Nicholas Roerich, lover of nature, art and beauty, is a name familiar to art lovers across the world. The Russian artist was born in 1874 into a czar’s family in St Petersburg, but went on to see the world at large.
Remarkably, he created 7000 odd paintings in his lifetime, which is no easy feat. With striking use of colour and light to depict landscapes and spiritual themes, his distinct Roerich style has been revered by the art world and inspired generations after.
However, his true greatness goes beyond his art, for he is the man behind ‘Peace Through Culture’ (Pax Cultura) – which believes that culture – the interconnectivity of Art, Science, and Religion – must be protected. This very premise formed the basis of the 1935 Roerich Pact – his gift to Western society – which agrees that historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions must be protected during war and peace alike.The artist-explorer was also nominated multiple times for the Nobel Peace Prize, although he sadly didn’t receive it.
There’s also his India connection and today, even 69 years since Roerich’s demise, his legacy continues to have a strong hold in bringing together Russia and India, particularly in Naggar, Kullu Valley, where he built an estate that became his home in the late 1920 and which inspired hundreds of artworks of the idyllic surroundings.
His quaint two-storeyed house has now become a small museum, a local attraction and shrine of sorts that houses over 40 of the great artist’s original paintings, some of which were painted during his famous Roerich expedition over regions that we know today as Mongolia, Tibet (including the secret city of Shambhala), India and Afghanistan.
Naggar, where Roerich eventually died and where his samadhi lies, was later chosen as the spot to build the ‘Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute,’ where both Nicholas and his wife Helena’s vision of propagating learning and culture continue to this day.
If you’re ever in the area, make sure to drop by and get a taste of Roerich’s India.