Saturday, January 5, 2002
S I T E S   A N D  S C E N E S

Far from the maddening crowd

Suchita Malik

FAR from the maddening crowd lies a small, calm, serene town called Naggar, which is very near to the popular hill resort of Manali.

A portrait of N.K. Roerich
A portrait of N.K. Roerich

Naggar is an ideal stopover on way to the more crowded Manali. You only have to cross over to the other side of the Beas river a few kilometres short of Manali. The detour via Naggar can offer you a view of the snow-clad mountain tops, gurgling sound of the Beas waters, lovely chirping of wild birds atop tall, erect, green deodars. It is a place where man can only wonder at the marvel of nature and imbibe a touch of divinity and solemnity in all his five senses. It is a place where man can become one with nature and give vent to his instincts, his creativity.

No wonder, then, that the great N.K. Roerich decided to find a home for himself in this beautiful locale. It must have been an absolutely virgin area when he came here more than half a century back. While the Roerichs would need no introduction among the art circles, it is a pity that they needed the famous Devika Rani to get known among the larger public.


Devika Rani, the First Lady of the Indian Silver Screen and the grandniece of Rabindranath Tagore, married S.N. Roerich, the son of N.K. Roerich. The Roerichs’ estate, spread over 40 acres, with a beautiful home-cum-studio built in the centre of tall imposing deodar trees was enough to pull Devika Rani from Bombay. Perhaps, no artist can look for a better place than these natural surroundings, which give expression to his creative genius.

The Roerich Art Gallery
The Roerich Art Gallery

Today, the Roerich Art Gallery, maintained by the Trust in their residential building, is a major attraction for tourists coming to this small town. The area is worth a visit for three things: the beautiful locales, the Castle and the Roerich Art Gallery.

"Art is the heart of the people

Knowledge is the brain of the people

Only with heart and wisdom humanity

Can unite and understand each other"

— N.K. Roerich

These words adorn the walls of this world famous Roerich Art Gallery. Nikolai Konstantinovich Roerich was a Russian artist, archaeologist, philosopher, traveller, writer and, above all, a visionary who had started a world movement to protect cultural monuments. The international Roerich Pact (Pax Caltura), initiated in 1954, is now signed by more than 60 countries.

Nicholas Roerich, in his paintings, tried to capture the eternity of the Himalayas, painting them at dawn when the valleys were still in shadows and at sunset when the peaks glowed like burning embers with the last rays of the sun touching them. He captured their incomparable beauty. Some of the titles of his most famous paintings are "Meteor", "Himalayan Landscape", and "Forenoon in Himalayas", "Afternoon in Himalayas", "Evening in Himalayas," "Night in Himalayas" and "Snow peaks glittered in the moonlight". The beauty of the various facets of the Himalayas has been immaculately captured by the use of rich, exuberant colours. His paintings, in effect, provide you with a complete range of the moods of the Himalayas reflected at various points of time.

Once again, you encounter the words of N.K. Roerich that symbolise the soul of his works as well as spread the message of love to humanity:

"In Beauty we are united

Through Beauty we pray

With Beauty we conquer"

Beauty, of course, leads us to the path of divinity and spiritualism. Nicholas Roerich, however, did not adhere to any one established religion. His deeply spiritual philosophy incorporated elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, Pantheism, Theosophy, Russian orthodoxy and even the theory of Relativity. He also embraced the ancient teachings of Agni Yoga — the yoga of fire that urges us to strive towards a new path in our daily lives.

Nicholas Roerich wrote a collection of 64 poems called The Flowers of Morya. He also designed a distinctive flag that came to be known as the Banner of Peace. It consisted of three red spheres surrounded by a red circle on a white field, symbolising religion, art and science encompassed by the circle of culture or the past, present and future achievements of humanity within the circle of eternity. The Government of India brought out a one-rupee stamp in 1974 to commemorate the work done by Nicholas Roerich.

While Nicholas is identified with nature and landscape paintings, his son, S.N. Roerich, is known more for portraits. His famous portraits of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi adorn the walls of Parliament House. His other well-known works include a few landscapes and the portraits of N.K. Roerich, Elena Roerich and Devika Rani.

Photography inside the Art Gallery is strictly prohibited. Tourists have to make do with glimpses they can get through the glass windows of the interiors of the residential portion once occupied by the Roerichs. The living unit in the first floor is a square structure with a balcony all around. Be it the drawing room, the study, the office of Devika Rani or the living room, the units are adorned with paintings and rare pieces of art collected from all over the world. In the garage, one can see the 1930 model of the ‘Dodge’ car that had a horsepower of 27.34.

You have to climb another 200 metres to visit the Roerich Museum which houses a number of paintings, and symbols of the Kulu culture like local dresses and artefacts.