Imagine travelling along a wonderful fairytale-like lane lined by a thousand cherry blossom trees, each laden with piles of luscious pink petals, towering tall against the deep blue sky. A vision of a sea of exquisite pink cherry blossoms is sure to flood your mind. Such is the enchantment of cherry blossoms, or Sakura as they are known in Japan. The cherry blossom festival in Japan, which typically occurs in late March or early April, heralds the arrival of spring by painting the landscape in beautiful pink hues. Every year, travellers rush to Japan to witness the Sakura blossom and marvel at its splendour. But did you know that you don’t have to travel to Japan to experience the charming sight of cherry blossoms?
While cherry blossom trees bloom in the spring throughout the world, Meghalaya’s capital Shillong wears the dainty colours of cherry blossoms in the fall, transforming the East Khasi Hills into a floral wonderland. Shillong, regarded as the “Scotland of the East,” is famous throughout the world for its spectacular natural beauty. This north-eastern hill station in Meghalaya, India, has been on the bucket list of every nature lover owing to its rolling mountains, rich green vegetation, vivacious streams, terraced plantations, and more. In November, the hillsides of Shillong are aburst with pink flowers, like a painting with whimsical colours dotting its panoramic landscape.
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Cherry Blossom Significance
In Buddhism, the cherry blossom signifies the fleeting nature of life. Since the cherry tree blooms for a week or two, they symbolise the fragile essence of existence. Cherry blossoms are lovely and vivid, much like life, yet they are ephemeral.
The flowers have also been linked to the attractiveness of a young woman. For Japanese Samurais, soldiers, and gangsters, the blooms are a sign of life’s transitory splendour. Cherry blossoms are also a sign of good fortune.
During the Heian Period (794–1185), Emperor Saga, Japan’s 52nd emperor, established the custom of hanami parties in the Imperial Court in Kyoto, when aristocrats would meet under the trees to admire the beauty of cherry blossoms. This practice is carried on in modern Japan when the entire country gathers for a large outdoor event once the cherry blossoms bloom.
In India, cherry blossom or prunus cerasoides is known as wild Himalayan cherry and sour cherry, also known in Hindi as Padam, pajja, or padmakashtha. It is deemed sacred by Hindus in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and is linked with Vishnu and Shiva. The petals are used to create a wreath with wild citrus fruits and placed at the prayer altar during Maha Shivaratri. The petals are also utilised as incense.
Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival 2021
Shillong has established the Cherry Blossom Festival from November 25th to 27th to commemorate seasonal blossoming and indulge in leisure. The annual Shillong Cherry Blossom Festival is recognised as one of the state’s most vivid and colourful festivals.
This event began in 2016. It is organised annually by the Government of Meghalaya and features live music and a wealth of events, such as dancing contests, pageants, and various kiosks dedicated to representing their area through cuisine, wine, arts and crafts. One can also witness musical performances, bicycle rallies, and storytelling sessions at the event.
Where to Experience Cherry Blossoms in Shillong
If you’ve never experienced cherry blossoms, this is an excellent time of year to see them and participate in the fun festivities. Embark on an enchanting road trip in and around Shillong during the blooming of the cherry blossoms.
1. Ward’s Lake
One of the greatest ways to see the exquisite blossoms flowers is to take a boat trip on Ward’s Lake. Ward’s Lake, one of Shillong’s most appealing attractions, offers a lovely wooden bridge, lush slopes, and sculpted gardens, making it a popular recreational destination for residents and visitors alike.
How to reach Ward’s Lake
The nearest railway station is in Guwahati and the closest airport to Ward’s Lake in Shillong is the Shillong Airport. You can book a taxi from Guwahati or book a taxi from Shillong Airport to Ward’s Lake to ensure a smooth transfer. The distance between the Shillong airport and Ward’s Lake is about 31.3 km.
3. Polo Ground
Shillong can lay claim to one of India’s most magnificent sports stadiums, Polo Ground, where the second half of the cherry blossom festivities take place.
How to reach Polo Ground
The closest airport to Polo Ground in Shillong is the Shillong Airport. You can book a taxi from Shillong Airport to Polo Ground to ensure a smooth transfer. The distance between the Shillong airport and Polo Ground is about 24.4 km.
3. Shillong Golf Course
Another great place to see cherry blossoms in Shillong is the Shillong Golf Course. This 18-hole golf course in the middle of the city is a favourite destination for leisure, nestled amid a border of pine trees. Long hikes and strolls in the beautiful, vast meadows are popular here. Visitors can even bring their golf clubs to play in the amateur golf event, held as part of the festival.
How to reach Shillong Golf Course
The closest airport to Shillong Golf Course is the Shillong Airport. You can book a taxi from Shillong Airport to Shillong Golf Course to ensure a smooth transfer. The distance between Shillong Airport and Shillong Golf Course is about 30.8 km.
A few points to keep in mind
- In Shillong, the Cherry Blossom Festival typically takes place in mid-November, amid the spectacular fall blossoming of Himalayan Cherry Blossoms.
- In 2021, the festival will be held from 25th to 27th November at Ward’s Lake from 10 am to 6 pm and Polo Ground from 3 pm to 10 pm.
- Entry is open to doubly vaccinated attendees only.
- Check the Meghalaya Tourism page for more details, so your trip is better planned and you can avoid the risk of disappointing yourself with closed buds.
- The festival and its vibrance can be best witnessed by travelling around the city in a car. You can book a Savaari cab with a local driver in Shillong and avail the festive offers.
Places to visit in Shillong
Shillong is more than simply the Indian city where cherry blossoms flourish. The city was dubbed the “Scotland of the East” by British authorities due to its similarities. Shillong also features some wonderful sight-seeing areas, intriguing places, and offers an excellent glimpse into how Meghalaya is gradually embracing modernization. You can visit all these places in Shillong for a wholesome experience:
- Umiam Lake – Umiam Lake is a breathtaking reservoir in Shillong surrounded by the lush and lofty East Khasi Hills. Kayak at Umiam Lake and experience the surge of exhilaration as you explore the lake.
- Shillong Peak – You can enjoy breathtaking views of Shillong here and take some incredible photographs. The beauty of the city can also be seen from the small telescope installation.
- Elephant Falls – Elephant Falls in Shillong is one of the most popular waterfalls in the North-East, and is called so because of an elephant-like stone at its base. It is one of the greatest spots to visit in Shillong for spending time in nature.
- Laitlum Canyons – Laitlum Canyons provides a tranquil, isolated setting for a peaceful and pleasant trekking expedition. The surrounding haze, the freshness of the fog, and the lush greenery make the location appear incredibly dreamy.
- Wahrashi Falls – The Wahrashi Waterfalls, formed over the Wah Rashi Kshaid River, is a congregation of eight waterfalls. Only tier 3 of the waterfall, which is surrounded by a cluster of holy hills, is open to the public.
[Also read: Mawlynnong: God’s Own Garden in Meghalaya]
Places to Stay in Shillong
- Pinewood Hotel
- Aura Cottage
- Hotel Pegasus Crown
- Hotel Lake View Inn
- Blueberry Inn