Address by Alexander M.Kadakin, Ambassador of Russia to India, at the presentation ceremony of the International Nicholas Roerich Award.
New Delhi, July 11, 2014.
Dear Mr Alexey Bondarenko and Dr Vladimir Melnikov,
Esteemed guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Today I am deeply honoured indeed to be awarded the International Nicholas Roerich Award for «Roerich Heritage Saving». Preservation of the Roerichs’ legacy since long has inadvertently become one of the main aims of my personal life and professional career long time ago.
For the first time I got acquainted with Svyatoslav Roerich and his superstar wife Devika Rani in 1971 when I was interpreting at a luncheon meeting between the couple and the Soviet Ambassador. A very intimate friendship has evolved between the elderly couple and me, who, after passing away of my parents, considered me their adopted son. Whenever they came to Moscow, we would spend hours together, the same happened in Delhi where they usually stayed at the Imperial hotel. I was a young diplomat, an attaché at that time. When they grew old and moved to Ashoka Hotel in Bangalore, Svyatoslav and Devika called me every week, and on weekends I was flying there to meet them. They were rather lonesome, surrounded by such wonderful people as Aditi Vashistha and Gopinath and, unfortunately, by such shady personages as their former maid, the notorious Mary Joyce Punacha.
Svyatoslav understood that something had to be done about the Roerichs’ family Kullu Estate because it was a dilapidated estate. They had visiting it for fifteen years. Once in 1991, he invited me to Bangalore and I saw a document on the table which he presented to me. It was the General power of attorney, wherein he instructed me to start the International Roerich Memorial Trust – IRMT. He also empowered me to take charge of all movable and immovable properties in his Kullu Estate. That is how along with Svyatoslav and Devika, I became the founder, a life trustee and now as Ambassador for the second time, the Vice-President of the IRMT.
Naturally, it was an important event, but rather unusual for a diplomat to get involved in a Trust. At that time I was Minister-Counsellor and DCM of the Embassy. We started the Trust immediately in 1992 under Svyatoslav’s direct guidance. He summoned an elderly German lady friend of their family, sister Ursula Eichstaedt to supervise the Estate. We started visiting that place regularly. Almost every month there were working expeditions from the Embassy.
During the first few years of the Trust’s functions no money at all came from official sources. The government was nowhere to be seen – either central or state. Everything was done on voluntary basis and on donations from Russian companies working in India and from our own purses. We brought to Ursula in Naggar refrigerators, our engineers were repairing wires. Wives of Russian diplomats swept and washed floors in the house, tidied up the gardens, did menial job to resurrect the estate to life. Ursula at times, even did not have enough money to buy food. We were bringing food for her and gave her some money. Once I gave her Rs 30 thousand from my own pocket to tidy up the flowerbeds and the cherry and apple orchards. For me it was a very personal thing. Russia and Russians have invested so much heart, so much soul and so many funds and efforts into making the Roerich Estate a real gem! And we did it.
It was only around 2000 that the Government of India came into the picture. Ex-Prime Minister Mr Vajpeyee was the first who actually understood the importance of the place. He visited Naggar several times and said that “a Russian rishi was lying there”. He gave a big donation to the Trust, which has not been fully utilized up to now.
Ursula was there running the Trust until her death in 2004. She was honoured with the International Nicolas Roerich Award for «Roerich Heritage saving» in 2005 – post mortem.
Two years before passing away Ursula was joined by Dr Alena Adamkova, a noted Indologist, a doctor of sciences and a talented and energetic young lady. She was working in the Estate as Executive Director/Curator of the IRMT for ten years. Largely due to Dr Adamkova’s efforts the Estate has turned into a well-established international cultural and art centre bustling with multifaceted activities. Public functions and celebrations to spread the Roerichs’ ideas and to commemorate events in their lives were regularly held there. Art exhibitions attracted well-known and young artists from Himachal Pradesh and other Indian states as well as from foreign countries, like Russia, USA, Ukraine, Austria, Brazil, Germany and UK. Artistic and cultural activities were pursued by the Helena Roerich Art College. The IRMT published numerous books on the Roerichs’ legacy, posters and post cards with reproductions of Nicholas and Svyatoslav Roerichs’ paintings.
As a result, the museum complex and the Roerich art gallery were included in the list of Himachal’s Kullu Valley’s major attractions. They are visited annually by over 100 thousand tourists, art lovers and followers of the Roerichs’ philosophy from India and overseas. Moreover, it helps to promote tourism and provides employment to the residents of Naggar.
Now, the representative of the International Roerich Centre (Moscow), Dr Larisa Surgina, together with her Russian and Indian colleagues took the baton to continue the mission. Indian and Russian scholars conduct scientific work to revive the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute and preserve the Roerich Museum in the Memorial Estate.
