Cherry blossoms spread tranquility in the northeast

By Aroonim Bhuyan

New Delhi, Jul 28 (IANS): Mizoram has become the third state in India's northeast to get a Cherry Blossom Avenue, whith Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla planting a sappling of the flowering tree at the New Secretariat Complex in Aizawl.

"The cherry blossom is a symbol of peace, prosperity and tranquility and has brought peace in countries where it has been planted," Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of the Imphal-based Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), explained to IANS on the phone.

The IBSD, a national institute under the central government's Department of Biotechnology, launched Cherry Blossom Avenues in Manipur and Meghalaya last May.

So, what is the big deal about a Cherry Blossom Avenue anyway?

Simply put, it is Mother Nature in all its glory. Unlike the cherry fruit, the cherry blossom tree, when it flowers -- just for a short period in a year -- the pink glory it exudes is a sight to behold.

"Just as people go all the way to Holland to watch tulips flowering, cherry blossoms can also be a huge tourist attraction," said Sahoo, who is now in mission-mode to launch Cherry Blossom Avenues across the northeast.

It was in Japan that the tradition of planting cherry blossoms (called sakura in Japanese) started. The Sakura Festival started way back in the third century and continues to be a huge tourist attraction.

Thus, to convey the message of peace, the Japanese have been planting cherry blossoms across different countries of the world.

In February, New Delhi became the 38th city in the world to host a traditional Japanese sakura planting ceremony when saplings were planted at the Talkotra Garden -- with Sahoo playing a pivotal role.

It was on a visit to Japan in 1988 that Sahoo became witness to the full grandeur of a Sakura Festival that left him enamoured forever.

But the fact of the matter, Sahoo explained, is that the cherry blossom actually originated in the Himalayas but did not get popularised in the Himalayan nations like India, Nepal and Bhutan.

"When I was invited to IIM-Shillong in 2014 while I was a professor in Delhi University, I noticed a cherry blossom tree from my hotel room," he said.

"It was the first cherry blossom I saw in India. I thought if cherry blossom can bring prosperity to Japan and many other countries, why can it not for India, especially in the northeast."

So, last May, Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma inaugurated a Cherry Blossom Avenue in Shillong.

This was followed by planting of thousands of cherry blossoms on the roadsides in and around Shillong.

"The beauty of our cherry blossoms is that we have two types -- one that flowers for 10 days in the first half of November and another that flowers some time around mid-March," Sahoo explained.

To this end, plans are afoot to hold a Cherry Blossom Festival in Shillong in November.

Also in May last year, another Cherry Blossom Avenue was launched at the India Peace Memorial, a World War II site in Imphal that honours Japanese and Indian National Army (INA) troops who died while battling the allied forces.

As news of this got highlighted in the Japanese media, the Gifu Flower Blossom Association in Japan contacted Sahoo and the plantation ceremony was held in New Delhi on February 11.

According to Sahoo, cherry blossom plantation can give a big boost to the economy, especially in the tourism sector, in the northeast by generating large-scale employment.

He also pointed out that one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN adopted in September last year is "peace, justice and strong institutions".

"The cherry blossom can play a very important role in promoting this," he said.


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