Threads of Ancient Beliefs Strengthen the Indo-Russian Magnet

«… Bias riverside is associated both with rishi Vyasa, the collector of the Mahabharata, and Alexander the Great, whose army did not go beyond this mountain river. Buddha and Padma Sambhava stepped here, Arjuna and the other Pandavas lived here. Nearby is Manali (from Manu). Hot springs of Vashisht and Manikaran-Parvati valley with silver ore. After Rohtang there is already Tibetan nature. Everything is accumulated in abundance… Ancient Kuluta!»
Nicholas Roerich, «Naggar» (1937)


Himalayan Valley of Gods, a.k.a. Silver Valley of Kullu, during seven days of the autumn month of Ashwin (September-October) gets a special paint. It is not only the apple crop that has abundantly absorbed harmful insecticides, those apples of bright varieties introduced from America in the 19th century in favor of variegated color preferences of Indians. And not just the cops of fiery orange corn on the roofs of houses and sheds. Usually reddish thickets of rhododendron, known to strengthen the heart, are not the cause of the unusual liveliness either. This is rather explained by the traditional Indian religious dominant. It is in these days that the population of this and neighboring valleys get mixed with a large number of local devatas (gods and goddesses) as never more closely. Over a hundred thousand people flock on the first day of the festival of Dussehra (and for many it is also a fair, mela) to Dhalpur maidan of the small town of Kullu. The town, for the most part, is located at the level of the river Beas (or Vipasa, one of the Sapta-sindhava of the Rigveda, the seven sacred rivers of India) flowing along the valley. In the midst of the holiday people from mountain slopes get down, and even a neighborhood covered by forest fire can not force people to miss the opening of the festival.

The celebration, called Dasara in some parts of India, in Kullu valley is virtually not linked, like in southern and western states of India, to the victory of Durga goddess over Mahishasura demon in the time of Dvapara Yuga and the corresponding rituals of Durga Puja. Versions of the origin of the name Dussehra tell about a victory over ten heads (demons, or vices) of Ravana, the evil lord of demons-rakshasas from the kingdom of Lanka (Sri Lanka). Dashagriva (i.e. ten-neck) was slain by Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, with an arrow of Brahma back in the era of Treta Yuga. This event, described in the Ramayana, or rather its celebration, was one of the key elements to strengthen the power of a Rajput prince who fought with small feudal lords of the valley, thakurs. His assisting Brahmin contributed to the strengthening of his power under the banner of Vaishnavism. From now on all the gods of the valley, and those are several hundreds, virtually acknowledged the superiority of Rama known as Raghunath (a lord from the kindred of Raghu, an ancestor of Rama).

That Raja, Jagath Singh, smoothed social unrest in a rather original, for non-Indians, way: a murti (an image, in this case a statuette) of Raghunath, obtained from the ancient holy city of Ayodhya, was appointed governor of the valley. The Raja then became merely his deputy. All claims could then be sent directly to the god… By the way, the god’s figure is quite tiny, fits in the palm. But it is with all the more huge thrill that he is washed, dressed and decorated by Raghunath temple servants. And then, by the beginning of Dussehra, he is hoisted on a decorated palanquin and accompanied by a lush procession with musicians to the festival venue.
There, Raghunath is the king of the ceremony. All devatas go to bow before him from across the valley and even from neighboring valleys. At a special position there finds herself Hidimba goddess, another Indian epic hero. Initially a demon-rakshasi, who married Bhimasena and gave birth to the mighty Ghatotkacha, that served to his father and the uncles Pandavas in their fight against the Kauravas, in the valley she then got a status of a goddess. Then her image merged with the goddess Kali, and now Hidimba, princes’ «grandmother», is the most severe deity (for other gods of the valley too). And, as usual, bloodthirsty as well: poor animals are sacrificed in her glory. On Dussehra, in particular, descendants of the Aryans humble her by sacrificing five different animals, and particularly interested persons can then be sprinkled with blood of the unfortunate victims. The ceremonial fire of dry grass alone, as a sign of burning Lanka, the abode of the evil Ravana, by Hanuman, a monkey henchman of Rama, during his reconnaissance mission to find the Lord’s spouse Sita, is still not enough on Vishnu’s peaceful holiday. The great reformers of Hinduism of the past centuries hardly overcame the sluggishness of degraded Brahmins against the bloody sacrifices and appealed to ahimsa, a principle of non-violence, which culminated at the level of state policy in the days of the struggle of Mahatma Gandhi and his supporters for the independence of India. A bright super-ecumenist Vivekananda, the founder of the world-spread Mission and Order of Ramakrishna and the greatest reformer of the 19th century, could not easily convince the clergy of the need for a decent replacement of animals by flowers either. To him, who spent time wandering around India for about three years for the sake of socio-cultural studies of the general population of the Hindustan peninsula, the limits to which it was actually possible to push tradition were clear. Even Vivekananda in the early years of gaining influence by the monastic order established by him sometimes had to resort to a bigger authority. In this regard, there is a story of 1901, when he had realized that he had to honor the Great Mother with a Durga Puja ceremony, for the first time for Belur Math, the Order’s headquarters. It was then stated that at the insistence of the widow of his master Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sarada Devi, in the face of whom Vivekananda praised Durga, sugar and sweets would then be offered, not blood. Hidimba, associated with Durga, a hypostasis of Kali, often very severe in Hindu understanding, so far has no similar fate.

