Meghalaya enjoys a unique distinction of having cherry trees that bloom in November. Cherry trees found in other countries usually bloom during March-April. India’s 1st Cherry Blossom Festival held in November 2016 in Shillong made a mark as the first international cherry blossom festival celebrated during autumn and has placed the state on the global tourist map.
The probable origin of the cherry blossom is the Himalayas. The wood is hard, strong, durable and the branches make excellent walking sticks. The fruits give a dark green dye and the seeds are used for manufacturing necklaces. The Cherry Blossom, when in full bloom, is a majestic sight to behold.
The Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated in few countries every year. This Festival has established inter-continental friendship across the world. Now there are similar festivals in the US, Japan, New Zealand and parts of Korea, attracting millions of tourists.
The event in Shillong became a sustained affair with the second, third and fourth editions increasing both in content and in the number of visitors.
The third edition became an international event with Japan collaborating as a partner country. His Excellency Kenji Hiramatsu, the Ambassador of Japan to India, graced the opening ceremony along with Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma. There was a Japanese Food Court and the University of Tokyo, India Office, also offered higher studies in Japan, especially in subject of Cherrry Blossom. The four-day event was packed with musical events, dog show, Cosplay, beauty pageants and fashion shows.
The fourth edition saw the highest footfall of visitors and tourists at the picturesque Ward’s Lake, Tara Ghar and the Polo Grounds.
The partner country this year was South Korea and there were many interesting cultural items like Taekwondo and a performance by the famous K-Pop artiste, Jang Hanbyul, amongst other local performances like traditional archery, marathon, chilli eating competition, cutie kidz competition, songs by Cardinal Choir from Mizoram, musical drama and baby football, among other things.
There was also a bilateral discussion between Meghalaya and the Republic of South Korea in the areas of sanitation and reclamation of abandoned minds. The festival was organised by the Department of Forest & Environment in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Institute of Bio Resources and Sustainable Development and 2019 saw a perfect synchronisation between the blooming of the pink cherry blossoms and the festival.
The various government departments showcased their products and services and the private sector participated by offering delicacies, games, flowers and handicrafts.
The closing ceremony was attended by the chief minister and the Ambassador of the Republic of South Korea in India, Shin Bong-Kil.
(Compiled by NM)