Monthly Archives: October 2013

Gwalior & the Govardhan Hill

India - The Most Spiritual Place on Earth
India – The Most Spiritual Place on Earth

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.

Leaving Leh
Leaving Leh

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Gwalior
29/10/13

Leh & the Lotus Sutra

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I’ll always be beautiful in Ladakh – apprently Damo means ‘beautiful’ in Ladakhi…. bangin! The best way to describe the region is a 40,000 foot high beach surrounded by mountains. An arid desert of a place, its amazing how humanity survives up here, the roads in & out are closed 8 months of the year – but luckily Victor & I got in just in time.

Himalaya

Our journey here set off from Sringar before dawn, leaving behind the perfect serenity of the water village. Our jeep was driven by a Tibetan looking fellow, who informed us the journey would take less than 12 hours on near empty roads, reflecting the low population of Ladakh. We were driving into the rising sun, which turn the mountains gold on both side of the narrow valley we were passing through. At first I felt elated, but these feelings soon turned to absolute terror as I experienced what was up that moment the worst hour of my entire life thus far.Our jeep was rising up a road – a half-a road should I say – zig-zagging a mountain often a meter or so from the precipice. In the great tradition of Buddhism I felt several lives flash by! Our driver was even overtaking on bends, & at one point my nerve broke. The mentalist had parked up at the edge as he let a convoy of trucks pass us & I just had to get out & walk up the road to a safer spot. Even the normally stocial, unphaseable Victor felt his toes curling.

Ladakh Moonland

Still, I survived the experience, & from that moment on the journey was a wonderful passage through a landscape of such majesty, it was as if the gods themselves had painted them. The mountains were jagged like porcupine, or gnarled like tree-stumps, or rising into white-haired grey beards, beautiful Himalayan druids that ruled over all.
Shorn of trees, Ladakh offers a lunar landscape to the erstwhile traveller who dares reach this northernmost part of India. Also on display are the aquamarine waters of the great River Indus, here its infancy before it flows into Pakistan & down to the Arabian Sea. The proximity of Pakistan was made evident in the Kargil sector – named after a charming little town we passed through in a heartbeat – for here & there were scattered memorials & cemetaries of the Indian Army, who fought in the infamous three-month Kargil War of 1998.

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And so to Leh, the capital of Ladakh. We have taken a great room for 10 days. At the moment Victor’s gone trekking in the Himalayas while I continue my studies. Leh is the size of a small town in Britain, something like an Indian Barnoldswick. Its situation is one of immense charm, surrounded on all sides by a grey, arid desert which bleeds into a great chain of moutains ringing the wide valley. There is a decidely end-of-deason atmoshpere – many hotels & restaurants have been closed since mid-september, & only the hardiest of trekkers are in town in order to tour the region.

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Ladakh is known as little Tibet, which is reflected in the faces & food which peremate the town. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 50’s, thousands of refugees streamed over the border into India, including the Dalai Lama himself, who currently resides in exile at Dharam Sala, a few hundred k to the south of Ladakh. The Indian government have warmly received the Tibetans, housing some of them 5 miles from Leh in the townlet of Choglamsar. It is there one can find the Central Institute for Buddhist Studies (CIBS), whose library I wished to to avail myself of. However, on the morning of my intended visit, I recieved a rather rude shock form a stray street dog. As I was walking up an alley, the bitch passed me by, then a few moments later bit my lower left leg in a vicious attack from behind.

The Bite
The Bite

It turns out she was protecting her new pups who I had inadvertantly wandered close to. Within the hour I had hobbled to the local hospital, where I was prescribed a course of anti-rabies jabs – 3 at first & two more of the dog dies within ten days – plus a tetanus boost. A strange way to begin my time in Ladakh.

My Anti-Rabies JAb
My Anti-Rabies JAb

The journey to CIBS is made by sharing one of the many jeeps that work the route, costing a meagre 20 rupees one-way. The Institute is a pristine & modern affair, with clean, well-built buildings gleaming under the bright sun, with a backdrop of mountains that must be so conducive to academic endeavour. The spacious grounds are dotted with young claret-cloaked monks reading books, schoolgirls chatting about life & studies, while pupils of both sexes carved statues of the Buddha, all wrapped in a peaceful serenity.