Hidimba from Manali and the goddess Tripura Sundari from Naggar, who is great in three fortresses (levels of being), arrive in Kullu among the first deities, carried by their servants. These and other deities on palanquins are presented by rows of masks: bronze, silver, gold ones, laid out in rows on an inclined pedestal covered with cloth and decorated with marigolds and other flowers. The palanquin has a hanging linen niche for offerings. This year, as usual, the gur of Tripura Sundari, i.e. her diviner, before the procession went on foot to Kullu, fell into a trance at sounds of wind and percussion (for the most part) and provided comments of the goddess to the audience surrounding him. As he was uttering words hysterically, by fits and starts (usually a successive round began with the touch of his chest with the palanquin silver handles), clarifying questions then followed.

In normal times, the gur is no different from his fellow villagers in appearance. Under a circular topi cap one does not expect to see long hair, which he, barefoot, in a robe, lets down before entering the trance state. Prior to leaving the church (not all the gods have a temple, some ones are satisfied with altars and lingams) a goat was sacrificed too, but pujari, ministers, just in case, promptly checked out that no one curious was filming it on camera. Then the procession went to the road, down the hill, to the «sister» goddess Ugra Tara, known for her transformation of negative states.

It has to be mentioned that the deities «visit» each other not only on holidays. The porters of the gods, drawn by different impulses, which are linked to dictates of the gods, can behave very violently: swing the palanquin from side to side, rapidly move on the ground, sometimes scaring people, jump up and spontaneously do whatever the synchronism of the acting impulses prescribes. After the meeting ceremony of the two palanquins the goddesses, one after another, moved away from the area near the lower temple and, the day before the main ceremony, began a course in the valley to the town of Kullu. It was the same for the musicians. Along the way they meet other gods and their servants making halts; local dwellers bring something to eat for them. Someone spends the night on the roadside. In the town and beyond it tents are put up for the «accompanying personnel».

At the ceremony of worshipping Raghunath, Hidimba is a guest of honor. Without her the holiday does not begin. All the gods, each with their own temper, wade through the crowd to the holiday area for paying their respect to the king and performing their dance. This ceremony lasts only a few hours before dusk. Further, everybody rapidly disperses and the tourists watching in the crowd, if they or their hardware are «lucky» to be swept away, can only be happy if no one rushes to pick up pieces of the soil which has just been stepped on by such noble personae. Fortunately, in modern India are almost no longer possible celebrations like Ratha Yatra, at which those who convinced themselves of finding moksha, liberation, that easily only in such a presence of Lord Jagannath jump down chariots.

