SHILLONG, Nov 13 - Meghalaya�s State capital is draped in shades of pink and white these days with beautiful cherry blossom trees in full bloom.
The authorities here say Shillong too may have its own Cherry Blossom Festival like the centuries-old festival in Japan, known as Hanami in that country.
Cherry blossom trees are found aplenty here and its adjoining suburbs. From the first week of November, the flowers start blooming. The trees stay in full bloom for about 15 days before the flowers are shed.
There are two varieties found here that include trees with white and pink cherry blossom flowers. Botanically, these trees are known as Prunus cerasoidus.
�The bloom signals the onset of winter here, unlike in Japan and other countries where the cherry blossom trees blooms during the spring season,� Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development, Imphal, said.
Sahoo is advocating for a Cherry Blossom Festival and has been to Japan 12 times. Many of these visits coincided with the Hanami to witness the Japanese people�s fascination for cherry blossom flowers.
�In Japan, cherry blossom is associated with peace and beauty and Japanese people sit under the trees and gaze at the sky through the canopies for peace and happiness,� Sahoo said.
In Japan, the authorities publish calendars, forecasting dates when the cherry blossoms will bloom in different parts of the country. Thousands of tourists from around the world visit during this period. People gather and relax around these trees, have food, or simply witness events associated with art and culture.
Now thanks to Sahoo�s efforts, Shillong has 1,800 additional cherry blossom trees planted this year and there are plans to have another 10,000 planted over a period of three years.
Most of the saplings were planted along the National Highway from Umiam and up to Mawphlang. Since cherry blossom has a short maturing period, Sahoo said the saplings would start flowering in the next two to three years.
In Shillong, cherry blossom trees are found abundantly in the Ward�s Lake and elsewhere. However, these trees are found scattered, unlike in Japan where efforts are put to have tree-lined roads and parks.
Sahoo said members of the Japanese Cherry Blossom Association visited India this year to spearhead the cherry blossom plantation initiative.
�There is still a few days to go before the trees shed the flowers and people from Guwahati and elsewhere can come and witness the natural grandeur,� Sahoo said.