by Olga LAVRENOVA, Cand. Sc. (Geogr.), International Center-Museum of the Roerichs (Moscow)
In 1924-1928 the well-known Russian painter, thinker, archeologist and pioneer of the movement for protection of cultural monuments Nicholas Roerich made a journey to Central Asia, which became a new stage in the studies of its geography, archeology, linguistics and ethnography. His wife Yelena and elder son Yuri, orientalist, shared a rough road and work with him.
The first half of the route of the expedition ran along the places already visited by Russian travelers Nikolai Przhevalsky (honorary member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences from 1878), Mikhail Pevtsov, geologist and geographer, Vladimir Obruchev (member of the USSR Academy of Sciences from 1929) and others. It ran across the Kashmir region to the north-west of the Hindustan Peninsula, Karakorum and Kunlun mountains, the Kashgar river, the Chinese town
of Urumchi and the Dzungaria desert to Lake Zaisan in the east of Kazakhstan.
The Roerichs started with the Himalayas, the highest mountains of our planet, in a small principality of Sikkim in the north of India. At that time Nicholas Roerich made an entry in his diary: "Great anchorites came here as no where else can one climb from tropical vegetation to permanent snow in two crossings. All stages of stress to consciousness are evident here." The Kanchenjunga mountain (8,585 m) towered above the place. According to legend, one of its five peaks conceals an entrance to the holy Shambhala (a mythical country in Tibet or neighboring regions, which is mentioned in several local ancient texts). Roerich depicted the magnificent peak at sunrise and sunset from different angles and weather conditions. He also painted the neighboring Kabra (7,338 m), Pandim (6,691 m) and Chomolungma (or Everest; 8,848 m) mountains.
In Sikkim the Roerichs made ethnographic collections and gathered articles of Tibetan art, in particular,
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