After the first day meetings of gods happen later on but more behind the scenes. The holiday in Kullu takes a week, and on the last day those five animals are sacrificed to Hidimba in the presence of Raja. If she is satisfied with everything, she disappears and the holiday ends, whreas a string of gods and their servants return back to their sanctuaries. Their absence does not have the most uncomfortable impact on the religious life of the homesters. A holy place is never empty, and the other gods (they are several in number, in addition to the main temple’s gods) remaining «home» on the holiday are involved in the daily pujas, or prayers. Simple blessing with drinking ritual water, eating prasad and depositing a tilak (a circle between the eyebrows) with a dye can be obtained from a pujari of a temple, possibly in exchange of an offering of a usual fee of 10 rupees (about 15 eurocents). In respect of such regulations Hinduism, of course, is not the only world religion, although making small donations that openly is typical of it.

Beside the main holiday of the valley there is a great life’s stratum of sacred places scattered in the district of Kullu. One of the oldest places of human history, as represented by the Scriptures, is the area of Manali, Manu Alaya (the abode of Manu, the ancient Indian Noah, whose ship was dragged on a horn by the fish Matsya, the first avatar of Vishnu, and left on a mountain near Manali along with seven sages, rishis). There are also a Manu shikhara temple and nearby menhirs that number several thousand years of history. In addition to the ancient statues of mankind progenitor Manu, attributably son of the solar deity Surya or Vivasvat, a number of Hindu gods with their symbols, of course, also fill the temple. This way there are, typically for Shaivism and often found in the valley and the rest of India, trishulas, tridents that symbolize various triads: the creator, preserver and destroyer, as well as the three gunas of goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas). Less known are unmapped ancient artifacts, including a sanctuary on a nearby hill and stone stelae with gods of Hinduism and even Buddha, iridescent with glittering opalescent stone inclusions. Mica on large rocks along the trail on the hill indicates an approach to a sacred place. Local residents, but then not all, distinguish this hillside location surrounded by houses by a wonderful stone which engenders water. This is how they call the well (connected with a Naga, one of the legendary demigods, sages) which is paved with stone slabs in the form of an inverted step-like tetrahedron.

Close to the northern part of Manali is a Tibetan neighborhood with its monastery. For more than 50 years Tibetans of different religious directions (Buddhists, followers of the Bon religion, shamans, etc.) and simply people who joined them have lived in exile in India, which gave them Buddhism, that radically transformed the lives of all Tibetans. Tibetans also express appreciation for the current shelter, and anniversary stickers with words of gratitude remind about it. There is also one of the branches of Men-Tsee-Khang, the famous Institute of Tibetan medicine and astrology, the restoration of which on the basis of the devices, manuscripts and human knowledge and skills carried from Tibet was once blessed by the Dalai Lama XIV, who established his official residence in Kangra neighboring Kullu. A new type of religious leader presented by Dalai Lama has allowed to the Western world to have a new look at the development of scientific ideas and enrich the science of consciousness (also through Mind&Life program) by a fruitful comparison with philosophical concepts inherent to Buddhism. The medical unit of Men-Tsee-Khang branch is a place where a doctor (ideally) precisely diagnoses human diseases based on the pulse and the appearance and smell of urine and then prescribes herbal medicines. There is also a special box for donations to the poor, thanks to which the poor can have treatment. Actually, the money does not come from the doctor’s consultations but from the prescribed drugs, which are certainly cheaper to acquire in India and not in Moscow clinics of Tibetan medicine, where Tibetan doctors are on short visits. The diagnostic skills of different doctors vary, and the effect of Tibetan (and Ayurvedic) pills, according to certain reviews, is not always evident away from Tibet and India. Apparently, it is determined by geoclimatic conditions that have influence on the mechanism of treatment. The human factor is also present: it happens that evil spreads its tentacles to the heart of Tibetan Hippocrateses; it is said that in some cases a doctor, ungrateful towards the new homeland that gave refuge, specially prescribes wrong medication to local patients, waiting for next visits and more medicines bought. However, it should unlikely prevent the physician from violating basic moral standards in respect of their fellow tribesmen. So alien elements of interethnic tensions are brought not only by migrant workers from Nepal, whose inflow has grown a decade ago, after the fall of the monarchy in the neighboring country (if a drunk totters in the street here, in a less bibacious part of India, which is in general not so boozy itself, one can hear: «Well, sure the damn Nepalese got tight»).

