Inetrnational Centre of the Roerichs


“Roerichs: the Indian Way.” Nicholas Roerich’s Birthday at the International Roerich Memorial Trust (India)


On Sunday, October 8, the Roerich Estate in Naggar welcomed guests. On this day there was a festival to mark the 149th Birth Anniversary of Nicholas Roerich, the great Russian artist, thinker, scientist, whose work is recognised as a national treasure of India.

The first event of the day was the traditional shanti-puja at the Nicholas Roerich's Samadhi, at the very spot where the Stone with a memorial inscription dedicated to Maharishi Nicholas Roerich, a great friend of India, stands. The head priest of the Krishna Temple, Jagadev Acharya, offered inspirational prayers to the Gods and Heavens and lit the sacred fire in memory of the departed and for the benefit of all the living.

Flower garlands were laid on the memorial Stone and then, at the end of the puja, on the bronze busts of Nicholas and Helena Roerich, which were installed under the century-old deodar tree opposite the Roerich House.

A solemn ceremony of hoisting the national flags of India and Russia and the Banner of Peace took place here, in front of the House. The Banner of Peace is known in the world as a symbol of Roerich’s Pact for the Protection of cultural values. The artist called it the Banner of Culture and dreamed of the time when countries and peoples would unite under the sacred sign of Culture. All life and activities of Roerich and his family were aimed at realizing the ideas of Culture and bringing the bright future closer.

The ceremony was attended by the IRMT's honourable guests: the flag of India was hoisted by the Festival’s chief guest Mr Raman Kumar Sharma, SDM Manali; the flag of Russia was hoisted by Mrs Tamara Merges, head of the volunteer group of the International Centre of the Roerichs, and the Banner of Peace was hoisted by the Indian and Russian curators of the IRMT, thus symbolising the Russian-Indian cultural cooperation that underlies all the activities of the International Roerich Memorial Trust.

This year the October Roerich Cultural Festival is dedicated to two remarkable dates: the 100th anniversary of the Roerichs’ arrival in India and the 95th anniversary of their arrival in Kullu and is called “Roerichs: the Indian Way”. Under the same title an exhibition of archival photographs of the Roerichs and reproductions of Nicholas Roerich's paintings related to India was inaugurated in the IRMT Conference Hall. The exhibition was prepared with the support of the International Centre of the Roerichs (Moscow). Larisa Surgina, the Russian curator of the IRMT and an employee of the ICR, gave a brief tour of the exhibition to the guests, telling about the main periods of the Roerichs’ Indian path. She particularly noted that, having loved India with all their hearts, the Roerichs were still keen to return to their homeland, Russia, to bring back all the most important spiritual knowledge that India had given them to their native land. The elder Roerichs did not manage to come to their Motherland, but they passed on part of their invaluable heritage to Russia through their sons.

Another exhibition opened on this festive day in the IRMT Exhibition Hall: Indian artist Vinakshi Sandhu from Mandi (Himachal Pradesh) presented pictorial mandalas created by her using the technique of dot painting . Vinakshi Sandhu is a zoologist by education and profession, but a few years ago she discovered the ancient art of mandala painting, felt its healing power and since then her life has changed. Creating mandalas has become her main occupation. “A mandala starts from the centre,” says the artist, “as the pattern grows, it expands and is supplemented with symbols and ornaments. There are three main layers of mandala meaning. The outer meaning represents the divine form of the Universe. The inner meaning creates a kind of map that guides the mind to the enlightenment.” The dotted mandalas created by the artist captivate with their beauty, harmony and amazing play of colours.

This year the teachers and pupils of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for children prepared a great festive programme for the guests of the festival. Children, parents, teachers of the Kullu Valley schools, guests from India, Russia and other countries gathered in front of the Green Theatre of the IRMT. The prayer-song to the Goddess Saraswati was performed – and Raman Kumar Sharma, SDM Manali; Kulbushan Gautam, District Attorney of Kullu District; Evagoras Vrionidas, Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus to India; Tamara Merges, head of the group of ICR volunteers; Svetlana Ashikova, the artist-teacher of the creative “Semitsvetik Family Club” and other honoured guests were invited to the stage for the traditional lighting of the lamp. On behalf of the Russian-Indian team of the IRMT the Indian Curator of the IRMT Suresh Kumar addressed the audience with the welcoming words. Larisa Surgina, the Russian curator of the IRMT, read out a greeting from the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR, Moscow) and its vice-president Alexander Stetsenko.

An important event of the programme was the awarding ceremony of the winners of the children's painting competition “Great India through the Roerichs’ eyes”, which was held a few days earlier, on October 5, here on the site of the Green Theatre of the IRMT. The competition was held within the framework of the children’s and youth festival “Russia-India: from Heart to Heart” organised in cooperation with a group of the ICR volunteers from different countries and cities of Russia. The winners of the competition received certificates and memorable gifts, as well as sweet prizes brought by guests from Russia.

A bright gift to the guests of the Festival was a musical programme prepared by teachers and students of the Helena Roerich Academy of Arts for children. Anshul Kumar, a music teacher and assistant curator of the IRMT in the organisation of the Festival, Mamta Thakur, a dance teacher, Sapna Thakur, a painting teacher, and Anup Thakur, a tabla teacher, demonstrated the talents and achievements of their young students to the guests. Ancient and modern songs and dances, colourful elegant costumes and shining eyes of the performers evoked sincere delight and applauses of the audience, especially from the mothers, fathers and grandparents who came to support their children and grandchildren.

The invited guests also took part in the concert. A group of students from the La Montessori School, Kalheli, Kullu, HP presented several dancing and musical performances prepared by them under the guidance of the musicians Tamara and Dmitry Pasechnik. The guests were particularly impressed by the Mexican dance with its fiery and smooth movements and picturesque outfits.

A well-known singer of Himachal Pradesh, Om Prakash (Katrain, Kullu) sang a song dedicated to Lord Shiva as well as an ancient song of the Kullu valley. His beautiful strong voice was highly appreciated by all the concert audience.

...The lively voices in the Roerich Estate subsided only towards evening. Against the background of orange sunset sky over the Kullu Valley and distant peaks whitened from snow, the bronze busts of Nicholas and Helena Roerich under the sprawling deodar tree took on a special expressiveness and grandeur. And the words of Indian historian and writer Dr Kalidas Nag came to mind: “Our friend, the great artist Nicholas Roerich, always defends the Beautiful, even when the world is clearly sinking into the abyss of barbarism. Roerich is the first Russian messenger of Beauty who brought the immortal message of Art to India, and we are forever grateful to him for his inspiring thoughts and his dedication to bringing the spiritual life of India and Russia closer together.”

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