Be it larger than life Bollywood songs, or a more intimate family gathering, flowers have always served as the perfect backdrop. Sprouting in more colours, shapes, and sizes than the mind could possibly comprehend; the Earth’s flora never ceases to amaze and bring a smile to everyone’s faces. Despite this, the common man is often only aware of commercial flowers, such as the rose, hibiscus, lily, daisies etc. For the true flower lovers among us, did you know that there is a state in India that boasts of 5000 native species of flora?
Located in the northeast of India, Sikkim was a mountain kingdom till 1975 and to this date retains its untouched beauty aided by the Himalayas, subtropical woodlands and famed rhododendrons of which there are 30 species.
Being an ecological hotspot, the state has been extremely vigilant in preserving the natural abundance it enjoys by enforcing strict laws and regulations. Due to its altitudinal gradation, Sikkim is home to a wide variety of plants ranging from tropical to temperate ones, from alpine to tundra. Around 5000 species of flowering plants are indigenous to this state making it one of the best places on the planet to host an International Flower Festival, which is exactly what the Sikkim government does, every year in May during spring.
A major chunk of Sikkim’s economy is aided by the tourism industry, and the horticulture industry, amongst others. This is the reason why the Sikkim government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the governments of Thailand and Netherlands to further develop floriculture suited to international markets in 2013.
Rhododendron, which is Sikkim’s state tree, is the pride of the festival. The main kinds of flowers on display are exquisite orchids, gladioli, roses, cacti, alpine plants, creepers, climbers, ferns and herbs, resulting in a riot of gorgeous colours.
It takes place near the governor’s residence at White Hall in Gangtok. One of the main attractions is the orchid, of which there are more than 500 varieties. They range from blush pink, bright yellow to a brilliant gold in colour and are all found at the festival. There are rows and rows of pink, red, violet and white Gladioli in various arrangements leading to an absolute explosion of colours and fragrances.
There are lectures and seminars held by horticulture and floriculture enthusiasts and experts which can be attended by anybody. Aside from this, the festival also boasts of a mouth-watering array of local delicacies such as Thukpa, Momos, Phagshapa, etc.
The festival draws participants from far and wide such as Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, China, Taiwan and Nepal.