Features of the modern troubles, inevitable for crowded places at the decline of Kali Yuga, still remain localized in space and cannot eliminate the gigantic sacral potential of this geomorphological formation. It has been partly known from the time of the Mahabharata, which is compiled by the sage Vyasa, who, for example, pointed out to Arjuna the necessity of tapasya, a strict ascesis, on Indrakila mountain near the present Jagatsukh with its Shiva temple and a small sanctuary of Mahakali. This settlement not far from Manali was the capital of the principality before it moved to Naggar, which is separated from the former by a sacred wood with shady deodars. In the early days of rivalry between the Kauravas and the Pandavas Arjuna so zealously indulged in self-torture that the whole world got warmed and rishis began to pray to Shiva for resolving the issue of his acquisition of Pashupatastra (a weapon of the Master of living beings, i.e Shiva) as soon as possible. Then God took the guise of a Kirata, a Mongoloid mountaineer, and in a battle worthy of Jacob wrestling with the angel he awarded the divine weapon to Arjuna for fighting the Kauravas.

In addition to his worthy descendant Arjuna, Manu, of course, left behind, as the archetype of the father of mankind, not only the antique laws of Manusmriti but also many material traces (though temples of Manu in India can be counted on the fingers of one hand, probably because so much time has passed). On the other side of Nepal, in the Eastern Himalayas, on the Sikkimese Ararat (Mount Tendong), with a view on the Five Treasures of the Great Snow, the five-peak Kanchenjunga, Lepcha people waited for their forty days of the Great Flood in order for their own Noah-Manu’s progeny to further propagate. Manu’s housing, alaya, probably shifted to ails of Altai and auls (villages) of Turkic and Caucasian peoples. As for the immediate descendants of the Himalayan Manu (according to one version, the name means «wise»), they settled not in Manali but, as legend has it, in the valley of Parvati river, next to the Kullu valley, in Manikaran («mani karan» here is now a jewel in the ear, that is an earring).

The place, muffled up with steam, is famous for the hot springs, in which old and young bath alike in spite of the murderous heat. According to a legend, the water from the ground started gushing out by Sheshanaga snake, who was afraid of a violent cosmically-destructive Tandava, the dance of Shiva which he was going to perform because of a sad loss of an earring by his wife Parvati. Among other things, the missing (or stolen) earring sprang out from the water. And now devata from the neighboring valley come to Manikaran to honor Shiva, and before the earthquake in 1905 other valuables (stones) used to come out to the surface. Now there are just numerous geothermal springs. Their important benefit is washing clothes and cooking in them. As for cooking food, it is done for many pilgrims: there is a free langar (canteen) in Gurudwara, that is a multipurpose center at the heart of which a Sikh temple is located. The atmosphere of good neighborhood, developed in Hindu temples towards Sikhs, extends to the multiethnic Sikh volunteers: a rapt face of a Russian young man pouring out dal (mess of pottage) there does not seem out of place.

In between the two valleys formed by the mountain rivers Beas and Parvati, a desire to drink from which disappears as soon as one notices women doing the laundry and riverside ghats (crematoria), an interesting ethnoartifact is wedged: the village of Malana. Until recently virtually isolated by high mountain passes, it is still in no hurry to open up to foreign tourists and neighbors. Not allowing outsiders to use their utensils, its inhabitants surpassed even the Orthodox Old Believers’ chashnichestvo (separate use of utensils): touching to local buildings and themselves, who worship a powerful, possibly pre-Aryan, Jamlu god, is prohibited to all mean-born (whom the non-natives are), even though the violation is punishable by incurring quite clear cash redemption, which is small by the standards of the westerners.

Attributed to the Tibeto-Burman group, the language of Malana dwellers is somewhat like a mixture of Sanskrit and Tibeto-Burman dialects. This language and the Pahari languages of the Kullu Valley are mutually unintelligible. How the Malanians found themselves there, it is not known, but images of soldiers in chain armour have led to a version that is relatively popular in such cases (for example, that of the Kalash of Pakistan): a part of the a army of Alexander the Great in his grand expedition to the East decided to remain in this place. However, most of the haplotypes of the Malanians are from J2 and R1a groups, which is more appropriate for Indo-Iranians than for the Greek settlers and their colonies in Asia Minor. Be that as it may but the degeneration of the isolate is not passed in vain, and now freedom-loving women of Malana are more engaged in public works and household chores than their husbands, while a road that has greatly approached the village motivates local men, who are charas smokers, to the cultivation of cannabis for illegal mass sale. At the same time, in contrast to the all-Indian tradition, both men and women can repeatedly change their marriage partner: the main thing is to pay a small contribution to the treasury of Jamlu.

