Ladakh is a hardy place for hardy souls, & after ten nights I was beginning to feel the effects of such a high altitude. While I was slowly getting into breathing difficulties, my hands were literally cracking in the dry air. With these physical diminshments, coupled with the completion of my studies at CIBS, I felt it was time to move on.
Before I left, I gave the slightly tatty green mod parker jacket I’ve had for the past 5 years to a nice shopkeeper, whose wife was going to tailor back into full health. A couple of hours later, after dragging ourselves through numerous security checks, we were zooming south over the epic peaks of the Himalayas. The flight to Delhi took just over an hour, & it was a pleasure to step once more into the duvet-heat of lowland India – & for the next three months I shall definitely not be needing a jacket!
We spent just under 24 hours back in the capital, but it gave me a chance to hook up with mi old pal Phil. I’d first met him in India in 2002, hanging out on the Andaman Islands for a couple of weeks. Since then we’ve met up In India, Edinburgh & on his own patch in London, & its always a pleasure to see the guy. He was with his pal, Duncan, another India-head, & they were just beginning their year-long round-the-world tour. They were in Delhi buying handbags (for £3) to send to Australia where they would sell them on at £25 each. Cue copious amounts of beers diced with colonial chat, from our hotel roof-top to a swanky New Delhi bar. Then, in a druken daze we said our farewells until the next time life would have us cross our paths.
The next morning we headed south, jumping on a packed train for a couple of hours before arriving at the city of Mathura. A thorough investigation of Philostratus had pointed me to the city, as follows;
Rejoining Appollonius, after crossing the Hyphasis River at the place where Alexander halted his eastern surge, he :
(i) Crossed a part of the the Himalayas
(ii) Reached the Gangeatic plain
(iii) Reached a city called Paracas
(i) They Crossed a part of the the Himalayas
They say that from this point they crossed the part of the Caucasus which stretches down to the Red Sea; and this range is thickly overgrown with aromatic shrubs
(ii) They Reached the Gangeatic plain
After crossing the top of the mountain (range), they say they saw a smooth plain seamed with cuts and ditches full of water, some of which were carried crosswise, whilst others were straight; these are derived from the river Ganges
(iii) They Reached a city called Paracas
THEY tell us that the city under the mountain (range) is of great size and is called Paraca, and that in the center of it are enshrined a great many heads of dragons
It is the city of Paraca which gives us a significant lead. In writing about the Indian journeys of Appollonius, Philostratus drew on the memoirs of Damis, a Syrian. It is no wonder, then, that a philochisp occurred, which changed the name of Bharata to Paraca. If this was indeed the case, then we are drawn to the city of Hastinpur, which sits only a few miles from the first risings of the Himalayan foothills. The city has a very ancient role as the capital of emporer Bharata, as given in the Mahabharata. That there were in Paraca, ‘Enshrined a great many heads of dragons,’ strengthens the assumption, for 200 years before Appollonius visited the city, Samrat Samprati, the son of the Buddhist emporer, Asoka, is said to have built a great many Jain temples in the city, all of which were destroyed by centuries of foreign invaders. These long-lost dragon statues connect with the serpent iconography of Jainism known as the Naga.
Philostratus then tells us that the Sacred Ridge of Iarchus (Jesus) was a four day Camel Ride away, & that also Iarchus & the area were Greek-speaking. Al this points to Mathura, a 100 miles to the south of Hastinpur, who was ruled at the time of Jesus by a Greek speaking dynasty. Philostratus also describes many statues at the Ridge, which fits in with the Mathura School of statue sculpture dated to that very era. The Sacred Ridge of Iarchus, however, is not in Mathura, but – I assumed – must be Govardhan Hill, 20 k to the west of Mathura. The proof came with a description of the hill as being the same size as that of the Acropolis in Greece – & though I had never visited it, Victor confirmed the two hills were very similar in size & shape.
The hill is famous among the Hindus for being lifted by Krishna in defiance of the rain god Indra, who had sent a deluge to the local area. Digging through the poetical metaphor, we can see that Iarchus had allowed the locals to use the hill during flooding, & that this later became mythologized as Krishna lifting the hill. Thus, the hill can be connected to both elements of Jesus’ name, as in;
Jesus = Iarchus
Krishna = Christ
As we shall see in coming posts, Govardhan ladies & gentleman, is the key to it all – Jesus was there, running an ashram of sorts, a decade after his supposed crucifixion. The town is a very holy place, & in only a few days (the day after Diwali) half a million souls will walk the 21 k around the hill in celebration of its lifting by Krishna. This has already attracted a great deal of beggars, who were rather annoying actually, & put us off from returning next week. Instead, we have continued our journey south. First port of call was a night & a morning in Agra, an unpleasant place that is home to the ‘paradise on earth’ that is the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century by a grief-stricken Mughal King for his dead wife, it really is a spectacular & celestial place to visit – a once-in-a-lifetime experience ensured by the architect having his hands chopped off on its completion.
After seeing the Taj, we caught a bus to Gwalior, where we were met by Bhagat, the 40-year-old principle of a couple of schools in the city. Back in Scotland, since 2005 my various musical incarnations have played at the Linkey Lea festival, raising money for an orphanage in Gwalior. I’d even visited it back in 2006, writing my song Seminal Lives on the rooftop. However, the guys at Linkey Lea had decided the orphanage people were a little corrupt, & instead gave the money to Bhagat’s school. After putting us up in a hotel last night, we went back to the school this morning for a ‘gig.’ They had built a stage, hired a PA & sorted us out instruments – a guitar & a harmonium – plus three drummers who we quickly got up to speed.
Then all of a sudden, 600 kids & their teachers were ushered into the yard & we were playing a wicked wee gig actually. The school provides an education for the poor of the area, & for all of them it was the first time they had seen a guitar being played. After the gig, we were inundated by autograph hunters, even in the streets afterwards a mental buzz that I took to like a duck to water but had Victor questuining whether he could handle the true trappings of fame.
Tomorrow, after a trip a morning at the blind school, we’re gonna do the concert again – the school is split into English & Hindoo Mediums (i.e. which language they are taught in) & its the Hindoo’s turn tomorrow, a gig we are both looking forwards to immensely.