Shillong hosts India’s First Cherry Blossom Festival
The much awaited Cherry Blossom Festival which is the first ever of its kind in India kick-started in the city on Monday with the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Dr. Mukul Sangma inaugurating the festival at the Polo Grounds.
Organised by the Government of Meghalaya in association with the Institute of Bioresources & Sustainable Development (IBSD), Government of India, the four-day festival seeks to promote Meghalaya as a favoured tourist destination to many a domestic and international tourists.
Hailing the maiden Cherry Blossom Festival to have ever been organised in the country, the Chief Minister said, “This nature’s gift of cherry blossoms to Meghalaya must be appreciated and is one of several elements that makes Meghalaya an attractive destination for tourists looking for a green destination and a short break away from the hustle and bustle of polluted cities.”
Showing his deep appreciation for the organic look that the festival wears, Dr. Sangma said that the festival is beautifully conceptualized while also expressing that he shares his sense of optimism as the State celebrates the country’s first ever festival of this kind.
Recalling the recent accolade of Meghalaya bagging the pole position in being the First amongst States (Small States) on Environment at the India Today State of the States Conclave held at New Delhi, the Chief Minister took the occasion to applaud all the stakeholders including the public, for being instrumental in realizing the feat that the State has achieved, while also stressing that the Government is trying to convince the people to connect livelihood with nature conservation and that with the unique, exclusive resources in our own backyard, the Government shall continue to strive towards achieving sustainable livelihood and prosperity for the people of the state.
The Chief Minister on the occasion also emphasized that the Cherry Blossom Festival is one component that compliments the other attractions of the state also stating further that the festival would help facilitate the branding of the state to the outside world.
The Chief Minister, at the end of the inaugural function visited stalls put up for exhibition and sale by various Government Departments and those put up by other groups and agencies and also planted Cherry saplings at the venue of the festival.
A rendition of the famous Song ‘We are the World’ by the Serenity Choir, cultural dances performed by Khasi, Garo and Jaintia troupes from among others were the added attractions of the inaugural event of the festival .
It may be mentioned that the four-day festival, held across different venues in the capital city, in addition to the exhibition cum sale and food stalls, would also witness Drawing & Painting competition, Food fest, Story – telling sessions, archery, traditional and western music shows from among other attractions.
Also speaking at the event, IBSD Director, Professor Dinabandhu Sahoo who conceptualized the Cherry Blossom Festival in India for the first time said that this event would create a number of opportunities for the people of Meghalaya. He also emphasized that collaborations should be developed with Japan so that more international tourists can visit the North East region.
He assured the people of Meghalaya that IBSD is committed to the socio-economic development of the region and this partnership is only one of several initiatives that are focussed on sustainable utilization of the unique bio resources of the state.
Sahoo also informed that 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as declared by the United Nations. In this regard, he said that the state must plan for the future editions of this festival in a bigger way well in advance and inform the world that such activities are also possible in India.
He thanked all the people for their active cooperation and requested one and all to visit Meghalaya before the festival ends on November 17 next. On this occasion, the Chief Minister also released a coffee table book entitled ‘Cherry Blossom-Sakura for Peace, Prosperity and Sustainable Development’ written by Professor Sahoo.
The Chief Secretary of Meghalaya, KS Kropha in his address also underscored the huge tourism potential of this festival besides expressing his expectations that in the years to come this will draw huge numbers of tourists from all over the country and from across the world.
The event also saw the presence of Forest & Environment Minister, Clement Marak, MLA, David Nongrum, Government officials and functionaries, tourists, civil society members, students and others.