In spite of the special measures to ensure women’s access to social benefits (from the reserved sectors in metro cars, whose boundaries men often still trespass, to the women’s police special units), the age-old discrimination against women cannot disappear immediately, which is especially noticeable in the poor. So, the illegal fetal sex determination still provokes abortions and killing baby girls and leads to a noticeable predominance of the male population over the female. One of the obvious consequences of it are the cases of violence. Nature also launched other mechanisms for compensating gender imbalance, including such a special phenomenon in the life of the conservative Indian society as hijras (mostly transgenders), who are usually invited to dance and sing at weddings and other celebrations. However, superstitious Indians easily give them money on the street in fear that they would otherwise harm with their curses, which hijras willingly avail themselves of.

The position of upper classes’ women is more favourable for obvious reasons. Earlier there were special requirements to the wives of high rank men, and despotism was not rare. In Naggar, in the prince’s castle, for example, during a competition of fighters a Raja suddenly decided to ask one of the young Ranis (prince’s wives) which fighter she liked the most. Without thinking, she pointed to a young man, and the prince saw this as more than just sympathy. In response to an announced beheading of the unfortunate fighter the princess ran to the veranda of the palace and by jumping from it she smashed herself up and turned into a stone. Horror stories about her ghost still entertain guests of the hotel situated in the nowadays castle. However, the same castle has in its courtyard the remarkable Jagti Patt temple with another stone, a link to the world of the gods. This stone slab was allegedly brought by devata, who turned into bees, from a native place of the princess: from the base of 4000m-high Rohtang pass. The one where the source of Beas is located and from which Gepang mountain is very closely visible. “M” mountain, as it was called by Helena Roerich, living once in Naggar, in honor of her spiritual master, it is, like many other sacred two-headed mountain, reminiscent of the two worlds and binarity that penetrates the phenomenal world.

Roerichs’ manor itself was located almost at the highest point of Naggar, over the prince’s castle and Tripura Sundari temple, next to the rocks with hidden healing water springs. Upon returning from the famous Central Asian expedition Roerichs had to settle down somewhere and place the material accumulated over the several years of travel. They got this homestead easily enough: the Raja of Mandi, who personally got acquainted with them, sold this remote estate to them. Another story is that afterwards the British authorities, who suspected of Roerichs Soviet agents of influence and once forcibly kept them for nine months in summer tents on Chang Tang plateau (above 4000 m) without the possibility of even buying food (caravan animals and five persons died), were trying to take away this manor for a long time. Fortunately, to no avail. Moreover, at first, things related with the estate were quite unproblematic, and the initials of the previous owner on the chair backs, which coincided with those of Helena Roerich, presented an amusing good sign. Near the homestead Roerichs built Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute (the eldest son of the parents Roerich, the famous polyglot and orientalist George Roerich, was its director), which cooperated with renowned physicits, laureates of the Nobel Prize A. Einstein, R. Millikan, L. de Broglie, C.V. Raman, explorer S. Hedin, prominent Soviet botanist Nikolai Vavilov, awardee of the Nobel prize in literature R. Tagore, many other celebrities of the time. Now the estate is a sacred place for the Indians, and in certain places it is required, according to the Indian tradition, to take off shoes, including the interior of the estate and the vicinity of Nicholas Roerich’ samadhi site.

There, on a hillside under magnificent lime trees, a large stone at the cremation site is located. The inscription in Hindi reads: » The body of Maharishi Nikolai Roerich, a great friend of India, was cremated here on the 30th of Magh, year 2004 of the Vikram era, corresponding to the 15th December 1947. Om Ram». And on the reverse side: «This stone was brought from far away». Nearby there is a stone with a sign Om, standing on the place of burial of ashes of the «magical flower of romance», Devika Rani Roerich, the wife of his son Svetoslav. It is said it was her wish to be buried not only with her husband in their family estate Tataguni in Bangalore, but also close to her revered Guru.

