Nicholas Roerich Anniversary Celebrations in International Roerich Memorial Trust
In the morning of October 9, 2018, when it was drizzling in the Himalayan Roerich Estate just like in the rest of the Kullu valley, the Indian and Russian staff and guests to the IRMT took is as a sign of good luck to start the main day of the October festival dedicated to the 144th anniversary of Nicholas Roerich. Nor did the drizzle hinder the traditional shanti puja, the prayer for peace and wellbeing, which, according to tradition, took place at the Samadhi of the Russian artist. There, on the spot that offers a wonderful view of the Kullu valley and the double-headed Mt. Gepang, “the body of Maharishi Nicholas Roerich, the great friend of India, was consigned to the flames” as the inscription on his Memorial Stone informs. On the completion of the puja, a consecrated flower garland was laid on the Stone.
In front of the memorial Roerich House were solemnly hoisted the national flags of India and Russia, and the Banner of Peace. The distinguished guests of the programme, Dr. Rita Singh, Advisor (Hindi), Ministry of Finance, Government of India; Member, Art, Language and Culture Academy, State Government of Himachal Pradesh; Smt. Sushma Sharma, President, Naggar Panchayat; Olga Slepova, poetess (Russia), Tamara Merges, head of the volunteer group from the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR), Moscow, and other guests from India and Russia, took part in the flag hoisting ceremony.
For Mrs. Zaitseva-Borisova, too, the Himalayan Roerich Estate is a source of inspiration. She comes to Naggar every year and observes how it changes from season to season. Her favourite season in Naggar remains spring when a combination of apricot bloom and snowcapped mountains makes her feel completely happy. The unique feature of the exhibition is that all displayed works were done on the spot, which is the best way to paint according to the artist. Watercolour technique allows Mrs. Zaitseva-Borisova to capture with her skillful brush the swiftly changing moods of the Himalayas especially during the monsoon. Working with watercolours, says the artist, “is all about controlling the uncontrollable medium.” And judging by her works, Mrs. Zaitseva-Borisova is up to this task: her landscapes depicting the mountains surrounding Naggar including Dhaula Dhar Range and the far-off Mt.Gepang, impress one with their harmony and beauty, while her studies of local roses, apricots, daffodils, primulas and geraniums exude, as it were, a delicate fragrance. Her works allow one to see the nature that surrounded Nicholas Roerich and inspired him to create, and to get the feeling of its beauty and grandeur.
On the occasion of Nicholas Roerich’s anniversary the exhibition of paintings by Natalia Zaitseva-Borisova titled “Naggar: The Himalayan Abode of Nicholas Roerich” opened in the IRMT Exhibition Hall. The well-known Russian artist displayed some 50 of her watercolours depicting the places where Nicholas Roerich lived and painted for about 20 years.
The exhibition displayed some 80 of such small-size sketches, mostly black-and-white, and some coloured. All of them were created on the basis of scenes from daily life: chance meetings and conversations, groups of figures static or moving, men riding horses and bicycles or playing musical instruments – in a word, the moments that life is made of and that remain unnoticed by most of us. But the feature shared by all the sketches is motion. The artist succeeds in capturing the very essence of motion and its minute aspects and depicting them on paper. He convincingly conveys the kinetic energy of the moment, and the inner dynamism of the model. The fluidity of ink and rapidity of his work ensure his success. Motion is the heart of Tirthankar Biswas’s work.
Olga Slepova and Gautam Kashyap shared their joyful experience of working together and gifted the colourful copies of their book to the distinguished guests. The poetess, her translator, the IRMT employee Anshul Kumar and the students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children recited in Russian and Hindi several poems from the collection.
After the traditional lighting of the lamp ceremony and presentation of gifts, was read out the welcome address of H.E. Mr. Nikolay Kudashev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of India, who could not grace the occasion with his presence due to the India-Russia summit that had recently taken place in Delhi. “Nicholas Roerich’s life was a ceaseless search for new vistas of beauty and perfection,” read the address. “Celebrating his birth anniversary at the Roerich Estate has become a dear tradition. It is in Naggar that the illustrious family of the Roerichs found their second home and laboured for the good of the entire world. The Roerichs’ heritage continues to light up our present and still serves us a guiding beacon in striving for better, more humane and beautiful world. It opens to us the royal path of understanding and friendship bringing Russians and Indians together.”
Mr. Yunus, Director IRMT-cum-DC Kullu, sent his greetings to the participants of the festival. “I deeply regret that this time due to the preparations for the approaching Dusserah and necessity of rectifying the consequences of the recent acts of God in the Kullu District, neither me nor the representatives of the district administration will be able to attend the festivities. However, I would like to take this occasion to reaffirm the commitment of the Kullu District administration to continue supporting and developing the International Roerich Memorial Trust which is gradually becoming a world-class museum and cultural centre. The Himalayan Estate of the outstanding Russian family of the Roerichs who made Kullu valley their home and place of work, is a priceless part of the world cultural heritage and Indian cultural heritage, an inalienable part of the cultural landscape of Himachal Pradesh, a rapidly growing tourist destination and a vibrant centre of Russia-India cultural interface.”
