One of the recurrent themes you discover in your travels is the universality of certain symbols, myths even stories. Last year during one of our sojourns when we went visiting the Roerich Art Gallery at Naggar, near Manali, we discovered not just the beauty of Nicholas Roerich’s mountainscapes but his philosophy of “Pax Cultura” or “Peace through Culture” ~ an important belief that guided his many artistic works as well as his teachings and organisational activities.
Roerich (1874-1947) was a Russian artist and humanitarian who had travelled extensively through Russia, India, Tibet and the United States. The devastations caused in the wake of the First World War and the Russian Revolution anguished him and strengthened in him a resolve to force the governments of the world to recognise the priority of cultural achievements over narrow geo-political interests. And that is how he came up with the idea of The Roerich Pact and the Banner of Peace. The first is an international treaty that was signed by India, the Baltic states and 22 nations of the Americas including the United States. Signed in 1935, the treaty is now an International Law. To borrow from the words of the document ~
“The historic, artistic, educational and cultural institutions shall be considered as neutral and as such be respected and protected by belligerents. The same respect and protection shall be due to the personnel of the institutions mentioned above. The same respect and protection shall be accorded to the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in times of peace as in war.”
Thus was established an international agreement allowing any nation to protect its cultural heritage and monuments with a symbolic banner, the Banner of Peace. Just as the Red Cross flag protects hospitals, the Banner of Peace was to be used to protect historical and cultural heritage. Any site of cultural activity around the world can fly the Banner of Peace to declare itself neutral and independent of combatant forces, and thereby be protected by the international treaty.
What i found fascinating was the fact that for creating the ‘Red Cross of Culture’ he used a symbol representative of many world cultures and found throughout the world and across the millenia ~ a three dot ‘trinity’
(…but more on that symbol tomorrow!)
~Roerich’s best known art-work on the Banner of Peace~
(image sourced from the web)