At the time, Devika, great-niece of Rabindranath Tagore, was the first lady of the Indian cinema and played roles in romantic movies definitely departing from the rigid canons of Indian patriarchal society. With her first husband, she stood at the origins of Bollywood, and after his death she led the studio, produced movies. Her wedding with Svetoslav Roerich, on the eve of which, at the acme of her career, she left the cinema, was celebrated in the Kullu valley. Newspaper pages said that the inhabitants of the valley came to perform dancing and to throw flowers to her palanquin, and hundreds of gods of the valley sent their representatives to welcome the newlyweds. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi visited Roerichs’ estate during their trip to Kullu in 1942. The stay led to a remarkable shift in their relationship. After the alienation caused by the wedding of a fire worshiper Feroze Gandhi (Parsi by birth) with Indira Nehru, held on the eve and unwanted by Indian establishment, the father and the daughter, according to a description of the latter’s biographer, regained love and affection for each other. It seems no coincidence that formal portraits of Nehru and Gandhi, posted in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament, were commissioned at different times to Svetoslav Roerich.
Now in the estate there are conducted many educational and cultural initiatives and activities. The celebration of Nicholas Roerich’s birth often falls on a day of Dussehra, and after the puja and the ceremonial part, to which an opening of some art or craft exhibition or awarding winners of creative competitions is timed, a concert with the participation of Indians and Russians takes place. During this event one can see what kind of an unusual interpretation Indians give to the song of Cheburashka (popular cartoon character) and «Katyusha», and the audience can also immediately spot gallant boldness and synchronicity of famous performers from Russia, such as this year’s Pyatnitsky Choir. This is the place where one can see how Indians in traditional costumes of the local Gaddi and Russians in their national dress dance together in a ring, and people from the Urals in ancient robes conduct an interactive theatrical performance for Indian children, based on the fairy tale «The Magic Swan Geese».

Volunteers from different countries come to the estate for helping. A woman in all white, working in the garden, can easily be a doctor of psychology from Greece; other chores can be done by a blond guy from Estonia. Needless to say about Russians: there are many of them among the hundred thousand of tourists and voluntees visiting the estate per annum. Among them one can meet people who are by vocation guides of Russians to the world of India and links between the two nations. From them one can learn a lot of interesting things about local customs and rituals, right to the rite of removing the so-called celibacy wreath, which is widely conducted in a neighboring valley. (If an astrologer pandit determines that the birth of a child was under a position of stars unfavourable for a marriage, i.e. this child is a Manglik, in the future, this love-crossed and ill-starred person can take a ritual wedding with … a banana tree and then cut it down, so that all unfavorable qualities die together with the plant itself.) During evening gatherings in the Himalayas with these compatriots one can easily taste, for example, something like Siberian and Baltic symbolic prasad (sweets taken to the trip from the coressponding regions) and even meet a real Yakut shaman, who with his khomus can perform in honor of the hostess a terrific jaw harp improvisation with reverberating sacred words about a lifelong journey. In a way that persons present there, both Russian and Indian, can be silent for a few minutes after the performance, still experiencing the journey in which they are occasional fellow travelers, and the atmosphere can eventualy get special properties of goodness and peace.

There are many interesting things in Naggar… Above the village rises a Krishna temple in which a priest by birth in a hospitable environment, after having served tea, converses about the religious specificity of India with those visitors who wish it. India is imbued with religious consciousness, and bhakti, devotion of seekers of the highest worlds to the divine manifestations of the universe, is one of the key concepts of Hinduism. Thousands of sects represent different facets of Indian spirituality and such intraconfessional pluralism is based on unconditional respect for the figure of the Master, a link of the natural hierarchy capable of the most painless way to channel the evolution gifts from the higher to the lower. In the modern age of rationalism, many Indian scientists still have a developed religious sense and, in accordance with it, build a spirutially profound science and make a contribution to a new scientific paradigm. For example, a scholar of encyclopaedic knowledge and writer, one of the inventors of radio, Jagadish Chandra Bose in finding omnipresent realities at the beginning of the last century invented a fine mechanical tool, the crescograf, which demonstrates that plants have an equivalent of psyche, able to respond to different sound, light, and even emotional stimuli.

