.