Sculptur School

On arrival, I was warmly received & given use of an excellent library, whose speciality books on Ladakh & Mahayana Buddhism I could have only really discovered in this very library. This was litology at its most natural, & as I read, a proffesor noticed my studies & after a bried conversation, placed a great pile of his own books at my desk. A charming man & an excellent scholar, his books were to prove a valuable asset to my work.

Two Young Monks

I also was introduced to a professor of Comparative theology, & the instititutes best speaker of English. I have been spending 20 minutes with him at 11.40 every morning, in the gap between lessons, reading through the copy of Philostratus I have on my laptop. Philostratus was a Roman writer describing what would have been to him the strange dooings of Indian sages. However, to a modern-day Indian sage, these doings are all familiar, & have names & such-like. Thus it was with the help of his ever beaming smile that I am able to elucidate Philostratus with a truer angle.

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On one particular morning I was taken from the library & introduced to a Sanskrit scholar. We sat in the sunshine, a small gaggle pupils observing our conversations, & I thought this would be the perfect oppurtunity to test out one of the chief tenets of my theory. In essence, I say that not only did Jesus survive the Crucifixion, but he went on to compose seminal texts in India which would form the fundamental pillars of Krishnaism & Mahayna Buddhism. Part of the this theory is conflating two Indian poets into the same person, being;

Asvara Ghosa
Ishvara Krishna

The latter translates in Greek as ‘Jesus Lord Christ,’ connecting him to his Palestinian avatar. I didn’t get that far into my theory, though, I just wanted to see what an Indian expert thought. He straight away denied its possibilty, & of course I thought I’d set him straight. The difference between conventional academics & Litologists is that the Litologist digs deep into a subject, where as the academic merely brushes the surface & accepts the work of his peers past & present to be gospel. Suffice it to say, after challenging his arguments with rational thoughts & fresh insights (which I’ll be posting soon), he began to pace up & down & slap his forehead just like the guy in the Srinagar museum. I took heart in this – I am a long way from Edinburgh where I first came up with the theory – & the best scholars in India can in no way dismiss it. My journey has not been in vain!

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Today was a bit mad. I’d taken a day off from the books to rest my eyes, & was breakfasting away when this girl me & victor met the other day – A sound Candadian lass named Berangere Maia Parizeau – turned up rather upset. Turns out the guy who’d driven her 150 k away & then back the next day was a right sleazebag. There’s something about being British, like, which defines you as a moral international policeman, & being a chivalrous soul I thought I’d help her out. So we march round to his office where he was indeed a bit of a scumbag – a big bully basically. Anyhow, I got the police involved & not long after me, Maia, the nobhead & the chief of Ladakhi police are all sat in a room thrashing it out. We could have brought the guy down, but being emotionally unattached to the case I managed to calm Maia down enough fro her to accept an apology from a now very humbled bully & a little financial renumeration. Leh is a small town & I think the guy will think twice before behaving dodgy again – public humilation is a powerful (she was screaming he was a pervert in the street for example) & there;’s no need for the guys wife & kids to suffer for the sleazy dad!

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After this, me & Maia hopped in a taxi 40 k to the amazing Buddhist monastery at Hemis. On the way she told me about how her mum was the only survivor of a plane crash in Haiti, & as she was a film-maker she made a documentary of the story, which you can watch here. Apart from studying Mahayana Buddhism, whose text The Lotus Sutra, chapter 24 essentially describes the Buddhist version of Jesus (as Avalokitesvara), the other Jesus-in-India reason for visiting Ladakh is to see this place.

Hemia

In essence, at Hemis, hidden in a mountainous fold of the Himalays, is where it all began. Way back in the 1880’s, a Russian guy named Nicolas Notovich found himself laid up in the monastery with a broken leg, being read extracts from an unknown life of Issa, i,e. Jesus. Thing is, since then the scrolls have gone missing, casting doubt on the authenticity of the gospel. However, my own studies have confirmed that Jesus dwelt in India in a much more sophisticated fashion, that I am able to prove that there is truth in what Notovich wrote down, & he was indeed at Hemis taking down the Life of Issa. But that I shall leave for another day…

Leh
21/10/13

Kashmir & the Christ

My first taste of Kashmir - a delicious native apple
My first taste of Kashmir – a delicious native apple

So here I am in Srinagar, the epicentre of the Jesus-in-India theory, blogging & breakfasting on my hotel boat on the tranquil oasis of the splendid Dal Lake. My journey here from Jammu began at 7.30 AM sharing a taxi with a pleasant Indian family for the 300 K to Srinagar, Kashmir. We began on a steady rise, climbing out of the smog-like mist that had descended on the Punjab a few days previously & steadfastly refused to budge an inch. The sight that greeted us was lovely, full of forest & slopes that were getting higher & steeper with every turn. The roads were busy & often slow, our driver doing his best to overtake every tractor & truck that blocked our swift passage. then often as we tried to overtake, there would often be in our way one of the vast convoy of trucks heading south filled with apples for all of India.

