On August 16 the Anniversary of George Roerich was celebrated in the Roerich Estate in Naggar, Kullu Distt. Several academic and cultural-educational programmes were dedicated to this event.
Early morning the representatives of the Pangang Monastery located in the Kullu valley headed by Lama Chopa conducted a three-hour long Buddhist ritual dedicated to the Master and called Guru Puja. It was conducted in the former study of George Roerich (at present one of the halls of the Nicholas and Svetoslav Roerich Art Gallery). Prof. Tsering Dorje, the resident of Lahaul and the famous Buddhist and Tibetan scholar who personally knew George and Svetoslav Roerich, was present at the puja.
On the completion of the ritual Tsering Dorje and Lama Chopa took part in the opening of the exhibition titled Nicholas Roerich: Life and Work in the two halls of the Urusvati Institute Building. The exhibition was prepared in collaboration with the International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR), Moscow with the support of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India. Mrs. Larisa Surgina, Russian Curator, International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT), Naggar and employee, ICR introduced the exhibition to the respected guests. The guests highly appreciated the exhibition, and Lama Chopa noted that the Roerichs were remarkable people and the place in Naggar where their estate is situated is blessed and purified by the light of their spiritual energies. Moreover, remarked the lama, it would be wonderful if the activities of the cultural-scientific center here were revived in future. This, definitely, is not an easy task, but much has been and is being done in that direction.
On the same day the academic seminar George Roerich – the Eminent Explorer of Asia was organized. Opening the seminar Mrs. Surgina remarked that George Roerich was not only a profound and multifaceted Orientalist but also embodied the noble ethical principles of Buddhism in his life. In his presentation titled George Roerich: Life and Work the IRMT employee Dr. Alexander Pereverzev informed the audience about the milestones of George Roerich’s academic and creative career putting particular emphasis on the works that brought him renown as an Orientalist. The famous Buddhist scholar, linguist and writer Tsering Dorje presented a paper titled George Roerich’s Contribution to the Archeological Excavations in Lahaul. In 1931 George Roerich explored the ancient burials in Lahaul. He classified and described these burials and also studied the excavated ancient skulls and made certain conclusions about the anthropological history of Tibet and its border regions. He also described the ceramic “Z” beads whose unique manufacturing technique is unfortunately lost, which Lahauli peasants sometimes find while ploughing their fields. The peasants believe them to be of divine origin and highly value them. Tsering Dorje continues George Roerich’s research having full understanding of its significance for the studies of this region of Tibet.
Dr. Petr Abramov, ICR, Moscow, presented a paper titled Research of Consciousness in Buddhism and Neuropsychology. Making use of the writings of the Dalai Lama as well as the modern research he demonstrated that the process of perfecting consciousness can have a positive influence on the condition of brain and, in fact, the entire human body. He dwelled on meditation as one of the methods of the development of consciousness and stressed that conscious contemplation of the paintings of great masters can be considered a type of meditation. For instance, according to the Russian researcher Dmitry Reznikov, the contemplation of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings improves certain functions of brain and ensures its stable operation. It also results in the regeneration of the entire body.
Mr. Ramesh Chander, Indian Curator, IRMT presented a paper on Buddhist Iconography. He noted that Buddhist painting is an important element of spiritual practice and helps one to attain enlightenment. His paper related not only to George Roerich’s research (George Roerich’s first major work was the monograph Tibetan Paintings published in 1925 when he was only 23 years old) but also to the thangka (Buddhist icon painting on fabric) exhibition the grand opening of which took place in the IRMT on the same day. The exhibition was put up by the teachers and students of the Tibetan Traditional Art School in Patlikuhl, Kullu Distt., where students study the art of Buddhist painting. Most of the exhibited works display the high level of technical skill and, in accordance with the Canon, narrate the stories of the Buddhas, Arhats and Taras. These highly evolved enlightened beings direct the spiritual evolution of mankind sharing with humans the knowledge of spiritual practice and rendering their support in the hard times of trials.
While the Buddhas and Taras belong to the realm of celestial hierarchy, here on earth mankind has its heroes. Hero is someone who, having transcended the limitations of his ego, lives for the common good helping people to get established in morality and learn the laws of the universe. The painting and essay competition titled The Image of Hero in the Creative Work of Nicholas Roerich conducted among the students of the Helena Roerich Art Academy for Children, IRMT a week earlier on August 9 was dedicated to heroes. The competition was the first stage of the 17th open regional art-and-music contest The Colour and Sound of Roerich’s Realm which is conducted annually by the administration of the Lenigrad Region in cooperation with the St.Petersburg branch of ICR.
Three essays and 16 paintings were selected as the best. The children mostly copied the paintings by Nicholas Roerich with heroic themes but there also were some original works. The award distribution ceremony was timed to the anniversary of George Roerich and took place in the festive and solemn atmosphere. Within the framework of international cultural cooperation the winning works will go first to Moscow and then to St.Petersburg where they will participate in Stage 2 of the competition.
The celebrations closed with the song-and-dance cultural programme prepared by the students of the Helena Roerich Art Academy for Children and the Tibetan Art School. Indian kids performed the prayer to Sarasvati, the folk song about the multiple deities of the Kullu valley and the popular patriotic song Vande Mataram in a rather original interpretation. And Tibetan children wearing bright national costumes performed the traditional Tibetan circular dance and the dance of national reunification.
Thus, the celebration of George Roerich’s anniversary has turned into a veritable Indo-Russian-Tibetan friendship festival having started the annual tradition of celebrating the birthday of the eminent scholar of Buddhism with the participation of the representatives of the Buddhist tradition in the IRMT.