Dr Albert Chiang
Dr Mukul M Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya and Prof. Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), invited the people of India and the international community to visit Shillong, Meghalaya and enjoy the India International Cherry Blossom Festival. It is the World’s only Autumn Cherry Blossom Festival, which will be held during 8-11 November 2017. Addressing the media persons at the Press Club of India, New Delhi, they said, if you ever wanted to see the Cherry Blossom Festival, you don’t have to fly to Japan or USA anymore. You can have the full Cherry Blossom view in India in November. Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is in full bloom every November with pink and white Cherry Blossoms all along the roadside and the famous Ward’s Lake.
To enjoy the Cherry Blossom festival, popularly known as Sakura in Japan, people usually spend thousands of dollars and visit different parts of Japan or USA during the month of March every year.
The Cherry Blossom plantation in Japan goes back several centuries, going to even fifth century AD and this was for the Emperor’s pleasure. Then it moved to the samurais who planted it on the streets and when the flowers blossomed, the people will come with their food, traditional dresses and music and sit for days and enjoy the beauty of this. There are more than 200 varieties of cherry blossom and the blossoming is in the month of April. In Japan, the blossoming starts down south in the end of march and every prefecture have a cherry blossom association and this cherry blossom has established intercontinental friendship across the world between Japan and different countries. Japan as a token of friendship has given thousands of trees to the USA and in particular, Washington DC has an elaborate cherry blossom festival. It has become a symbol of peace and tranquility and besides promoting peace and eco tourism, even the leaves and the flowers are also being used for various types of products from which people get commercial value out of. Now the cherry blossom festivals have generated huge employment and revenues for various cities and countries as lakhs of visitors from different parts of the world come to Japan, New Zealand and parts of Korea to witness the Cherry Blossom. In Washington DC alone, festival typically brings more than 1.5 million visitors and brings in $400 million in revenue every year.
Realizing the importance of Cherry Blossom to promote socio-economic development in the North East through eco-tourism, Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development, a National Institute of Government of India initiated a major Cherry Blossom Festival Initiative in association with the Government of Meghalaya in May 2015.
As a precursor for holding India’s first Cherry Blossom Festival in the State, the Avenue Cherry Tree Plantation was launched by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Dr. Mukul Sangma in the presence of Director IBSD, Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo at Ward’s Lake, Shillong on May 14, 2015.
If you enter the city of Shillong from Umiam (and also in New Shillong, Mawphlang and Ward’s Lake) you will see thousands of Cherry Blossom trees have been planted and lined up inside beautiful bamboo tree guards for protection. While all these efforts were going on, the news of these events were published in Japan. On September 24, 2015, a Japanese delegation from GIFU CHERRY BLOSSOM ASSOCIATION (GIFU SAKURA NO KAI) visited Delhi and expressed their keen interests to plant cherry blossom trees in India .As an outcome of these efforts, a Japanese delegation from the GIFU SAKURA NO KAI visited India on February 11, 2016 and launched India’s First Sakura Plantation Ceremony at Talkatora Gardens, Delhi, With this IBSD initiative, Delhi became the 38th City in the world and the First in India to hold such a event.
Last year, Shillong, Meghalaya made history by hosting India’s First Cherry Blossom Festival, which was held in Shillong , Meghalaya during 14-17 November, which was organized by Govt of Meghalaya in association with Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) , a National Institute of Department of Biotechnology, Govt of India. This attracted a huge number of tourists from all over the world and was a curtain raiser for the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as declared for the Year 2017, by the United Nations.
This year’s festival, the India International Cherry Blossom Festival, to be held at Shillong, Meghalaya from 8-11 November 2017, will build on the success of last 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. Alongside , 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 , a women’s exhibition football match and a local golf cup.