Traffic Jam

This state of affairs has led the Indian government to build a great double-carriageway between Srinagar & Jammu, which was under construction as I write. Thus this portion of the massif is practically one gigantic building site, the residue of grand ambition & a feat of engineering that should marvel the world – when it is finsihed of course. Until then, I, & every body else on the planet making the journey by road, must struggle & shuffle forward in a stop-start fashion. We also past numerous road-safety signs such as ‘After Whiskey, Driving Risky,’ & braving treacherous corners where one false move sees a vehicle & its occupants tumbling hundreds of meters to their inevitable dooms. Personally, my vertigo & I were petrified, but we both survived the journey to the Kashmir border & its ‘Titanic Viewpoint.’

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We had arrived at the famous vale at the end of the harvest season, where the paddy fields are shorn of their rice & have browned in the summer sun. Two months ago, were were told, all was green & surely contained the magical quality that makes the Vale of Kashmir so special. Another 80 k later we had arrived in Srinagar, the region’s capital, & swiftly took rooms in a decent enough hotel – the marathon 12 hour journey from Jammu having taken its toll.

Its Eid in Srinagar -so  lots of chicken dinners
Its Eid in Srinagar -so lots of chicken dinners

Srinagar itself was a marked change from the cities of the Gangeatic plane. Despite its million inhabitants, the city was less busy, & cleaner, & in certain places had a quite European feel. Flat rooves were few & far between, with most houses having steep metal rooves to let the rains flow freely to earth. I bore witness to a great Kashmiri storm, which exploded in violent fury & raged for half an hour or so of torrential rain & booming thunder, after which it disspeared leaving a cool freshness & finally blowing away the mists that had been all prevailing for days – in the distance I could now see the mountains which had stepped out of the haze like handsome young soldiers on parade.

Dal Lake

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The next morning I embarked upon my research mission. The tomb of Jesus could wait awhile, but what was more enticing was a chance of meeting the esteemed Kashmiri scholar, Fida Hassnain, who more than any man has unearthed genuine historical references that support the existence of an Indian Jesus. I had come across his books in Edinburgh & found them to be well-researched & full of obscure tit-bits. His own interest in the subject began in 1965, when he first heard of Nicolas Notovich in the archives of the Moravian Mission in Leh, Ladakh. After this, he states himself that;

It took me many years to locate & examine oriental sources, in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian & Urdu dealing, with the lost years of jesus. The material was rich &, unlike much of the historical material to which the church had access, on the whole, untouched since ancient times. These ancient documents, recording as they did a little-known connection between Christianity & the east, were of immense fascination to me – each new discovery further fuelling my passion for the quest
 
He was well placed to do this, being the one-time Director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Musems for Kashmir, which gave him an intimate access to ancient documents. He also acknowledged his own place in this new academic tradition by stating , ‘A research work entitled Messiah Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India) by Hazrat Mirz Ghulam Ahmad opened new vistas of research for me.‘ His fantastic work in the field secured his place as its leading exponent, & since the seventies, a series of scholars have sought his company. Each was greeted with warmth, & had been freely given access to all the documents & information uncovered by the Professor. I got his address from a smart looking guy in the street, & one short rickshaw ride later Victor & I found ourselves in the Parray Pura district of Srinagar, knocking on the gate of a pleasant & large detached house. To my joy, Fida Hassnain came to see who we were, & I was amazed how sprightly he was on his feet, given he had passed his nineteith year. After greeting him as auspiciusly as I could, we passed an amiable hour in his garden discussing ideas & sharing theories. I told him how much I respected his work on the matter of Jesus in Kashmir, & also asked him if he had ever heard of Philostratus. He had not.

