India-Russia Spring Culture Festival at the Himalayan Roerich Estate
In 2019, the anniversary year of the Roerichs, the traditional India-Russia Spring Culture Festival at the International Roerich Memorial Trust was titled “Helena Roerich: the unique thinker, writer, philosopher”. The Festival was dedicated to the 140th anniversary of the outstanding Russian woman whose creative heritage and most extensive spiritual experience made a truly invaluable contribution to the treasure house of world culture.
A new exhibition titled “Helena Roerich: Facets of Creativity” was opened on this festive day at the administrative building of the Urusvati Institute. The exhibition was organised in cooperation with the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR, Moscow), with the reproductions of Helena Roerich’s drawings from the collection of the ICR as its core.
The photographs in the exhibition hall tell the story of Helena Roerich’s earthly path, her life and creative work, as do some of her books and personal belongings from the IRMT collection that still remember the warmness of her touch. The centrepiece of the hall is a small sculpture of Helena Roerich sitting in an armchair with a book in her hands, made and presented to the IRMT by Lyudmila Kalugina, a professor at the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design.
In commemoration of Helena Roerich, the traditional Shanti Puja – a prayer for peace and well-being for all – was held nearby the Roerich’s House, under the Four-Trunk Pine that hosts the stone statues of gods from the Roerichs’ collection. After the prayer, the honoured guests of the IRMT joined in a flag-hoisting ceremony to raise the national flags of India and Russia and the Banner of Peace, which was put up by the Indian and Russian Curators of the Roerich Trust as a symbol of friendship and cooperation.
Arkhangel Mikhail, Akbar, Nil Stolbensky, Nicholas Roerich’s Forefather… The sure vivid strokes and the vibrant characters suggest that Helena Roerich was in conscious contact with the worlds of higher states of matter, that she pictured the images perceived by her inner sight. In particular, the drawing titled “One Temple for All” reflects the idea of a single source of all religions. “All philosophies, all religions went out of a Single Source, and the same Great Intellects that brought the Light <…> at dawn of our humanity, continued bringing it throughout the whole course of the slow process of the human consciousness evolution”, wrote Helena Roerich. “It is awareness of Them that saturated the mentality of mankind with the Single Truth, brought by Them in attires of various philosophies and religions corresponding to their time.”
“She lived on Earth touching the Sky”, this is what was said about Helena Roerich. The image of Helena Roerich, both earthly and unearthly, captured by Russian painter Olga Goncharenko, became the centrepiece of another exhibition that was inaugurated on this day at the Exhibition Hall of the IRMT. The exhibition features artwork by painters participating in the “Art Expedition-2019. The Himalayas” International Painting Exhibition Project that started on 15 April, the Roerich Pact Day, at the IRMT. For a fortnight, the painters from Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia stayed and worked on the premises of the Roerich Memorial Estate, explored the sacred places of the Kullu Valley, where they watched the sun go up and down against the magnificent backdrop of the Himalayan range, and then hurried to capture the wonderful moments on paper and canvas, and to preserve them in photographs to use them as inspiration for their further artwork.
The official programme at the Green Theatre of the IRMT was opened by Mr. Ramesh Chander, Indian Curator of the IRMT, and Ms. Larisa Surgina, Russian Curator of the IRMT (on deputation of the ICR, Moscow).
Together with her husband, painter Nicholas Roerich, and their two sons Yuri (George) and Svetoslav, Helena Roerich lived at the Himalayan Estate in Naggar for around 20 years; the years in the Kullu Valley were filled with tireless creative work. She spent these years perfecting the texts of the Living Ethics philosophic teaching, promoting the ideas of the Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace, actively contributing to the activities of the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute and writing thousands of letters explaining the ideas of Living Ethics. She worked for the good of the people, for their future, and the humanity still has many years ahead to reflect on the heroic effort made by this remarkable woman.
The joint project of the International Roerich Memorial Trust and the St. Petersburg Centre for Humanitarian Programs represented by its director Vitaly Vasiliev was arranged with the support of the Russian Embassy in India, All-Russian Public Organization “Creative Union of Artists of Russia” and Head of the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh. At the end of the Art Camp session, in line with the Agreement, each artist donated two paintings to the IRMT to be used for the final “Art Expedition-2019. The Himalayas” exhibition, filling the hall with sunny Himalayan landscapes, ancient temples and notable views of the Roerichs Estate.
