Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) was a great Russian painter. He was born in St. Petersburg on 9 October 1874. Over the course of his life, Roerich created more than seven thousand beautiful and distinctive paintings. Natalia Dmitrievna Spirina writes: “When speaking of Roerich the painter, we should remember that was also a writer, poet, scientist, public figure, peace warrior, and defender of culture and security with all their treasures and achievements. We should remember that he wrote several dozen books. All his works contain humanism to the utmost, messages of peace, goodwill and unity. They are also full of thoughts about culture—which is the ‘worship of Light’ in all of its aspects and which will be our salvation.”
From 1923 to 1928, Nicholas Roerich headed the Central Asian Science Expedition, which was subsequently regarded as one of the gold-mines of geographical endeavors of the 20th century. His wife, Helena, and his son, Yuri, shared with him all the severities of expeditionary life. The expedition tracked through India, China, Altai, Tibet and through areas where “no foot may tread”. One of the most important stages of the expedition was in Mongolia, and, specifically, in her capital Urga (now Ulaanbaatar) where the family lived for seven months, preparing for the Tibetan stage. While in Urga, Nicholas presented to the Mongolian a powerful and highly symbolic work, “The Great Horseman” (or “Rigden Djapo, Lord of Shambhala”). The painting was modeled on a thangka which was given to the family. The painter admired and was fascinated by the Mongolian desert and the treasures that it held, treasures kept hidden by its people who were aware that the human race was about to embark on a new era, the Era of Shambhala—an awareness shared by all Asian peoples. In his book “Altai-Himalaya”, Roerich writes: “The vastness of Mongolia is due to its legends. The song of our Mongols spreads through the encampments, throughout the nomads’ tents and flocks, through the hills of the Gobi. They sing the Song of Shambhala, sung by the their Mongolian hero Sukhbaatar: ‘We are going to the Shambhala sacred war. We will be reborn on holy Earth. . . .’ The Mongols send their hopes cheerfully and clearly into space. The people of the new Mongolia also know about the reality of Shambhala, about the keepers of the faith. They know also about the great times that lie ahead. . . . The voice that expresses the future fills the silent spaces of Asia.”
Roerich considered Mongolia to be a country of great spiritual potential and destiny.