Autumn in Meghalaya is a happening time, much to tourists’ delight. The last few weeks of balmy weather before Christmas makes it more inviting. This autumn was extra special in Shillong! The city hosted the first ever Cherry Blossom festival in India. Hearing about it made the Zizira explorers want to find out more. We are sharing what we found out about the festival and about the history of Cherry Blossom in Shillong. Read on. You may have heard of cherry blossom festival in Japan? Or cherry blossoms in the broad avenues of Washington DC. But in Meghalaya? The inaugural for the Cherry Blossom Festival, Shillong, was held at the Polo Grounds, on the 14th of November 2016. Dr. Mukul Sangma, Meghalaya’s Chief Minister, declared the festival open. The Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainable Development (IBSD) partnered with the government to organize this festival. In the inaugural speech, the Chief Minister said:
“This festival is meant to showcase the State, its rich bio-diversity and vast potential for Eco-Tourism and associated sectors”. “The Cherry Blossom Festival will brand Meghalaya to the outside world as the one component that draws attention to, and complements, other attractions of the State”. "There is absolute necessity to preserve the bio-diversity of natural resources so that they can be the source of our sustainable livelihood and prosperity"
Meghalaya is home not only to unique horticultural crops and fruits but also of plants of medicinal and ornamental value, like the Cherry Blossom. But is the Cherry Blossom, also known as the Wild Himalayan Cherry, native to Meghalaya? Here is some interesting information Kong Mena Sohliya, who has retired from Forest Department way back in the 70s, shared with us:
The then Chief Secretary, Mr. Nari K.Rustomji, brought the first seeds from Japan and scattered them in the forested area around his residence in Shillong. He later ordered the then District Forest Officer, late Mr. Wahlang, to transplant the saplings to the banks of the Umkhrah near Polo Grounds, Ward’s Lake and Lady Hydari Park. Later, the Forest Department (and the birds) propagated it elsewhere around the city. That’s how we now have these beauties!”
(Kong is a respectful way of addressing women in Khasi, the language of Meghalaya)
What is Cherry Blossom?
The Cherry Blossom, Prunus cerasoides, of the family Rosaceae is called Dienglieng in Khasi. This deciduous, medium hardwood, can grow up to about 30 meters high, in altitudes of 1200-2400 metres. One of the multipurpose trees of the Himalayan Range, it is also grown as a framework tree for restoration of evergreen forests in dry tropical lands. Cherry Blossom tree is said to have therapeutic properties. Some of its uses are:
Skin diseases like leucoderma, leprosy, skin pigmentation; sprains, wounds, insect bites;prevention of abortion, asthma, joint pains, backaches etc; as emollient in skin creams etc
Furniture, picture frames, walking sticks etc; organic dyes – green from leaves and grey from fruits; beads from seeds
Gardens and parks
Fodder (leaves) for domestic animals; nectar to the bees
In Khasi traditional medicine it is used mainly for treating various skin problems and backaches.
The Zizira Commitment
We at Zizira continue to explore to bring to the fore the richness and diversity of Meghalaya’s natural bounty and its beauty. The Meghalaya farmers’ cause is at the core of our commitment at Zizira. A look at our store shows you naturally grown, naturally grown products, that guarantees full customer satisfaction. Come, have a look, and see for yourselves the range we have. If ever you have had the good fortune to experience the beauty of the Cherry Blossoms wouldn’t you like to share with us? Do contact us. Or comment below. Hearing from you would be such a delight.