Nicholas Roerich – The Man Behind Roerich Art Gallery and Museum Naggar
So before I tell you about Naggar’s Roerich Art gallery and museum, let me tell you about the person behind it. It came to me as a surprise when I got to know that Nicholas Roerich was a Russian who settled in Naggar. Not only was he an artist but a polymath. He was a theosophist, lawyer, writer, philosopher, archaeologist, etc. He carried a huge influence of Russian Symbolism and he was interested in spirituality. Before settling in Naggar till his death in 1947, he had traveled across several parts of the world. He was even nominated for Nobel Peace Prize several times. He believed in preserving art and architecture. In April 1935, the USA and other Pan-American countries signed the Roerich Pact.
His personal residence is now turned into Roerich Art Gallery and Museum at Naggar. This is where he lived from 1920 to 1947 when he died. The art gallery and the museum are located amid the lush greenery, surrounded by trees, and look incredibly beautiful with mountain views. The art gallery is housed in two floors where the ground floor has the art pieces and the first floor has memorials of Nicholas Roerich where you can see his personal belongings. There’s a dining room which has everything as it used to be. One has to buy an entry ticket for the art gallery from the ticket office at the main entrance to the property.
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When Nicholas died in 1947, his son Svyetoslav Roerich thought of moving many of his belongings to Bengaluru at Tataguni Estate. His son was married to Devika Rani who was the first lady of Indian Cinema and the great-niece of Rabindranath Tagore. Photography and videography aren’t allowed inside the art gallery and the museum thus, I couldn’t get to click inside. You need to put your shoes out and put on the slippers provided at the property only to enter Roerich Art Gallery. It is said that Roerich did nearly 7000 paintings depicting the Himalayas and its surroundings. You can see Lahaul, Ladakh, Mount Kailas, Kinner, Sikkim, etc. in his paintings.
Roerich Art Gallery was founded in 1962 by his son Svyetoslav Roerich. Russian Government along with Himachal Pradesh Government has made a trust which runs the art gallery. Not only here, Nicholas Roerich’s artworks are preserved at several other places of the world. International Centre of the Roerichs is located in Moscow, Russia which also belongs to Nicholas Roerich. Some of the famous paintings at the art gallery you will see are Mount Kailash, Pongalo Lake, Mountain Glaciers, Shery Monastery, Shang Thang Highland, Buddhist monks, etc. Other than his artworks, his son’s artworks are also placed (Gaddi Girl, Naggar village, Ghepang, etc.).
Urusvati Himalayan Folk & Art Museum – Roerich Art Gallery
The art museum is located at a short walk from Roerich Art Museum. The museum houses folk art and craft. The entry to the art museum is done via the same ticket for Roerich Art Gallery. Urusvati Himalayan Folk Art Museum was founded in 1928 by Helena Roerich, Nicholas Roerich’s wife as Research Institute. The museum has a great collection of Himalayan local folk art, paintings, weapons, fossil stones, utensils, Roerich family photographs, costumes, etc. The place has spiritual vibes surrounded by lush greenery and flowers. The Institute was renamed as Uruswati Himalayan Folk Art Museum in 1993. The word ‘Uruswati’ is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘Light of the Morning Star’.
Timing and Ticket Information
Roerich Art Gallery and Art Museum are closed on Monday and open on all the working days. There is an entry ticket of 50 INR which gives access to Roerich Art Gallery and Uruswati Himalayan Fork Art Museum. The timings are from 9 AM to 5 PM. The tickets are available at the ticket office at the entrance of Roerich Institute. Photography and videography are prohibited inside the property however you can click photos outside the gallery and the museum.
Roerich along with his family started his journey to seek peace and isolation in Central Asia. He wrote about his journey in his book ‘Shambala’ (name of a place in the Himalayas) and mentioned that that was the peace he was searching for all his life. And that was just the beginning of his eternal affection with life. An English Colonel built the cottage in 1880 where he lived and called it home. Surrounded by giant trees, with a tranquil ambiance and Naggar hills in the backdrop; there was a lot that captured Roerich’s attention on one frosty morning when he first saw this cottage. He then bought it from the Raja of Mandi, the owner.
The bungalow, the art gallery, and the museum Usurwati Institute are now the parts of Roerich Estate, Naggar. As you enter the property from the main entrance, a stone path leads to the door of the art gallery. The gardens on both sides have lots of daffodils, chrysanthemums, irises, roses, shrubs, camellias which were once grown by Helena Roerich.