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It was a sublime moment, & I seized my chance. I asked Fida for a pen & paper, & sketched for him a brief outline of how Appollonius had travelled to India to meet Iarchus, & where to find teh appropriate information on the web. As I explained I believed I had discoverd new evidence for Jesus’ time in India, his eyes lit up with a youthful excitement & I surged with pride. I had travelled many miles to show him my work on Jesus, which were built, of course, upon his own fifty years of study. His magnum opus on the field had been published only the previous year, & he gave both Victor & I a copy to take away. The book is called Jesus in Kashmir, & became a new companion for my stay in the area, & contained more than half a century of research, whose quantity & quality of textual references I found quite remarkable.

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After two nights in the hotel we left for pastures new; Victor had found us a family-run houseboat n Dal lake, & what a joy it was to be there. A village on water, one must travel to & from the ‘mainland’ on the oar-drawn shakaras, a watery oasis of calm away form the sheer incessancy of India. Food was cooked by mother & served by a 17-year old ‘servant’ from a village 60 k away. A few meters across the water resided a family who loved on teh lake, not for tourism but for life, a half-carved shakara testament to a world that passeed its humanity amidst these gentle settings. It proved a perfect place to poured through the pages of Fida Hassnain’s latest book, underlining passages & filling them with scholia for the days ahead. Then, when my studies were done, it was time to explore the places I had been reading about; not thousands of miles away from Scotland’s national library, but a ten rupee ride away across the pleasant green waters of the Dal lake.

The Sweet Run
The Sweet Run

The next morning we resolved upon a plan to circumnavigate the impressively beautiful Dal lake, which forms the liquid heart of the city. Hopping in a rickshaw for the short ride to the Rozabal, the shrine of Yuz Asaf, i.e. Jesus. A Kashmiri historian, Mulla Nadiri, stated (in 1420); ‘In a work by a Hindu it is said that this Prophet was in reality Hazrat Issa, the Soul of God – on whom be peace and salutations. He had assumed the name of Yuzu Asaph during his life in teh valley. the real knowledge is with allah. After his demise, hazrat issa, on whom be peace & salutations, was laid to rest in the tomb in the locality of Anzimar. It is also said that the rays of prophethood used to emenant from the tomb of this prophet.

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On arriving at the shrine I found it painted green & white – the colours of Islam. Indeed, Srinagar is 96 percent Muslim, who after appropriating the shrine for themselves, have declared taking photographs of the shrine strictly forbidden, a matter which seriously irked the locals after I innoculously shot the shrine.
“It is an international dispute,” I was told by a tall, unpleasant looking fellow. It is amazing how religious sentiment still divides humanity to this day, which I felt the full force only a minute or two later. We were just departing from the shrine, when passing an open window I saw the very tomb of Yuz Asaf inside the shrine, covered with a velvet blanket. It seemed such a harmless act taking a swift snap, driven by my need for litological to leave no stone unturned if you will.

The Snap that nearly fatwahed my ass - & its blurred n'all
The Snap that nearly fatwahed my ass – & its blurred n’all

However, only a second or two after taking the shot, I was accosted in the street by an angry, begrizzled man in his forties, demanding my camera with loud shouts & manhandling me to the ground. Victor quickly rushed to my rescue, but instead I insisted I could handle my attacker, but saving the camera was more important, & gave him it with a swift, sly back-hand. Not long after, I had overpowered my foe & brought the action to a stand-still, & was just about to argue my litological rights when I was grabbed by Victor & thrust down a side-alley & into the nearest rick-shaw. Speeding away, I looked down at my shirt & realised that in the kerscuffle the bounder had ripped the second top button off my new shirt!
“Driver, we must go back…
No,no,” piped in Victor, “Keep driving!”
“But I must give the scoundrel my tailor bill!
” I retorted with the passionate of elan the hard done by.
Nonsense, my friend… you know those two men we were observing cutting the throats of chickens near the shrine.
“Yes…”
“Well, I observed them running down the street towards us… they were still holding their knives.

The incident reminded me just how many millions have died for their faith over the millenia, & I knew that from that skirmish on I would have to curtail my inbuilt northern swagger when handling such a sensitive subject as human religion.

