Jesus in India? One question, several answers
Jesus in India? is both an essay and a travelogue in one. It has been written in several libraries and in the field and should be available, in English translation (the original is in Italian) in a couple of months. It is the report of a journey to understand more about the “possible stay of Jesus in India”.
The journey begins in Ladakh (a region in Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir), in August 2014 with a visit to Hemis monastery where — at the end of nineteenth century — some manuscripts were found by a Russian traveller: Nicholas Notovitch. In these manuscripts, written in the Tibetan language, a long period of Jesus’ life in India was described in detail.
After his important discovery, Notovitch wrote the book, published in 1894, La Vie inconnue de Jésus-Christ — translated soon in English with the title The unknown life of Jesus Christ — which caused turmoil and curiosity both in the West and in India. Hemis has subsequently been visited by many people, in the following decades, including Swami Abhedananda. He was an important disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda who brought him to London — to preach Vedanta — in 1896.
After a year spent in the UK, Swami Abhedananda lived in the USA until 1921, then he went back to India, establishing — after two years — the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math in Bengal. He authored several books and is considered one of the most brilliant Indian minds between the end of nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth.
In Ladakhi monastery he found the manuscripts translated by Notovitch. He also translated part of them with the help of an interpreter, confirming the controversial discovery was genuine and not a fraud.
Back to the travelogue of Jesus in India?; after the visit to Hemis the journey continues to Srinagar, capital of Kashmir, where I meet Professor Maria Fida Hassnain (passed away in July 2016), one of the pioneers of the study of a possible stay for Jesus in India. He wrote several books on this subject, all mentioned in the bibliography of Jesus in India?.
In Srinagar I visit again a tomb known locally as the ‘Roza Bal’ (my first visit dates back to 2009), the sanctuary (in the photo) hosting the tomb of Yuzu Asaph who, according to some hypothesis considered in the book, could be Jesus Christ himself.
The sanctuary, for a few years now, is closed and visitors are not very welcome, but it still deserves one short visit.
In Srinagar I have my first encounter with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, actively involved in the search about the possible “Indian years of Jesus”.
Then, Qadian is the following stop on my journey, in December 2014. I spend almost 20 days there having the chance to participate to Ahmadiyya yearly meeting as well: Jalsa Salana.
The entire, fascinating experience is reported in the travelogue of Jesus in India?.
In the library of headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I collect precious material for my research ending in British Library, in London where it is possible to consult far more books, on this subject, than people may think.
The research, of course, is still in progress and another volume is in preparation. The question mark in the title — as I wrote in the preface of the book — is compulsory because, at the moment, there are no irrefutable proofs about the “Indian years” of Jesus.
In Jesus in India? three different approaches to the subject have been undertaken:
- The first is focused on the years the Gospel do not speak about. Indeed, the last news we have about Jesus in The Gospel of Luke (2,41-50) is related with his passionate discussion, with Rabbis, in Jerusalem’s temple. At that time he was still a child. After that episode, in the Gospels there is no other news about Jesus in Palestine or anywhere else, till the period he started to preach. According to manuscripts found in Hemis, however, Jesus spent approximately sixteen years (between his late childhood and his adult age) visiting crucial places, in India, for knowledge and wisdom. Surprisingly, the hypothesis Jesus spent a long time in India is not as marginal as people can imagine. It has been supported or, at least, considered possible by many people of Indian élite — for instance Pandit Nehru or important Swamis as already mentioned Swami Abhedananda, Swami Ramatirtha, Swami Sivananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, etc. who are considered among the most important contemporary saints in the Subcontinent — as well as by ordinary Indian people. Beside them we even find some more controversial Indian masters who had a great success in the West — as Osho Rajneesh and Sathya Sai Baba — who strongly supported the idea Jesus spent a large part of his life in India.
- According to the second approach, Jesus went to India even (or, according to some hypothesis, only) after the ordeal of crucifixion to which he would have survived. The most important supporter of this hypothesis has been Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, author of the book, published in Urdu language in 1908: Masih Hindustan Mein and translated in English, in 1944, with the title: Jesus in India. Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad quotes the Gospel of Matthew (15, 24) where Jesus affirms: «I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel». It can be considered a key passage because, after the big diaspora following the defeat of Kingdom of Israel and the capture of Samaria by the army of Assyrian King Sargon II — in eighth century BC —, ten Jewish tribes simply disappeared. Jewish historian Josephus (37–100 CE) wrote, in The Antiquities of the Jews, that «the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude and not to be estimated in numbers». Even Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad supported the idea that countless members of lost ten tribes settled beyond the Euphrates, mostly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir and that Jesus moved there, after the ordeal of crucifixion, to preach to them. In Jesus in India Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad reports arguments from the Gospel, the Quran and Ahadith, important historical books as Rauzat-us-Safaa, by medical literature, and oral traditions to prove Jesus could not die on the cross — for the short duration of the ordeal and for other reasons — and, after being treated with a powerful ointment (Marham-i-Isa), he left Palestine for India and died at an old age in Kashmir, being buried in Srinagar where his tomb can be visited even today.
- The third, considered approach is the most esoteric. It involves particular kind of people who have claimed — in different times and different places — to be able to investigate the so called Akashic records: «a field», writes Erwin Lazslo, «from which all the universe is formed and which holds all that ever was, is or will be». We are talking about Levi H. Dowling (author of famous The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ), Edgar Cayce (whose messages have been assembled in Anna Read’s book Edgar Cayce on Jesus and His Church) and Anne and Daniel Merois-Givaudan (authors of The Way of the Essenes: Christ’s Hidden Life Remembered). They all claimed Jesus spent short of long times in India, in the so called “hidden years”.
A separate chapter in the text is devoted to the controversial issue of Turin’s Shroud. Does this famous cloth, believed by many to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus Christ, shed light on the true events of the Crucifixion? This question is examined in this chapter by Arif Khan, a writer for The Review of Religions magazine.
Jesus in India? cannot offer, at the moment, definitive answers about all mysteries enveloping the life of the founder of Christianity.
Its purpose is to open another door on these mysteries and to inspire others to try to discover details of a lesser known and transcultural Jesus who «did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written». (Gospel of John: 21,25)