Indian consciousness is able to absorb and shelter Buddha, and Christ, and many other Gods, which the world represents to it. One does not have to be Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi especially popular once in the West. Ordinary thinking Indians such as characters of Ang Lee’s book «Life of Pi» and the best-selling book «Shantaram» by Gregory Roberts try to learn and take the best of different religious beliefs. Yet sectarian friction is a fact of Indian life. For example, because of this it is difficult to visit the Venice of Kashmir — Srinagar, a holy city, where local Muslims seek healing at the mythical tomb of Jesus, who allegedly did not die but continued to preach in Kashmir. The war in Kashmir, provoked by the division of the colonial India into Pakistan and India during the period of gaining independence from Britain, has long been going on with a variating heat. Does the world, rapidly sinking into the terror, remember this unceasing war?

Particularly not full of importance to the outside world is the most sacred war of Aryavarta that echoes in the soul of almost every educated Indian. The instructions on the complicated art of piety and valor Krishna gave to Arjuna near the field of Kurukshetra before a decisive battle between Pandavas’ and Kauravas’ kshatriyas constituted the treasure of the Bhagavad Gita. Some researchers in search of Hyperborea even relate Mahabharata geographical names to toponyms of Central Russian Upland, where there is a hero city, consonant with Kuru, with all its importance for the course of the World War II. Kursk, in whose honor was named the miserable nuclear submarine that perished in the abyss of 2000.

For the ones who decided to reach Kullu in a night seater bus (as they say, the buses with sleeping compartments that had went earlier were canceled because of their larger size, dangerous at mountain turns, and non-puritan behavior of passengers) Kurukshetra is available just some three hours prior to the arrival in Delhi in the very early morning.
Those who decided to sleep through this point will have to plunge into the bustle of the metropolis on their arrival in the capital after the freedom of Himalayan uplands. Thrice the bustle and hustle, given Indian slackness in making operational decisions and carrying out obligations. From the need to monitor the accuracy of following road directions by the driver and up to the insistent control of cleanliness of cutlery and utensils, everywhere it is better, if possible, to double-check, since the domain of actual meanings of the average Indian, who is generally friendly and cordial, is different from that of the Western man. However, cities, of course, are very different from rural India in their way of life, and some of the side effects of traditional thinking are getting smoothed over.

This is partly due to the influence of the Western world on urban youth and people from Indian families, that visit the country of the ancestors after long years of emigration in the West. However, the West has presented not only the opportunity to quietly ignore the pesky and unpredictable rickshaws and use Uber, which is there more than reasonable in price, but also an increased level of infantilism of the ideal model to follow for white-collars and hipsters (the number of Indian comedies about funny and clumsy but essentially silly youngsters has been increasing). Moreover, if in the province it is normal to dream about a job of an expensive lawyer or a chief of a municipal institution with a salary (at least officially) of some 500-700 US dollars, in the cities is strengthened the desire not only to gain a medical degree, a dream of parents for their children that is understandable for the whole of India, and to get a good education in engineering. In an effort to ride the horse of fortune Indians often resort to the most affordable foreign educational services. In this way, one can see small crowds of Indian youth on snowy urbanized spaces of Russia, from Tambov to Orenburg.

While more and more flows of Indian students create new bridges of communication between the nations and the tables of metaistory in unfolding time define new combinations of people and their inner, often contradictory life, the following can be stated in the words of Nicholas Roerich: «India’s heart is turning to spanless Russia. The great Indian magnet attracts Russian hearts. Indeed, “Altai – Himalayas” are two magnets, two balances, two pillars. It makes one happy to see the viability of the Indo-Russian ties. It is not politics that matters but live, warm-hearted human relations. Political seams are not strong, all the time they burst and reveal revolting rips. Another matter is strong cordial patterns. The more ancient, the more beautiful they are. Beauty is laid in the Indo-Russian magnet. A heart sends a message to a heart».

Illustrations: photos by the author.

Yegor Tourleigh