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Seminar on Himalayan Culture Conducted in Roerich Estate, Naggar

Mr. Topten, the senior historian and expert on the culture of Kullu, presented a paper on the folk song in the Kangri dialect “Laran Waran Sahab” exalting the deeds of two British colonial officials who defeated the Namdhari Sikh leader Guru Ram Singh in the battle fought in the Kullu Valley.

Within the framework of the Crafts Fair jointly organized by the Himachal State Museum, Shimla on May 21-25, 2017 and the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT), Naggar, a seminar was held on the cultural heritage of Himachal Pradesh and the questions related to its preservation.

The seminar united mainly Kullu-based scholars who deliberated on the various aspects of Himachali culture and shared their personal experience. On behalf of the IRMT management the participants of the seminar were warmly greeted by the Indian Curator Mr. Ramesh Chander.

Mr. Tsering Dorje, the renowned Buddhist and Tibetan scholar from Lahaul, spoke briefly of his acquaintance with George Roerich and their work on the Lahauli dialect.

Bringing up the topic of Nicholas Roerich’s contribution to the protection of monuments and other cultural properties worldwide, Dr. Alexander Pereverzev, Assistant Russian Curator, IRMT, spoke on the history and content of the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace, which Roerich developed during his stay in Naggar.

The seminar was attended by two representatives of the Himachal State Museum, Shimla: Preservation Officer Mr. Gagan Khanna and Preservation Assistant Mr. Vikas Baniyal Thakur. The latter informed the gathering of the progress of the ongoing explorations of petroglyphs in Spiti and unique cave paintings in Ladakh.

The scholar of Kulvi folk culture and music Dr. Surat Thakur spoke on the origin of various types of drums widely used during the local religious ceremonies and narrated a relevant legend.

A visiting Sanskrit scholar from Jammu Mr. Om Prakash Sharma shared with the participants of the seminar the results of his research in the great Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta and gave a brief survey of Kashmir Shaivism.

Ms. Rigzin Chodon, PhD scholar at the at the Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature & Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, made a video presentation on the history of the Moravian Mission’s printed media in Lahaul and Ladakh and its contribution to the studies of local culture. Incidentally, one of the regular contributors to the Moravian newspapers was Zotpa Dechen, in whose house the Roerichs stayed during their expeditions to Lahaul in early 1930s.

Organizing a seminar on Himachali cultural heritage in the Roerich Estate in Naggar was not accidental. All members of the Roerich family contributed to its preservation and studies. First and foremost, the family founded and successfully ran ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute created for the comprehensive studies of the Himalayan region. Nicholas Roerich touched on the cultural heritage of Kullu in his essays, collected local religious sculpture and often included it in his canvases. Apart from authoring a monograph on Tibetan paintings (1924), George Roerich conducted archeological excavations in the remote region of Lahaul and researched its folklore and rituals. Camera in hand, Svetoslav Roerich travelled around recording old religious structures and images and collecting the data for his illustrated monograph Art in the Kulu Valley (1967). Over time, the family built up a collection of Himalayan art which included Tibetan and Pahari bronzes, Tibetan style water containers, carved wooden chests and jewelry boxes from the Kullu valley, masks and illuminated manuscripts. The Roerichs made ample use of these items in their research and also displayed some of them in the Museum of Himalayan Art they opened for the promotion of local art forms in ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute.

During the valedictory session, the Indian Curator of the IRMT Mr. Ramesh Chander thanked the guests for their valuable contribution and shared his thoughts on archeology and necessity to protect archeological sites and, in general, remains of the past, in which the state of Himachal abounds.