The Market

Leaving the shrine, we then proceeded to the NE corner of the Dal Lake, where a curious passage in a 12th century Kasmiri history called the Rajatarangini seems a garbled account of the Crucifixion;

Samhdimati’s guru, Isana, came to perform funeral rites, found Sam’s skeleton still attached to the stake, and noticed an inscription on the skull which predicted: “He will have a life of poverty, ten years’ imprisonment, death on the stake, and still thereafter a throne.” Isana wondered about this, but later, in the middle of the night, smelled incense, heard bells ringing and drums beating, and saw witches outside on the burial ground.
Isana pulled out his sword and went outside, and saw the witches rebuilding the body with their own limbs and flesh, then calling Samhdmati’s spirit back to the body. Thereafter, they covered him with ointments and “enjoyed themselves with him…to their full desire.”

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Then just a couple of miles away, there a kind local led us through pleasant foresty to the ruins of a Buddhist Temple, built by the Kushan Emporer, Kanishka, in the first century AD. During my conversations with Professor Hassnain, he had suggested it had been the site of the great 4th Buddhist Council c.78AD & that Jesus had probably been there as an old man. It was at this council that a new branch of Buddhism was accepted called Mahayana, or ‘the Great Vehicle.’ Back in Edinburgh I’d found it curious how both Christianity & Mahayana Buddhism had sprung up at roundabout the same time, & how these new religions were wrapped around a saviour-figure who preached love & compassion – in Mahayana Buddhism his name is Avoleketisvara. With Jesus being buried in the same place as Mahayana Buddhism was launched, the connection has become too tangible to ignore, & I feel a deeper investigation of ‘the great vehicle’ is in order. Luckily, the chief center of this faith is in Ladakh, only a 16 hour taxi ride away through the mountains, skimming along the LOC, the de facto border line between Pakistan & India that is often used as target-practice for the motar shells of Pakistani militants.

Srinagar
15-10-2013

Sunday Papers

Amritsar & the Ahmadiyya

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I’ve been getting up at 4.30 AM for the past few mornings now, well before dawn, & hitting my work. It all started at Patiala, from where the other day Victor & I rolled the rails north through 5 & a half hours of yet more monotonous flatlands. One wonders at the mental state of the British troops as they marched up & down these unpunctuated northern plains throughout the early days of the Raj – it is no wonder that they implemented the building of one of the best & most extensive rail networks on the planet, which is run with a rigour & vigour to this day. Our destination was Amritsar, & I urge anyone finds themeselves in this part of Asia to visit the city on account of the majestic Golden Temple of the Sikhs. This is a gleaming holy house set in a vast ‘lotus pool’ which reflects the temple in its silky waters, creating a wonderful aesthetic effect, especially at night. On all sides surrounding the square lotus pool rise white marble buildings, & behind them yet more buildings contribute to the capital complex of Sikhism. In one part, up to 100,000 daily devotees are fed for free, squatting on rugs in great chambers while rice, curry, desert, chutney & water are placed in their metal pans. The sound of these, as they reach the washing area at the end of each meal, reminded me of blasting rain as it hit an alluminium roof.

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It was in the nerve centre of the temple that I felt a wonderful spirituality, garnered by the holy songs played & sung by devout Sikh musicians, while other practitioners of the faith were channeled around them, kissing the floor or flinging rupees into their presence. Comparatively speaking, Sikhism is a new religion, founded in the 16th century by Guru Nanak. Monotheistic in nature, its rise as a major world religion proves how faith is really just about one’s personal interpretation of god, & spirituality a method of connecting with that interpretation. Many are indoctrined into a particular belief system from an early age, from which springs from an almost tribal loyalty to its tenets. Instead, the truth cannot be all that far away from there being just a single god who is worshiped differently from land to land all across the earth. Even the polytheistic Hindoos believe that all members of their divine Pantheon are actually different aspects of the same omniscient essence. In this very same fashion, it is possible, indeed likely, that the Palestinian Jesus was worshiped in India as Krishna.

