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“Art is the heart of people. Knowledge is the brain of people. Only with heart and wisdom humanity can unite and understand each other.” These words of the great artist, scholar and thinker Nicholas Roerich became the motto of the Roerich festival “Under the Banner of Peace” that this October is taking place in the protected Roerich Estate in the Himalayan Kullu valley. The festival has presented various cultural events dedicated to the Roerich family memorial dates falling on the month of October.


Roerich Culture Festival Continues in the International Roerich Memorial Trust in India

October 9, the day when the world celebrated the 142nd anniversary of Nicholas Roerich, the Maharishi as this Russian artist is reverently called in India, attracted scores of guests and tourists from India, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Greece, the Netherlands and other countries. As per the tradition, the festivities opened with the shanti puja, the traditional prayer for world peace and wellbeing, conducted on the cremation spot of Nicholas Roerich near his Memorial Stone from where one can see the snow-capped twin peaks of Gepang. After the puja, the Russian and Indian national flags and the Banner of Peace were hoisted near the Roerich House in a solemn ceremony symbolizing the lasting friendship and ever strengthening cooperation between the two countries.

The official programme at the Green Theatre, IRMT, opened with the traditional lamp-lighting ceremony and presenting the high-ranking guests with symbolic gifts. Dr. Amit Guleria, AC to DC Kullu, addressed the audience on behalf of the Kullu District administration. “The programmes like this,” said Dr. Guleria, “bring our countries closer and help in strengthening friendship between Russia and India. They go a long way in creating awareness about culture and the necessity to protect cultural properties. We are sincerely happy that the great Russian artist Nicholas Roerich and his family lived in the Kullu valley.” Dr. Guleria assured the audience that the Kullu district administration would extend all possible assistance and support to the International Roerich Memorial Trust.

A significant event of this festive day was the inauguration of the new permanent display “George Roerich’s Memorial Study” dedicated to the director of ‘Urusvati’ Institute on the 1st floor of the Administrative Building in the ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute premises. It was here, in the Administrative Building that the Institute started. Here, in early 1930s were opened the Department of Archaeology, the Department of Natural Sciences and Medicine, Research Library and Museum for displaying expedition finds. George Roerich’s truly encyclopedic knowledge enabled him to direct and coordinate research activities in absolutely diverse fields.

The memorial table with an antique typewriter and a writing case is the centerpiece of the display. Next to it is a special cupboard for storing manuscripts, a high bookcase, and a card index cabinet with the cards filled with linguistic, historical and archaeological data entered in George Roerich’s neat handwriting. On the either side of the table one can see chairs, while next to the entrance door there is a wooden hanger with coat hooks and the place for keeping umbrella and cane. The wooden floor is covered with a carpet. The windows are shaded with rather unsophisticated curtains. The succinct nameplate above the entrance reads: “George Roerich, Director, ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute.”

Opening of the George Roerich Memorial Study display in the room that has been abandoned for years has signalled the beginning of the large-scale joint effort by the Russian and Indian experts to develop several permanent exhibitions on the history and activities of ‘Urusvati’ Institute in the former Administrative Building of the Institute.

“Art has no borders. It has always united people” – noted in his address Mr. Ramesh Chander, Indian Curator, IRMT. “It is difficult to call Roerich a foreigner. He was a Russian, and Russia has always been the closest friend of India. It has always helped India in political, economic and technological fields, in space exploration, to say nothing of the cultural cooperation. In its turn, India, the country of rich cultural heritage, was one of the first states to support Roerich’s idea of the necessity to protect culture. Nicholas Roerich’s motto “Peace through Culture” is close to the heart of every Indian.” Mr. Chander also remarked that Naggar owes much of its development to the Roerichs as more and more tourists visit Naggar with each coming year.

 “What we see now in the Roerich Estate perfectly falls in line with the ideas that Svetoslav Roerich had in mind while establishing his Trust” – said in his address Mr. Sergey Karmalito, Senior Counsellor, Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India. “We feel real delight and pride that his dreams have come true. As a result of the dedicated day-to-day work of the IRMT staff with the support rendered by the Government of Himachal Pradesh as well as the Kullu administration, the Naggar Estate is gradually transforming into a sound museum and memorial complex, and serves as a unique source of spiritual power, knowledge of culture, and education in arts.” On behalf of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in India, the Vice President of the IRMT, H.E.Alexander Kadakin, the speaker expressed sincere gratitude to the Russian and Indian staff of the IRMT and volunteers who selflessly work transforming the Roerich Estate with its priceless cultural heritage into the genuine “shaan of Himachal”, a world-class cultural, educational and research complex.

