On October 5, followers of Agni Yoga gather in front of this memorial stupa in Kalimpong, West Bengal, to light candles. They commemorate the anniversary of the death of their guru: Helena Roerich, the Russian mystic, writer and one of the proponents of Agni Yoga.
The white-plastered Buddhist stupa holding the mystic’s remains sits next to Zang Dhok Palri Phodang Buddhist monastery, also known as Durpin Gompa. It is the largest Buddhist monastery in Kalimpong. Its peaceful hilltop setting with the backdrop of the Himalayas is perfect to sit back and spend some time in meditative silence. The stupa is inside a gated premise maintained by the members of the Himalayan Institute of Goodwill and Living Ethics.
Helena Roerich was born on February 12, 1879, to an aristocratic Russian family. Her father was a prominent architect and her great-great-grandfather was Mikhail Kutuzov, the field marshal who led the Russians against Napoleon. Throughout her life, the Russian philosopher’s main aim was to spread the message of Agni Yoga (Living Ethics).
Helena and her husband Nicholas Roerich had set out on their Asiatic expedition, a U.S.-backed scientific and cultural journey through several Asian countries. The Roerichs traveled through India, China, Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet, then came back to Sikkim and Darjeeling in West Bengal after almost four years. Helena’s husband Nicholas and son George wrote books about their adventures, while Helena wrote 17 Agni Yoga books, as well as numerous letters to disciples and aspirants all over the world. Some of these letters are published in the two-volume Letters of Helena Roerich.
After her husband died in 1947, Helena came to Kalimpong to live with her son George. She stayed in the quaint hill station for the remaining seven years of her life. They lived in Crookety House, a beautiful English country-styled mansion with manicured garden and a view of Kanchendzonga. The house was built around 1930 for the daughter of John Anderson Graham, the Scottish missionary who founded Dr. Graham’s Homes, a school that provided education and shelter to abandoned children (many of whom were born of European fathers and Indian mothers).
Helena died in Kalimpong on October 5, 1955, at the age of 76. As per her wishes, she was cremated on the top of Durpin Dara, a hill facing Kanchenjunga just above the town. Today, Crookety House has been converted into a museum dedicated to Helena Roerich, her family, and their contribution to the spiritual mission of Agni Yoga.