Nicholas Roerich Estate Museum in Izvara
Nicholas Roerich
Estate Museum
in Izvara

Shambhala

Urusvati


Let us hear what is said of Kulu by other travelers, such as the explorer of the Himalayas and the leader of the Mount Everest expedition, General Bruce and Captain Enriquez, who toured the whole of Kulu and its surroundings; and A. H. Franke, the well-known explorer of these places; and the doctors A. R. and K. M. Heber; and let us remember H. L. H. Shuttleworth who enthusiastically wrote about Kulu in the Geographical Magazine and whose brother spoke on the antiquities of this valley in the University of Boston, calling Kulu the “Silver Valley.”

General the Honorable C. G. Bruce writes the following, in his book “Kulu and Lahoul”:

“Our introduction to the true Kulu Valley the previous day had been very pleasant. The walk from Sultanpur to Katrain, though by no means equal in beauty to the higher marches of Kulu, is very characteristic, the broad and not too rapid Beas resembling a salmon river. The great groves of alder trees fringing the banks, the wide open slopes of the hillsides, also an unfamiliar hillfolk thronging the roads, with a fair sprinkling of Tibetan and Lahouli traders, were all full of interest to us.

“The Beas is spanned by a number of excellent bridges, so that we could have traveled along either bank. The view is as fine from one as the other.

“During some of our marches we passed two or three of the best known of the Kulu fruit-gardens, but were unable to see anything of them as yet, though we did later on. Given good means of transportation, the fruit industry of Kulu should thrive wonderfully. The few Europeans who have settled in the valley and have taken up fruit-farming produce excellent results. They raise the best of apples and pears, equal to any in the world, and this with probably the least amount of labor. When, however, one considers that all the fruit has to be sent about an hundred and fifty miles to the nearest railway it is evident what a handicap the trade suffers. For instance, several kinds of the fruit most prized in India, such as cherries, currants and peaches, suffer so much in transit that it is not worth while cultivating them for the market, only in small quantities for home consumption.

“Shortly before our arrival at Katrain, after passing Mr. Donald’s fruit-farm at Dobi, we crossed the Phyrang River and had a really beautiful view up that valley. As is natural in early May, all the upper grazing grounds and minor points were still under snow, and the contrast between the splendid dark masses of the typical Kulu forest and white tops on a day full of color was a very pleasant and striking sight.

“One would think that there must be a great sameness in well-cut, well-wooded valleys backed by snowy mountains. Kashmir is full of them, so are all analogous regions, but, for all that, each has its own distinct character, and this particular view I should never take for one in Kashmir. It was completely new, a type of its own. Opposite Katrain, on the left bank of the river, we could see Naggar Castle, the residence of the Assistant-Commissioner of Kulu, besides several other buildings, evidently beautifully placed, and commanding, we felt sure, an outlook which at our lower level was barred from our view. It is wonderful to imagine any seat of Government having such a magnificent sight always before it.

“The coloring of the Kulu Valley is almost impossible to express in words. Artists should make it their own as they have so often done with regard to Kashmir. But again I repeat the Kulu color is in a class alone, and this richness and brilliance gives a charm and character peculiar to itself.

“Having once tasted the flavor of Kulu, both in beauty and interest, I found it very hard to turn my back on it (pp. 16-17).

“The descent on the Kulu side was simply perfect… It was far enough on in September for the autumn tints to have touched the higher levels with gorgeous color, and the forest below in its dark tones only served better to throw up the rich green left by the rains. There were numbers of Tibetan encampments on the flats on the way down, always picturesque with their blue-topped tents. I have seldom enjoyed a march more than the five last miles into Rahla. Kulu was at its best… We had a fine view of the redoubtable peak ‘M’ . . . The valley to the south was perfect. The crops were just ripening and the mixture of the crimson of the amaranth fields gave the richest possible effect, a welcome note of color after the more neutral tones of Lahoul. I do not think I ever saw a mass of colors as on our walk down.

“The Kulu peasants all round may not be very good at working their country, but they certainly grow magnificent crops. The fields, too, are well watered. The soil, no doubt, is very fine and amply rewards the slightest attention, but what a living really hard-working Alpine peasants would make out of such a country! The people will not even travel if they can help it, and have no desire to better themselves in any way. They can get all they really require at a minimum of exertion. ... I am not blaming them in particular, if they have all they desire and are happy, as is apparently the fact. I am only regretting the more or less wasted possibilities of such a country…

“Whether by accident or from possessing a real sense of the beautiful, whoever built the average Kulu temple very seldom made a mistake in the selection of sites; they are nearly always well placed. After leaving the temple, a full two thousand feet of steep ascent leads at last to the main valley of the Hamta, and the path winds through beautiful forests and open glades, deep in grass and full of flowers, even as late as the time of our visit. The right bank of the valley is very precipitous and finely sculptured, and is the habitat of many tahr, a species of Himalayan wild goats… We passed over some splendid grazing grounds on our way down and beat a great deal of open birch jungle for pheasants… Besides rich undergrowth, there were many flowers, especially great groves of pink balsams eight feet high, with stems as thick as a man’s wrist. The surroundings were splendid and the color very fine. Much oak, too, of a dusky coppery hue, which showed up most effectively against the autumn tints, for the hillsides above the forest were all colors, the grasses and shrubs all turning and adding every description of red and yellow and russet. ... It is always a pleasant ride or walk by the side of the Beas, passing continuously through great glades of fine alders—finer ones I have never seen…

“At the time of the great emigration, when all the flocks of sheep are driven over the Rohtang and Hamta Passes up to the blue grazing-grounds of Lahoul, and the Lingti plains and of Spiti, there must be about two hundred thousand sheep driven through Kulu, irrespective of local sheep owned by Kulu peasants. I have heard a considerably higher estimate, but am probably not far wrong in the round number I have given…

“The approach to Naggar from Katrain is charming. Here the main stream of the Beas is crossed by an excellent suspension bridge and the valley is broad and park like, and the alder groves splendid. A shady lane leads up to Naggar castle. In former times it was the royal center of Kulu, but the capital was moved to Sultanpur. Naggar is beautifully situated, a good height above the river and valley, over which it has a wide view. It is also of greater importance than Sultanpur. Naggar is said to have been the seat of the Rajahs of Kulu for over sixty reigns, the present castle having been built out of the ruins of the ancient place.

“It is a very fine old pile, constructed of age-darkened timbers and stone, but guiltless of mortar. Three stories in height it stands in an imposing manner, behind it is the oak temple and around it a gay flower garden. At this time of the year the color both of the garden beds and the surrounding country was simply brilliant, and not only the flowers and fields, but every roof of the peasants’ houses glowed with the rich amber of Indian corn spread there to dry, and below the crimson of the amaranth swept the valley in broad touches, while the blue indigo of distant hillside and forest were lighted with the yellow of the turning trees and grass. Snowy peaks completed the picture.

“We were lucky enough to see both spring and autumn views, and although the snow on the hillsides in the earlier season gives a greater contrast and shows up the forest and valley, still we both agreed in preferring the autumn coloring. I have never seen anything so brilliant on so large a scale.”



Museum Address: 188414, Izvara Village, Volosovo District, Leningrad Region, Russia.
Phones: +7-813-73-73-273 (group tours); Phone/Fax +7-813-73-73-298 (general)
Museum Director: Cherkasova Olga Anatolievna E-mail: isvara_museum@mail.ru