In her welcome address, Mrs. Larisa Surgina, the Russian Curator of the IRMT on deputation from the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, said: “Dear friends, first and foremost, allow me to convey greetings on behalf of the guests and participants of the festival to the staff and guests of the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, where these days a conference dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Mrs. Lyudmila Shaposhnikova is taking place. Mrs. Shaposhnikova was a close friend of Dr. Svetoslav Roerich, the renowned Indian and Roerich scholar, and the founder and director of the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow.

More than once she visited the Himalayan Roerich Estate and always dreamt of creating a sound museum and research center in this place: the center that would carefully preserve the Roerichs’ heritage and where ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute revived on the basis of the Roerichs’ ideas would function. At present, with the active support of the Russian Embassy, the International Centre of the Roerichs, the Government of Himachal Pradesh and the Kullu District administration, these plans are being gradually implemented.”

The festive atmosphere was sustained by the lively dance and music recitals by the students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for Children managed by the IRMT. Traditional songs and dances of the Kullu valley were blending with the tunes of Russian songs. The Cheburashka song performed by the Indian kids in two languages: Russian and Hindi, was a total surprise. Cheburahka’s and crocodile Gena’s dance in the surrounding of their animal friends wearing droll costumes caused emotional applauds of the audience.

The greatest attraction of the cultural programme was the splendid performance on the IRMT stage by the world-renowned Pyatnitsky State Academic Song and Dance Ensemble, Russia, organized by the Russian Embassy and the Rossotrudnichestvo Representation in India with the support of the local administration. The Russian folk songs and dances, lyrical and fiery, performed with breathtaking virtuosity, left the audience both delighted and amazed.  On completion of their performance, the visiting Russian artistes enthusiastically joined the traditional circular dance of the Kullu valley – nati. It was started by the Academy students on the stage and slowly moved to the space before the stage absorbing in its circular movement the multiple participants and guests of the festival.

But this was not the end of festivities. The group of the Russian followers of the Roerichs “The Ural Magnet” coming from the various regions of the Urals performed for the Indian children a costume play-cum-game called “Goose-Swans”, which was gladly joined by more than a hundred young guests of the programme. For a long time the space in front of the Green Theatre, IRMT, resounded with the exciting music and the chorus of voices of adults and children reminding us again and again that Culture is above all the boundaries that divide us and it is only the Culture that can bring peace to the world.

Another special event of the festival was opening on the same day of the exhibition of rumals made by Kamala Chadha, the well-known craftswoman from Chamba. The art of rumal appeared centuries ago in the Himalayan valley of Chamba and enjoys tremendous popularity in India. Using bright colour silk threads the seamstresses would depict on their shawls entire stories from the Indian mythological lore. And some of them would be veritable works of art. Due to such craftswomen as Kamala Chadha the traditional art of Chamba rumal is kept alive and transferred from generation to generation. During the exhibition, a master class on Chamba rumal was organized daily in the IRMT Conference Hall for all those interested.

During the festival the IRMT had a very special and esteemed guest: the Russian cosmist artist Lola Lonli. Her exhibition “From Ancient Legends to the New World” was inaugurated in the Modern Art Exhibition Hall, IRMT. Her paintings reflect the myths and legends of Africa, Egypt and India. They are pregnant with profound philosophical meaning and complex symbolism and reveal the artist’s deeply personal sentiment and perception. She has the following to say about her work: “Being self-taught, I paint from intuition while listening to music and contemplating landscape. I try to capture the subtle changes in energy vibrations and transfer them to canvas.” Her works are executed in a highly individual exquisite style based on the layer egg tempera technique with the use of mineral pigments and ether oils. Phosphorescent pigments make her paintings particularly mysterious and beautiful.

During the festival, Lola Lonli conducted two master classes for the Kullu children. The first master class on the “”Holy Himalayas” took place on Saturday, 15th October in the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts, IRMT. The second titled “The Holy Himalayan Rivers” was on Sunday, 16th October in the Green Theatre, IRMT, becoming a prelude to the children’s painting competition between the students of the Academy, various schools of Naggar, and the Tibetan Children’s Village School, Patlikuhl. The award ceremony will take place on October 23, on the occasion of Svetoslav Roerich’s anniversary.

The festival of art and knowledge, the celebration of friendship and cooperation “Under the Banner of Peace” in the Roerich Estate continues…