It was an idea which bloomed into a full-fledged festival and how! Here, we are talking about the India International Cherry Blossom Festival, which began in Shillong today. Walking past the coverlets of pink and white cherry blossoms, one cannot but be in awe of nature’s abundance.
What makes we Odias proud is that the festival, borrowed from Japan, took roots in the mind of Odisha-born Prof. Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of Imphal-based Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD).
Sahoo had witnessed the beauty of the cherry blossom tree and also attended a Sakura Festival during his several trips to Japan. He hit upon the idea of holding a similar festival here after stumbling upon a cherry blossom tree in Shillong during one of his visits to the capital of Meghalaya in 2014. He was a Botany professor at Delhi University then.
While it stirred the idea of using the domestic tree to rejuvenate the landscape, promote sustainable tourism and boost the economy of North East, he could put his vision into action only after being appointed as director at IBSD. However, it took him two years to convince the Meghalaya Government to embrace the tree. His concerted effort culminated in country’s first Cherry Blossom festival in November last year.
The initiative saw 5,000 cherry blossom trees being planted on either side leading up to Shillong from Umiam side, at the famous Ward’s Lake, New Shillong and Mawphlang. Sahoo now wants to paint the city pink by planting 20,000 trees by the time Meghalaya celebrates the 50th anniversary of its creation in 2022.
There is another aspect that makes the Shillong festival special. It stands out with its trees flowering in November while the rest of the world celebrates the nature’s bounty in spring.
The four-day festival this year will have several community events including guided night walks under illuminated cherry blossoms, live musical events, a beauty pageant and stalls showcasing cuisine, wine, arts and craft of the region.
Thanks to Sahoo’s efforts and vision, we no longer have to shell out lakhs of rupees to visit Japan or Washington DC to admire the beautiful cherry blossoms in full bloom.
India International Cherry Blossom Festival starts on November 8 and ends on November 11.
The festival in Shillong is spread across Polo Second Ground, JN Stadium, Ward’s Lake and Tara Ghar.
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.