Academic Seminar “Relevance of the Roerichs’ Heritage in Contemporary World” held in the Himalayan Roerich Estate in Naggar
On April 30, 2016 a traditional spring culture festival started in the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Naggar, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India whose two-days programme was dedicated to the significance and relevance of the ideas of the Roerichs.
The participants of the seminar were shown the documentary by the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, The Roerich Pact. Peace through Culture. Roerich’s appeal “Peace through Culture” was reflected in the Pact in the form of a concrete roadmap towards the cessation of wars and armed conflicts.
Mrs. Natalya Cherkashina, Acting Director, Museum named after Nicholas Roerich, Moscow, remarked that the Roerich Pact was one of the major evolutionary activities of the Roerichs that they performed under the supervision of the spiritual Teachers, the cosmic Hierarchs respectfully referred to in the Indian tradition as the Mahatmas or the Great Souls possessing the knowledge of Cosmic Laws. Development of the Philosophy of Cosmic Reality (the Living Ethics or Agni Yoga), drafting of the Pact on the protection of culture properties, conducting the Central Asian Expedition which created focal points of future civilization, and foundation of “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute, the prototype of future science – all these activities of the Roerichs have historic significance for the further evolution of mankind.
Prof. Suneet Chopra (Anthropology and Sociology), Department of Architectural Conservation, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, presented the paper The Roerich Pact: Its Need Today. Prof. Chopra traced the history of the Roerich Pact from the very inception of its idea. He deplored the fact that the powers that signed the Roerich Pact were reluctant to observe it, and that even the Geneva Convention of 1954 reserves the right of belligerents to attack cultural properties should the military objectives require it. Drawing parallels between the destruction of the Babri Masjid in India, the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban, the Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo, the monuments in Palmyra and also the recent appeal of the Historical Legacy Institute of Poland to dismantle 500 monuments to the Soviet Army, he regretted that despite of the progress of science and technology unfortunately a sense of respect for our common cultural heritage is sadly lacking in the world of today. However, he expressed his strong belief that the Roerich Pact will eventually overcome its obstacles just the way the International Committee of the Red Cross did.
At the end of the seminar floor was given to the Sanskritist Dr. Alexander Pereverzev, employee of the International Centre of the Roerichs and Assistant of the Russian Curator, IRMT, who spoke on the history of the “Urusvati” Himalayan Research Institute Library. Development of the Library was one of the foremost objectives of the Institute and was dictated by the main directions of its research activities, as well as the academic and spiritual pursuits of its every member. The Library’s collections are a veritable trove of spiritual knowledge of the East and the scientific achievements of the West. It is ready to open its doors to the new researchers.
Significantly, the seminar was preceded by the grand opening in the Conference Hall of the exhibition of Buddhist thangka paintings by Sarika Singh and Master Locho hailing from Dharamsala. Mrs. Sarika Singh is also a director of the Center for Living Buddhist Art in Dharamsala dedicated to the study and preservation of the art of Buddhist thangka painting. This sacred art almost disappeared from the place of its origin, India, and is now coming back from the countries that practice Tibetan Buddhism, including Russia.
The main events of the first day became the International Academic Seminar “Relevance of the Roerichs’ Heritage in Contemporary World” and the exhibition of Buddhist thangka paintings by Sarika Singh and Master Locho hailing from Dharamsala.
The International Academic Seminar, held in the Conference Hall, IRMT, united the scholars, artists and culture figures from India, Russia and other countries.
Prof. Arun Mohanty, Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Director of Eurasian Foundation shared his insights into the influence of Nicholas Roerich’s ideas on modern geopolitical tendencies. In the coming decades mankind is sure to find new paradigms of development, and Roerich’s views of the prevalent role of culture, the necessity of a union between East and West, on the foremost importance of spiritual values will play the greatest role in this process.
Mr. Tsering Dorje, Buddhist and Tibetan scholar, Vice President of the All India Historical Association (Himachal Pradesh Branch) spoke on the Roerichs’ expeditions in the Western Himalayas and the research they carried out in the Lahaul region.
Mrs. Singh presented the thangka prints displayed in the exhibition along with the original thangka paintings to the International Roerich Memorial Trust.
Having greeted the gathering, Mr. Sergei V. Karmalito, Senior Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India, read out the Welcome Remarks to the participants of the seminar sent by His Excellency Mr. Alexander Kadakin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of India, Vice President of the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Naggar. In his message Mr. Ambassador noted that the choice of the topic of the seminar “Relevance of the Roerichs’ Heritage in Contemporary World” to be discussed in the International Roerich Memorial Trust is justified. It was here, at the “End of the Habitable World” as the Kullu Valley is sometimes called, Prof. Nicholas Roerich worked on one of his main projects: Treaty on the Protection of Artistic and Scientific Institutions and Historic Monuments known throughout the world as the Roerich Pact.
The significance of the Pact is steadily growing in the world of today where the UN-based principles of peaceful coexistence and non-interference in the affairs of states and nations are routinely undermined. Quoting the words of the Roerichs, he emphasized that scientific and technological advance does not necessarily mean cultural and spiritual flowering, that civilization without culture is fruitless and devoid of essence and soul. Therefore, culture should be protected worldwide, and it is a tremendous collective responsibility. He appealed to all to cultivate the deep love of beauty and affirm the true culture symbolized by the Banner of Peace introduced by Nicholas Roerich.
The employee of the International Centre of the Roerichs Mr. Maxim Titov presented a paper on the history of the Roerich Pact and significance of the Banner of Peace. He told the participants of the seminar about the International Exhibition Project “The Roerich Pact: History and Modernity” that started in 2012 in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
Within the framework of this project the ICR conducted exhibitions in 14 countries of Europe, Asia (including India), Latin America and the USA. India received two exhibitions from Moscow. One of them has been on permanent display since July 2014 in the IRMT in one of the exhibition halls of the “Urusvati” Institute. The participants of the seminar had a chance to see it during the guided tour of the Estate.
In her address Mrs. Singh stressed that the art of thangka painting is a valuable source of morality and an aide in generating the cardinal Buddhist value, compassion. It was not coincidental that the Roerichs displayed considerable interest in the Buddhist thangkas: after all they contain enormous knowledge about man and universe.