New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Come November and you will see Mother Nature in all her glory in Shillong as the Meghalaya capital holds the first India International Cherry Blossom Festival from November 8 to 11.
The festival is being organised by the Meghalaya government in collaboration with the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), a national institute under the Department of Biotechnology, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
“Meghalaya is known for many things that are exclusive to the state,” state Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said while addressing a press conference here to announce the festival.
“Now, we want to connect Meghalaya with the rest of the world with the cherry blossom festival,” Sangma said.
Unlike the cherry fruit, the cherry blossom tree, when it flowers — just for a short period in a year — the pink and white glory it exudes is a sight to behold.
It was in Japan that the tradition of planting cherry blossoms (called sakura in Japanese) started. The Sakura Festival started way back in the third century and continues to be a huge tourist attraction.
Thus, to convey the message of peace, the Japanese have been planting cherry blossoms across different countries of the world.
Today, 27 countries across the world, including the US, New Zealand, Holland and South Korea, hold cherry blossom festivals. Next month, India will become the 28th.
It was the Imphal-based IBSD’s Director Dinabandhu Sahoo who first noticed a cherry blossom through his hotel window while on a visit to Shillong in 2014.
Though the cherry blossom actually originated in the Himalayas, it, however, did not get popularised in the Himalayan nations like India, Nepal and Bhutan.
“Unlike cherry blossom festivals in other countries which are borrowed from Japan, our festival is unique and we are organising the festival with our own ideas,” Sahoo said.
He said that after holding India’s first ever cherry blossom festival in Shillong last year “we have decided to go bigger this year”.
The Shillong cherry blossom festival is also unique in the sense that, while in other countries the cherry trees flower in March-June, here these blossom in November.
“Though the festival is being held from November 8 to 11, the flowering will last for two weeks,” Sahoo said.
Around 5,000 cherry blossom trees have been planted on both sides of the road leading up to Shillong from Umiam side, at the famous Ward’s Lake, New Shillong and Mawphlang.
“Our target is to plant 20,000 so that by the time Meghalaya celebrates the 50th anniversary of its creation in 2022, Shillong will become a pink city unlike the traditional pink city that we know as Jaipur,” Sahoo said.
According to a statement issued by the organisers, in this year’s festival, there will be several community events which include guided night walks under illuminated cherry blossoms, live musical events, a beauty pageant and stalls showcasing the cuisine, wine, arts and craft of the region .
“Along side, there will be a rock concert, traditional folk music, unplugged western music and dance performances from all over North East India, choir performances, photography competitions, bicycle rallies, storytelling sessions of local and world folktales and an exhibition football match,” the statement said.
Sangma said that his government was providing local people with cherry blossom saplings.
“We are encouraging people to set up community nurseries,” he said. “We now have complete involvement of stakeholders.”
Pitching Meghalaya as the state with the most conducive environment for tourism, the Chief Minister said that he wanted more tourists to come and recharge themselves with fresh air.
“As Chief Minister, I can assure you that Meghalaya has pure air and pure air is also good for mental health,” he said.
“Come to Meghalaya and stay for a reasonable period of time,” he added.
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