In his welcome address, the Indian Curator of the IRMT Ramesh Chander dwelled on the profound significance of the first international treaty for the protection of historic monuments drafted by Nicholas Roerich while staying in Naggar and known worldwide as the Roerich Pact. This document is of particular relevance in the context of India, the land so rich in cultural heritage. “Cultural heritage is reflection of our past. It is a witness of our history. It is our identity... The International Roerich Memorial Trust proudly continues the work of Nicholas Roerich in this field,” noted Mr. Chander. “IRMT houses not only the paintings by the great Russian artist, but also the artefacts from the Kullu valley and adjoining areas collected by the Roerichs: manuscripts, ancient stone sculpture, carved wooden architectural fragments, ritual objects, pieces of Buddhist and Hindu art.”
Greeting the gathering on the occasion of the 144th anniversary of Nicholas Roerich, the Russian Curator of the IRMT Larisa Surgina working there on deputation from the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, remarked that already in the lifetime of the Roerichs, their estate became a veritable ashram, the center of the Roerichs’ interaction with public figures, men of science and art from all over the world, including from India. And today, due to the joint effort of the Indian and Russian staff of the IRMT, with the support of the State Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Kullu District administration, with the valuable assistance of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India and the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, the IRMT can do a lot for the development of its museum complex and revival of the academic activities of ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute. Mrs. Surgina stressed that in these undertakings the IRMT receives enormous support from the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow whose representatives have been working in the Himalayan Estate since 2012 on the basis of the Agreement of Cooperation signed between the two institutions.
Alexander Pereverzev, Assistant Russian Curator, IRMT (on deputation from ICR) read out the welcome address to the participants of the festival on behalf of Alexander Stetsenko, First Vice President, ICR. “Establishment of a world-class cultural-educational and scientific center on the basis of the International Roerich Memorial Trust in Naggar,” read the address, “is the long-term objective of the fruitful cooperation between the two non-governmental organizations founded by Svetoslav Roerich: the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, and the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Naggar. Only due to the joint efforts of the cultural communities of India and Russia this highly important project of the Russian-Indian humanitarian cooperation can be further developed and become a symbol of lasting friendship between the two countries.”
In her address, the Chief Guest of the programme Dr. Rita Singh expressed her sincere appreciation of Nicholas Roerich’s efforts for the protection of cultural properties worldwide. In this context, she mentioned about the initiatives of the State Government of Himachal Pradesh to safeguard the local cultural heritage including archeological remains that are so abundant in the region. Dr. Singh also requested the guests to honour the memory of the late Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee with a minute of silence. She reminded the gathering that Mr. Vajpayee had a particular liking for the Kullu valley. He called Nicholas Roerich a great sage, paid two visits to the International Roerich Memorial Trust and gave a sizeable grant for its development.
The next part of the programme was presentation of the poetry collection for children Light of Joy by the Russian poetess Olga Slepova. The edition is bilingual: in Russian and Hindi. The Hindi translation was prepared by the expert on the Russian language Gautam Kashyap, the founder and principal of one of the schools in Delhi. This was made possible due to the support from the Roerich societies of the Russian cities of Zarechny and Vladivostok. From his part, Mr. Kashyap expressed gratitude for the help rendered by his colleagues and friends who came to the IRMT along with him and joined the celebrations.
One more exhibition was inaugurated on that day in the IRMT Conference Hall where a well-known Delhi-based artist Tirthankar Biswas displayed his works. Before giving the guests a round of his exhibition, the artist demonstrated his technique: pouring some ink on the sheet of paper and then spreading it with the nozzle and body of the ink tube, the artist finished an expressive sketch of two human figures in less than two minutes. “I never know what my next painting is going to be,” explains Mr. Biswas, “My mind is totally blank. But the moment I splash ink on the paper, I get an image. This way, my painting by itself decides what it is going to be.”
For the next part of the programme, the guests proceeded to the Green Theater of the IRMT. By then the rain had stopped and a clear and sunny weather so characteristic of October in Kullu had prevailed. The students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children performed Sarasvati Vandana, the prayer to the goddess of art and knowledge asking for her patronage and blessing, after which the Indian and Russian curators of the International Roerich Memorial Trust welcomed the guests and participants of the festival.
After the presentation of the poetry collection, the award ceremony for the winners of the children’s painting competition “The Bridge of Friendship Between Russia and India” held in the Roerich Estate on October 6, 2018 took place. During the competition the children made illustrations to their favourite poems by Olga Slepova. Mrs. Slepova who was the chief judge of the competition happily awarded prizes and gifts to the winners.
The cultural programme opened with a lively performance by the students and teachers of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children managed by the IRMT. The items performed by them (the expressive dance composition on infant Krishna, the traditional songs of the Kullu valley, and the old Russian song “Little Bee”) aroused the enthusiastic applauds of the audience. Several dance items were performed by the students of the recently opened Dancing Dream Academy, Patlikuhal, and Grooms Public School, Naggar.
The absolute highlight of the programme was the dance items by the volunteers from the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow choreographed by Vassily Tkachev (Moscow). The memorable performance by the guests from various cities of Russia and Belarus accompanied by the tunes of Russian folk songs – now slow, now fiery – caused sincere admiration of the guests.
The festival closed with the traditional Kullu dance called “nati” (in the past several years it has become a truly international feature of the IRMT programmes) which was joined by numerous guests and IRMT staff. As Mr. Yunus, Director IRMT-cum-DC Kullu, noted in his address, “such annual cultural events as the present festival in the IRMT significantly help in attracting guests from India and abroad and further strengthen the India-Russia relations.”