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Living Root Bridges in Meghalaya

July 23, 2012 1 comment

How roots of the Indian Rubber Tree are trained to build bridges across streams upto 30 metres long, in Meghalaya.

A living root bridge in the Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, India (courtesy of flickr user Seema K K)

A living root bridge in the Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, India (courtesy of flickr user Seema K K)

In the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya, where Ficus elastica are large, native outdoor trees that live near water, the local people have been using the ficus’s roots as bridges for generations.

These aren’t trees that have fallen naturally over streams, though, which are commonly used as bridges in other places. Instead, the people train the trees’ roots to grow over the streams, guiding them over a period of 20 or so years into the shapes of paths and handrails until they have a bridge strong enough to carry many people at once. And as the tree grows, so does the bridge, gaining in strength over time, as the magazine Geographical noted earlier this year:

Once the roots have been trained across the stream bed, they anchor in the soil of the opposite bank, providing the foundations for a living bridge. Usually, several roots are threaded together for strength, while others provide handrails and supports for longer spans. Flat stones from the stream bed are used to fill gaps in the bridge floor and, in time, these are engulfed by woody growth and become part of the fabric of the bridge itself.

A root bridge takes around 20 years to become fully functional. Once complete, however, it will probably last for several hundred years and, unlike its non-living counterparts, will actually increase in strength with age.

Known in the Khasi language as jingkieng deingjri (‘bridge of the rubber tree’), the bridges may be anywhere from ten to 30 metres in span. Unlike most artificial structures, they are able to withstand the high level of soil erosion brought about by monsoon rains and, being living material rather than dead wood, are resistant to the ravages of termites.

There is even a double-decker bridge supposedly capable of handling the weight of 50 people at a time. (via Amazing Living Root Bridges in India | Surprising Science).


A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India

June 26, 2009 4 comments

In 1895 an Indian pioneer flew what is said to be the first Indian plane in the air. The centenary year of the first successful flight, by the Wright brothers, was celebrated from December 17, 2003. But our own pioneer from Mumbai, Shivkar Bapuji Talpade, made an aircraft and had flown it eight years earlier. One of Talpade’s students, P Satwelkar, has chronicled that his craft called ‘Marutsakha'(Friend of the Winds) flew unmanned for a few minutes and came down. (via A flight over Chowpatty that made history – The Times of India).

Claims … and reality

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Speculative drawings based on Vymanika Shastra

Western claims to superiority over the Rest usually include their record in ‘innovation and invention’. This record is brandished as proof of Western superiority – of Western attitudes, institutions, society, polity, media and academia, values, et al.

Technology – a function of funding

What is usually never mentioned or understood is the funding of technology. Technology is a quantitative function of funding. Western funding of its technology quest was underwritten first by conquest (of the Native American by the Spaniards), followed by slavery (of the Native Americans and Africans) followed by colonialism.

It were these forms of exploitation which created a continuous flow of resources (funds, patrons, technology, raw materials) which enabled this technology output.

If …

As this news item points out: –

  1. The Indian pioneer could not obtain funds. Another newspaper report (reproduced elsewhere) points out how the British Raj influenced the Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad of Baroda from support to Talpade’s research.
  2. On the other hand, the Wright Brothers were supported by the US Army to the extent of US$25,000.

These reports are linked to an intriguing Sanskrit technical manual, the ‘Vymanika Shastra‘. Some level of critical examination has happened in the last few years. What makes this claim worth investigating is the fact that this manual in Sanskrit came out in India – from a man who had little exposure to technology being developed on the opposite side of the world. A copy of this manuscript landed at the Sayaji Rao Gaekwad’s Rajakiya Sanskrit Library, Baroda.

While original dating of this document is not yet done, its authenticity as a technical document in Sanskrit, within a few years of Kitty Hawk makes the ‘ripoff-theory’ baseless.

Some sources for this post

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute , Volume 69 | Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute | Page 365

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Cultural reciprocation between India and the world | By Sures Chandra Banerji | Page 191

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

From Asia: Asian quarterly of culture and synthesis, Volume 4 | By René de Berval | Page 40

After the death of his wife, Talpade lost interest in the project. One book claims that “later his relatives sold the models and other things connected with his experiment to the firm of Rally Bros …”

Failed Westernisations

February 7, 2008 Leave a comment

Guernica / America’s Century of Regime Change

More by Kinzer on Regime Changes.

Failed Westernisations

For ambitious nations wanting to modernise, the easy way out seemed to be ‘copycat’ westernisation. Amongst the first ‘copycat’ states were China and Turkey. China, led by Sun Yat Sen, was the first major power, which tried going down the western path. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria sounded the death knell of the Chinese Republic and Monarchy.

Ataturk’s Turkey

Turkey – led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the next ‘copycat’ attempt at westernisation. After WW2, the victorious allied powers dismantled the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was reduced to a rump state.

For more click here.

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