Early May sees another tourist season in Kullu Valley in the western Himalayas gearing up. All Indian and foreign guidebooks cite among must-see tourist attractions in this unique region the Roerichs Estate in Naggar, managed since 1992 by the Russian-Indian Roerich Memorial Trust.
Despite chilling and raining weather usual for this time of the year, the estate is daily visited by 350-400 people.
Summer school vacations double the stream of tourists eager to see the house-cum-museum and the estate enlaced with wisteria and tea-roses and nestled on the mountain slope under the Himalayan deodars.
The courtyard and the terraced garden offer magnificent views of the Kullu valley and snow-capped Himalayan peaks.
As you walk up to the open gallery which runs around the house you can not only peep in the inner premises on the first floor but also make beautiful landscape photos, and visitors usually do not miss this chance. The upward stairs start from the right corner of the house near the luxuriant evergreen tree with big glossy leaf.
According to old-timers, it was this magnolia and front-yard camellias that the masters loved the most. The spring is late this year but the buds are ready to burst and scent the air.
Visitors usually linger in the art gallery on the ground floor. Nicholas Roerich’s fascinating Himalayan landscapes reveal the contours of neighbouring mountains, while the canvases of his son Svetoslav amaze with charming nooks of old Naggar.
Svetoslav Roerich’s former studio is down the slope. Small exposition recounts the story of love and marriage of the Russian artist and public figure to his famous muse, the star of early Indian silver screen and the reigning beauty of her time Devika Rani. It is no wonder therefore that the estate has become a pilgrimage site for honeymooners and romantic couples.
Under the canopy of a mighty deodar near the left wing of the house an old poojari-priest takes care of the small pantheon of stone statues of gods and legendary guardians of the Kullu valley. Absorbed in his important daily ritual, he hardly pays attention to tourists. The bell’s jingle in his hands sets the pace for lowly pronounced prayers – mantras.
Grand festivals which are regularly held at the estate see a shanti-pooja – a prayer for peace and prosperity. This ritual during which adults and children throw rind pieces and flower petals in the sacred fire is a tribute to the ancient tradition carefully maintained by local people.
The lower and most sacred part of the estate houses the samadhi – Nicholas Roerich’s cremation site with a high-stone monolith and an epitaph in Hindi. It is here where flowers and pine cones are offered by the venerators of the Master and maharishi-sage.
The Roerich’s Banner of Peace that is flying on the flagpole in front of the house-cum-museum is seen from afar. Local peasants are working hard at the nearby terraced garden as the local horticultural department has set a task to clear the territory prolific with weeds and bushes to stimulate recently planted apple, plum, cherry and apricot trees.
Many old trees are studded with ovaries and the new harvest is to be reaped in mid-summer.
The renovation of the estate is also in the pipeline. The house has held out to the weather blows, but nowadays requires a substantial overhaul. The approved restoration plan, jointly designed by Russian and Indian architects, will provide for its preservation for many years.
Meanwhile, the Roerichs’ memorial complex is hospitably open for all who seek to explore the beautiful and lofty world of the great Russian-Indian family of the Roerichs who have transformed this distant Himalayan place into a priceless heritage of entire mankind.