Nicholas Roerich's Art Is At The Centre Of Eila Art Hotel

The Tree of Life Eila Art Hotel is a space conceived, curated and designed with the ideas of art and nature, both heavy influences of Naggar
Nicholas Roerich's Art Is At The Centre Of Eila Art Hotel
Nicholas Roerich's Art Is At The Centre Of Eila Art Hotel

Standing in the midst of a bunch of eggshell white, asymmetrical domes, I&rsquom unsure and bedazzled at the same time. With one swipe of the door key, I am immediately transported to space. Twilight filters in from unequal, triangular fixed windows on the concave ceiling, and the massive glass wall that frames the twinkling lights of the nightscape in the valley far below perpetuates the illusion of floating in an interstellar world. I am living my science fiction dream in this spaceship of a room, and it&rsquos hard to believe that this contemporary architectural marvel exists in the quiet mountain town of Naggar in Himachal Pradesh.

The Tree of Life Eila Art Hotel is a space conceived, curated and designed with the ideas of art and nature, both heavy influences of Naggar. Cocooned in a soothing cedar forest overlooking the meandering Beas with the Dhauladhar range in the distance, this art centre also doubles as a unique stay. Eila is the Sanskrit word for earth as well as moonlight, and this binary in its meaning connects it to both clay and cloud, elements that are also deeply entwined with the history of art in Naggar which first came under the spotlight because of its association with Nicholas Roerich.

Professor Nicholas Roerich, a painter par excellence, who also donned the many hats of writer, philosopher, and spiritual teacher, was a 20 th century artist who made Naggar his home. His visionary work as an artist encompassed the whole gamut from archeology to theatre and design, and his work as a humanist led him to found the Roerich Pact, an international treaty for the preservation of culture. He eventually
settled down with his wife and children at an estate in Naggar which is now a well-kept museum. His presence in the nondescript village that he made his home, left an indelible mark on Naggar and its cultural legacy.

While the Roerich museum has drawn art lovers from the world over to this elfin settlement, so close to Manali and yet a world away in its embodiment of slow living, Eila has taken that heritage forward by expanding this ecosphere offered to travellers here. Painstakingly created over a decade by well-known art collector Rama Shankar Singh and his art afficionado daughter Palak, the structure follows the natural contours of mountains as a design inspiration, combined with those of an anthill. Its armature creates multiple points of criss-crossing lines resulting in many triangular surfaces with different slants. Except from a bird&rsquos eye view, there is no single point from where one can entirely see the structure, giving every individual a unique interpretation of the space.

If unmatched architecture is at the heart of the Tree of Life Eila spaceship, art is the fuel that propels it forward. Every room and common space here is named after old schools of traditional miniature arts emerging from the state of Himachal Pradesh. A walkabout within the compact yet interactive acre split into five levels showcases a range of contemporary paintings, sculptures, murals and installations that have been especially conceived and created for the place. Nain Sukh, the in-house art gallery, is named after a pahadi school painter of extraordinary brilliance. A 75-seater amphitheater has been created for events artists&rsquo camps, literary retreats, and more.

The cherry on the cake is the 80-feet art wall in the restaurant, an ode to the flora, fauna, fairs and festivals of Kullu, the food and handicraft of the region, and its evergreen folk tales. The rich heritage of Roerich also finds a special spot on this wall, conceptualised by renowned artists Wahida Ahmed and Manish Pushkale.

Complementing the fine art around is the delectable food, a meticulously curated experience wherein the ingredients are locally sourced for not only Indian and continental cuisine, but also for some in-house Bundelkhandi specialities, a nod to the Singhs&rsquo roots.

While traditional roots stay strong here, no trees were uprooted to create this place, and neither were the contours levelled. Sustainability has been beautifully woven into its architecture, so much so that the super structure of the rooms was fabricated off site to halve the carbon footprint. The vetting of the building took years by experts, considering there was no such structure in the country to compare it with.

On my last evening, I decide to see the Roerich museum as I always do on my Naggar visits, and begin the languorous walk uphill under the gentle coniferous giants around. I pause momentarily to admire the little arched wooden balconies of the 15 th -century Kathkona style Naggar castle and the deep gold of the afternoon sun on the Dhauladhars beyond, making my mandatory coffee and cheesecake stop after that at the Wool café next to the castle. Trudging up again, I make it to the museum, admiring the paintings as if it were my first visit. A few postcard purchases later, I&rsquom back on the trail to Eila, the town&rsquos newest museum in the making.

The Information

Naggar is 37 kms from the closest airport at Bhuntar, and 23 kms from Manali. The Tree of Life Eila Art Hotel was launched earlier this year, and will be hosting multiple art events in 2023. Sky Domes start at Rs 14,000 per night with breakfast, plus taxes.

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