“Where there is Peace, there is Culture;
Where there is Culture, there is Peace.”
~ Nicholas Roerich
The concept of a ‘trinity’ having a religious connotation came to me from the two religions i was exposed to in my growing years ~ Christianty (at school) and Hinduism (at home). In Christianity it was about the ‘Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ or as our convent school nuns liked to impress upon us, all things are “from the Father”, “through the Son” and “in the Holy Spirit”. The Hindu Trinity was the concept of the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance and destruction being personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. The difference of course being that we never prayed to our Hindu Trinity together– one was favoured over the other, and Brahma due to a certain belief based on a story from a religious text, was never offered prayers in any case. That parallel apart, over the years one also learnt from here and there that some of the most ancient symbols from different cultures around the world depict some form of a “trinity.” It’s a symbol that can be found on the coat of arms of Popes, on Ethiopian and Coptic antiquities, on Tibetan rings, Buddhist banners, Stone Age amulets and in the oldest of Indian symbols, the Chintamani or the sign of happiness.
When mulling over a design for his Banner of Peace, Roerich purposefully chose the ‘three dot’ symbol as it is found in many civilisations in some form or the other and he felt it would therefore be understood without preconceptions by the most varied cultural traditions. In an essay written by him and displayed in the museum next to the banner, he writes of how for him three small red spheres enclosed in a wider circle were “a symbol of the past, present and future in Eternity or rather the synthesis of art, science and religion within the circle of culture.” During the course of his multiple archaeological diggings in various parts of the world, Roerich had studied monuments of art from different periods and peoples. He discovered that this sign had penetrated the history and culture of many nations. In the essay he speaks of how “you can find it in China in the Temple of the Sky; the three treasures of Tibet refer to the same thing; one can see the same symbol on Christ’s chest in the renowned painting by Hans Memling (The Last Judgement?); the same has been depicted on the Madonna of Strasbourg; it is on the shields of the Crusaders and on the coat of arms of the Templars; the famous Caucasian swords bear the same symbol; we can detect it also in philosophical symbolism for it is on the images of Kesar-Khan (also known as the Mongolian hero Gesar) and Rigden-Dzhapo (king of legendary Shambala); it also appears on Tamerlaans ‘tamgaa’; it is included in the Pope’s emblem; it can also be found on ancient canvases in Spain and on the paintings of Titian; you can find it on the ancient icon in Bari depicting St Nicholas; the very same is depicted on the centuries old image of St Bergius; it is in the image of Holy Trinity; it is also on Buddhist banners and if we go back to the Neolithic depths we can find the same sign on prehistoric pottery.”
The distinctive banner has three red circles surrounded by a larger red circle on a white banner. The deep red colour is to acknowledge the ‘one’ colour of human blood, a colour that remains the same for all people. The top circle represents spirituality and encompasses the truth of all religions, that we can all unite regardless of our distinctive beliefs. The two circles on the bottom represent art and science. The circle that surrounds the three spheres represents culture ~ the unity of art, science and spirituality.
For Roerich, the symbol of the Banner of Peace never implied adherence to any particular nation or religion. On the contrary through it he sought to elevate the universal understanding of evolutionary discoveries and create new human values that would help our civilisation move on to a path of progress and peace.
The thought that came to me as i stood reading it all was…What a pity that we could not use the banner to save the monumental statues of the Bamiyan Buddhas from being blown up by extremists in Afghanistan…