A tribute to Nicholas Roerich
Inspiration from a past generation
Roerich is known for his paintings, but a little research reveals the man was so much more.
An inspiring figure, he was an explorer, anthropologist, mystic and philosopher.
Born in Russia in 1874 he left during the revolution and followed his heart, right across Asia, documenting what he found and always seeking Shambala, a magical home.
He may never have found Shambala, but the observations that he made of people and countries on his many journeys gives an insight into life so close to nature that it feels shamanistic.
Roerich encountered Buddhism, a door leading to inner and outer spiritual worlds, and he reflected such mysterious imagery in his startlingly colourful paintings.
Roerich’s life is well documented and his writings are available, yet nothing can beat a trip to the house where he lived the last years of his life in the Kulu Valley in India. Like a modern day pilgrimage, arriving at Roerich’s home village, Naggar, is thrilling. The sense of place is hard to beat as the village sits in the mountainous region below the Himalayas.
Roerich’s home on the mountainside above Naggar village has been preserved as a mark of respect for a man who sought to protect culture during wartime and who documented his encounters with remote people.
On his quests for the mysterious, he painted many pictures and wrote diaries, airing his opinions and sharing his observations. For a man of privilege in an age of cruelty and misunderstanding, his intelligence and benevolence is evident. This was brought home to me by Shamu, a lad in his twenties who rented out his father’s house in Naggar, a village surrounded by apple tree orchards.
It was a thrill to meet Shamu’s father who was a young boy when Roerich lived in the village. (Roerich died in 1947.) Now an old man, Shamu’s father told me that the apple tree orchards were introduced by Roerich. When the painter encountered poverty in Naggar he imported apple trees which he gave to the villagers to improve their lives. This fact is undocumented but was told by Mr Sham Lal, an elder in the village of Naggar when I visited in the 1990s. In those days the apples were harvested and taken by truck to the nearest towns to be sent on to further Indian markets, so that Roerich’s legacy continues today.
Roerich wrote, “Such grandeur is ahead! Such a great steps awaits it’s fiery affirmation! Our Teaching and the affirmation of the Higher Principles will reveal so much that is great to humanity! A great period is drawing near. Thus do We create together.” (Angi Yoga, Fiery World III)
Without Roerich there would be no Diamond Seeds Music, for every journey must have a beginning, and it was my discovery of Nicholas Roerich that inspired travel, poetry and music. Like the great apple orchards of Naggar, I hope, that with Roerich’s influence, Diamond Seeds will bear fruit and contribute to music and culture around the world, forever.
Ella Jo co-founder of Diamond Seeds Music Project
For more information about Roerich in the Kullu Valley http://irmtkullu.com/