It is heartening to see that the great deed by Svyatoslav Roerich more than two decades ago is yielding a rich harvest today. Once neglected and dilapidated estate in a quiet corner of the legendary Valley of the Gods, known only to a handful of educated Indian, Russian and foreign intellectuals, has now blossomed into one of the most appealing tourist spots in Northern India. It has also become an attraction for true connoisseurs and lovers of creative, cultural, historic, scientific and spiritual heritage of the Roerichs. Before our eyes the Hall Estate is also transforming into a source of knowledge, education and learning by bringing to local children the joy of mastering the mysteries of fine arts, unfading traditions of classic Indian dance and music and original folk crafts.
These are my personal impressions of what I saw and felt while attending the festivals in Naggar ones or twice a year. Those were genuinely bright, colorful and authentic cultural events of international level about which one even could not dream of twenty years back when I was just sharing my personal money with the caretaker of the Estate, Sister Ursula.
Such implemented dreams perfectly fall in line with the vision of Svyatoslav Roerich and the ideas he had in mind while establishing the Trust. They also correspond to the mutual aspirations of two great nations - Russia and India – and the spirit of our time-tested friendship, which, as it was recently agreed by the leaders of our two countries, have reached a new level of special and privileged strategic partnership.
A lot has been done but even more remains to be done in future. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances beyond our control, there have been no meetings of the IRMT Executive Committee as well as the Board of Trustees during the last few years. Certainly, quite a number of tasks requiring urgent consideration and immediate solutions have accumulated.
At my recent meeting with the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, my dear friend, Dr Virbhadra Singh, we discussed plans to revitalize the IRMT activities. Our proposals, supported by Dr Virbhadra-ji, relate to various aspects of the IRMT existence – from approving fundamental documents, reflecting its current and future status, to tackling simple infrastructure tasks put forward by everyday life. This refers to the immediate repair and restoration of the house-cum-museum. It was decided to start this work without delay on the basis of the technical specification and estimates produced by Russian and Indian experts. Another important task is to implement landmark decision on constructing the first phase of the premises for the Academy of Arts and to reactivate regular studies that were conducted for local children.
We see the future of the Roerichs’ Trust not as a modest village-level mini-exhibit which one can see in the charming 'Castle' Hotel, but as a wonderful sacred reserve, as a precious fount, where not only the legacy of the great Russian family, but also the priceless cultural heritage of Himachal’s people are carefully preserved for the sake of coming generations. Russia is determined to consistently and steadily achieve the transformation of the Naggar Complex into a world-class museum, a cultural, educational and research complex that would meet universally recognized international standards. We see this place as an abode where Russian-Indian friendship will reside eternally and celebrates its beauty.
All this should spur us on to more harmonious and active work for the benefit of efficient development of the Trust in the light of inspiring and creative tasks set by its founders. The inspiring and lofty mission, which was raison d’etre of the Roerich Trust, implies that only like-minded and open-hearted people should work at its fulfillment. This mission guides us towards active and committed search for constructive solutions in the spirit of mutual understanding, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation.
Russia will be strongly insisting in the future that the central government of India should be directly involved in the activities of the IRMT. This matter always remains within the focus of our official contacts with the Indian government. As a matter of fact, the situation in the Roerich Kulu Estate was discussed many times on various levels. It was touched upon during the last visit of India’s Prime Minister to Moscow on October 21, 2013.
In October 2014 we are planning to organize in Naggar and Kullu Valley a befitting large-scale International Cultural Festival dedicated to two important events – the 140th Birth Anniversary of Prof. Nicholas Roerich and the 110th Birth Anniversary of Dr Svyatoslav Roerich. Our aim is to celebrate these jubilees with the series of concerts, exhibitions, film shows, as well as cultural and scientific seminars that will coincide with the traditional festivities of Kullu Valley’s famed Dussera festival.
In conclusion, may I say that the Naggar complex has a huge untapped creative potential to emerge as the nucleus of a global art and cultural movement dedicated to promoting world peace, universal brotherhood and protection and revival of the artistic and cultural heritage of humanity. This indeed is the specific message of the Roerich Pact, whose 80th anniversary of which is widely celebrated in Russia and many countries of the world. The major postulates of this unique historic document fully apply to the Roerich’s heritage.
The founder of the IRMT Dr Svyatoslav Roerich often reiterated a very simple motto: “Let us strive for beauty together!” purporting that the all-conquering beauty should rule our common thoughts, endeavors and achievements. Let us together follow this behest!
Once again, I express my sincere gratitude to the founders of the St. Petersburg International Roerich Award, to the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Award, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, and my dear friend, Mikhail Piotrovsky, personally, for the high assessment of my modest but sincere efforts.