The welcome address by H.E. Mr. Nikolay Kudashev, Ambassador of Russia to India was read out by Mr. A.D.Pheoktistov, Counsellor of the Embassy. “Though I can’t join you these days I am delighted that the spring festival in Naggar dedicated to the Roerichs became a good tradition”, says the address. “All her life Helena Roerich was standing for the unity of mankind on the basis of high ethical standards and promoting humanization of all aspects of private as well as public life and international relations. In this regard, I would like to mention her significant contribution to the signing of the unique international treaty on protection of artistic and scientific institutions and historic monuments known as the Roerich Pact. <…> Nowadays humanitarian and cultural values are still under threat due to armed conflicts, rampant extremism and terrorist attacks. Tragic and irreversible losses are shocking. We have to overcome the situation and the Roerichs’ ideas remain among the spiritual sources that serve us a guiding beacon in striving for a better, more human and beautiful world.”
The welcome address of Alexander Stetsenko, Vice-President of the International Centre of the Roerichs, was read out by Anatoly Lebedenko, Deputy Head of the United Center for the Problems of Cosmic Thinking (International Centre of the Roerichs). The address says: “Helena Roerich dedicated her life to accomplishing a great – in fact, herculean – task: together with the Masters of the East, she created a unique philosophical heritage in the form of Living Ethics or Agni Yoga books, which she left not only for Russians but for the world.” <…> “It is gratifying to know that not only Russian, but today Indian researchers and scientists are also interested in studying the creative heritage of Helena Roerich whose knowledge and achievements are based on thousands of years of tradition, a holistic perception of the world and the high spirituality and wisdom, which will allow them to appreciate the value of Helena Roerich and also to enter new pages into the study of her outstanding works.”
Smt. Sushma Sharma, Pradhan of the Naggar Panchayat addressed the participants and guests of the Festival with a welcome word on behalf of India. Smt. Sharma spoke in praise of the joint effort made by the Indian-Russian team of the IRMT and its friends, extended her thanks to the Trust and the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children for the children and youth outreach and promised that the Panchayat will continue to support the activities of the IRMT.
The honoured guests of the IRMT – Smt. Sushma Sharma; Ms. Evgenia Zeegofer, Second Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in India (cultural wing); Mr. Anatoly Lebedenko (ICR, Moscow), Ms. Lolita Kovar, Principal of the Montessori School (Kullu) and Ms. Tamara Merges, organizer of the International Children and Youth Festival “Russia-India: From Heart to Heart”, Head of the volunteers’ delegation from ICR, were invited to the stage to host the award ceremony for the winners of the children’s painting competition “Russia and India in the Roerichs’ life”. The winners, including both secondary-schoolers and students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children, were awarded with certificates and memorable gifts. But it was not the winning: the competition offered an opportunity to Indian children to know more about the Roerichs and about Russia, and the encounter with the beautiful planted the seeds of joy in their hearts.
Mrs. Olga Slepova, a poetess from Zarechny (Russia) recited poems about India and Russia; her contribution was followed by Mr. Gautam Kashiap, a school principal and a linguist from Patna (Bihar) who translated a book of poems by Mrs. Slepova into Hindi last year. The IRMT Curators extended their thanks to Mr. Kashiap for his help in the arranging and holding the Festival: this year, he is the volunteer in charge of translating the texts and speeches into Russian, English and Hindi.
The festive day was appropriately rounded up with a varied music programme. The programme included performances by the students and teachers of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children, the students of the Alliance Academy (Kullu) directed by MD Ms. Sarita Sharma, IRMT volunteers from Russia and guests from Ukraine, musicians Tamara and Dmitry Pasechnik. The performers of vibrant Russian and Indian song and dance turns left the stage to resounding applause.
“What can be higher and more beautiful than cooperating for the General Good of the culture of nations?!” wrote Helena Roerich. The everyday life and festive activities of the International Roerich Memorial Trust that bring together the people of India and Russia are a perfect illustration of this idea.
Russian Curator of the IRMT
(on deputation from the ICR, Moscow)
The speakers noted that the international culture festivals that bring together the Indian and Russian IRMT members and guests, inviting them to work and celebrate side by side, have long become a tradition for the Roerich Memorial Estate. In organising the festivals, the Trust has been assisted by the International Centre of the Roerichs (Moscow), the Embassy of the Russian Federation in India (Delhi), the Kullu District Administration headed by Mr. Yunus, as well as by volunteers from across Russia. Arranging and holding the festivals helps strengthen the friendship ties between our nations and contribute to the promotion of the Roerichs’ main ideas on the unity of man, the planet and the Universe, on the importance of obeying the rules of ethics, on the significance of Culture and its preservation.
Concluding the address, the Ambassador extended his wishes for the prosperity of Naggar, the Memorial Roerich Museum and the Urusvati Institute.