FEATURE | Finding the essence of the Cherry Blossom Festival

FEATURE | Finding the essence of the Cherry Blossom Festival

By Anissa Lamare | Nov 17, 2019:

The city of Shillong has completed its fourth edition of the India International Cherry Blossom Festival 2019 after four eventful days. The festival which started in 2016 for the love of the tree is seen to have grown folds in its succeeding years in terms of revenue, economic growth, boosting the tourism department and areas alike. However, the question that arises is? Whether the Cherry Blossom Festival merely celebrates God's gift for one's benefit? Let's find out.

The festival which began on November 13, 2019 had eminent figures and leaders from almost every department in the State. They all pointed out to the uniqueness of the autumn blossoming of the tree in the city. They also spoke about its origin, its delicateness and beauty. Adding to this "eco-tourism" is the recurring phrase everyone heard since day one.

The festival, organised by the Forest and Environment Department as well as the Institute of Bio-resources and Sustainable Development has raised more questions.

Celebrating the Cherry Blossom Tree (PC: Anissa Lamare)

In casual conversations with the youths of Shillong, there was a consensus in their responses. Most like RapborNongkynrih and Kathie Decruse, thought that the festival like others failed to see the bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? Well, considering how the world is diluting faster than the four-day celebration, the environmental aspect is the utmost concern. 

On the other hand, the Government, solely the Forest and Environment Department had more to add on the festival. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, C.P Marak, said, "God has blessed Meghalaya with unique flora and fauna and the unique phenology of the autumn blossoming of the cherry blossom tree". He further alludes that the world has "capitalised nature's bounty" and that it is only just to use its resource for the benefit of many. Marak also highlighted the need to find a balance between the "environment and development."

Another conversation with the lead member of Fridays For Future, Shillong, Joel Blah-Kyndiah lend another perspective to the festival. The dynamic youth who has been active in climate change strikes first started off with the importance to celebrate something as beautiful as the Cherry Blossom tree. Kyndiah also pointed out to the benefits in terms of revenue and publicity for the state. Echoing similar sentiments, Marak also commented on the direct and indirect benefits to all sectors in the economy. However, coming to the environmental aspect, another question is how such festivals addresses sustainability, adds Kyndiah.

Meghalaya CM, Conrad Sangma inaugurated Cherry Blossom fest 2019 (PC: Anissa Lamare)

Stating that the festival has raised Meghalaya on a higher pedestal, Marak highlighted the international relations built in the past and the present. The Japanese Ambassador visited last year's Cherry Blossom Festival, while this year the Republic of South Korea participated.

"Tourism in Meghalaya is now an international attraction," said Marak  He further stressing on the importance of building relations with South Korea in order to develop agreements in the future between the two country. 

The Festival –

This year's four-day festival hosted a wide variety of events encompassing fashion, indigenous games, cuisine, cultural music and dances and a dog show. The Fifth Polo Ground was also enthralled with a total of 157 stalls from local handlooms, handicrafts, local food from different parts of Northeast, local rice beer and wine among the few.

On the other hand, Ward's Lake was beautifully decorated with lights that mirrored the structure on the water. The venue was filled with huge crowds from families to youths taking pictures of the well decorated place.

(PC: Anissa Lamare)

The festival also featured several Korean events which included a K-Pop concert, taekwondo, Korean cuisine and many more. This addition was definitely a huge attraction for both the locals and tourists. The third day of the festival was packed with people jamming to K-Pop sensation Jang Hanbyul.

Pros and Cons –

The festival from what has been seen had its ups and downs. While some saw it as a waste, others were more focused on building the State of Meghalaya as a whole. So, stuck in this dilemma let's weigh the pros and cons of this year Cherry Blossom Festival.

In terms of the economy, the festival played a big role in gaining revenue. The much-awaited festival became a huge tourist hotspot in the past and it has only been growing. C.P. Marak also highlighted that Shillong has suffered many downturns in the past pertaining to tourism. This means that hotels, restaurants, travel agencies seldom reaped any benefit in the past. However, with the gradual growth in tourism and conducting such festivals has brought more life to the economy as a whole.

(PC: Anissa Lamare)

Development in the literal sense is measured in terms of economic growth. This indicator is universal across all countries. However, the big flaw in the indicator as well as in the festival lies in the fact that other issues that would actually spell out the development of a state is overshadowed by comparatively lesser important issues. Joel Blah-Kyndiah on the same added, "There is a need for the current coalition of the state to do something in addressing the illegal, inhumane and environmentally wrong mining practices of coal and limestone".

 He further said that festivals like the Cherry Blossom should not stop, but the Government and the people should use such opportunities to raise awareness about pristine Meghalaya and its protection.

(PC: Anissa Lamare)

Will MRSSA 2016 have an impact on Tourism? Here's what tourists have to say …

Coinciding with the festival is the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016 which brings about a new regulation for outsiders to enter Shillong for more than 24 hours. When many tourists were asked regarding the same, they were completely unaware of such a rule. Only a handful of the tourists were versed with the amendment.

A resident of Assam, Shatarupa Choudhury said, "Given the fact that the act is meant to protect and guard the local people it is fair." However, she also added that the process of registering should be hassle-free for tourists to prevent further issues from popping up.

(PC: Anissa Lamare)

Narojungla Jamir, a resident of Nagaland, Mokokchung came all the way to experience the Cherry Blossom Festival before attending the Hornbill Festival later this year. She highlighted that the MRSSA is a good initiative taken by the Government to ensure individual security and the well-being of the state. Jamir also said,"Regulations like MRSSA, Inner Line Permit in Nagaland should be implemented in all Northeastern states to maximize security."

The Cherry Blossom Festival definitely leaves a legacy for the state but it is important to understand the unique resources and selling point along with the art of balancing the same. The resources also need to be carefully managed in order to increase the legacy that the State is currently having. Sustainable Development should be the key point while conducting all festivals.

(PC: Anissa Lamare)

The festival was conducted with hopes to better the State in many ways. While many may not see the outcome, the Government asserts some benefits of such festivals. Therefore, it is the need of the hour for both the citizens of the state as well as the Government to listen and conduct in order to benefit the environment and its people.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Anissa Lamare is a Feature Writer and a student of Kristu Jayanti College Autonomous in Bangalore. She is currently an intern with TNT- The Northeast Today. Cycling, photography, feature writing are some of her hobbies. She can be reached at anissa1469@gmail.com

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