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Other highlights of Amritsar included a visit to the Jallianwalla Bagh, a peace garden on the site of the brutal & tyrannous massacre of unarmed innocents ordered by General Dyer in 1919. Out of 1650 bullets fired that day, 1550 hit their mark, killing over 300 & wounding the rest. 160 bodies were recovered from a well alone, the only cover at that time, shot as they tried to scramble over the sides & into safety. In response to such a tragedy, the Nobelprize winning poet Tagore gave Britain back his knighthood in protest & disgust. Indian independrnce was now only 28 years away, but when it came it came at a cost. The Muslims had been angling furiously for a separate Islamic state, & the British simply drew a line through the Punjab & created Pakistan. Cue all hell breaking loose, beheadings in the street etc, & the greatest movement of humanity the world has ever seen. In all 13 million people died on both sides for their religion in only a few months as they tried to get the touchdown of safety into their respective national end-zones. During this period, the King of Kashmir was also angling for a separate state, but was overwhelmed by Pakistan & India, who both tried to grab as much land as they can & came to an unofficial de facto border known as the LOC (Line of Control) that even as I write has seen an ongoing two-week skirmish between Pakistani militants & the Indian Army only a few kilometres from Sringar, a future destination of ours.

It is ironic, then, that while their is real shooting to the north of Amritsar, to the west of the city plays out the daily, riotous flag ceremony at the Pakistani border crossing, where both sides contemptuously march, stamp & gesture at each other, while behind them two football-style crowds cheer & sing their national songs. When we visited, the Indians heavily outnumbered the ‘away’ fans, like when Exeter City used to come to Turf Moor when we were in the old Fourth Division. The Pakistanis did their best, however, & we left the border thinking it was all rather good fun, & the hatred behind these two nuclear powers shouldn’t ever plunge the world into atomic darkness.

Setting off north towards Srinagar, I had noticed that our route was to take us fairly close to Qadian, the birthplace of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835 – 1908) himself, & felt compelled to pay his ghost a visit. A rapid 20 mile bus journey took us north to busy little Batala, half of which town seemed to be only half built, from where a further bus brought us to Qadian. A town of 40,000 souls, there is a distinct relaxed attitude & atmosphere to the place, perhaps due to the narrow Italian-style streets the constitute the core of the town. Just on the fringes of these lies the spiritual home of the Amhiddaya movement, of which the author of Jesus in India is the spiritual head, the self-proclaimed ‘Promised Messiah’ who claimed that certain prophecies predicting the appearance of a divine teacher were fulfilled in his person.

Arriving in Qadian - i tend to get off the cycle rickshaws when we reach a rise
Arriving in Qadian – i tend to get off the cycle rickshaws when we reach a rise

Whether this is true or not, the movement is thriving, from just a few followers in 1889, when Hazrat proclaimed his messiahship, to today’s many millions spread throughout 204 nations across the globe. The Ahmadiyya are actually practicing Muslims, but have been ostracized by the majority of other muslims, & denied permission from the Saudi authorities to visit Mecca, while in Pakistan there are not even allowed to publically pray to Allah, being forced to worship in a secrective silence. One cannot help but think of the early Christians, who were also persecuted by stalwarts of the old religion for proclaming the promised messiah had come. Just like Christianity, the Ahmadiyya have their own martyrs, their faces hung up upon the walls of a museum/gallery space in Qadian. By them, like statues of the early popes that ring St Peter’s Square in Rome, Hazrat & his first five successors proudly stare down upon us, testament to the strength of their growing movement. Each of these khalifs have also added to the literature of the Ahmaadiyya, a process reminiscent of the growth of the New Testament corpus.

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The hospitality of the movement is boundless, & we were put up & fed for free in a wonderful guest house – the rooms are normally used for visiting diplomats – near the impressive mosque & birth-place of Hazrat; not as visitors to the movement, but as, ‘guests of the promised messiah.’ himself. I found myself engaging in theological debate with various members of the movement, my hands placed behind my back as we gently strolled around the area. I was also shown the impressive modern library, which is a testament to the academic nature of Hazrat, without whose efforts I may never have taken up the challenge of finding the historical Jesus. I was also given access to many books written by Hazrat & his disciples, a perfectly fresh field in which to commence a litological dig.

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As I sat down to read through Hazrat’s Jesus in India I spared a thought for myself, sat in that library of Bhubaneswar, flicking through the same book for the first time. Back then, I would never have dreamt of visiting the author’s home, but there I was, tucked into a comfortable state of mind by our highly genial hosts, pouring through his texts to the sounds of minaret calling the faithful to prayer. Parts of Hazrat’s book highlights the Islamic view of Jesus, including reports in the Hadith – a book of sayings atrributed to Mohammed – that state Jesus reached 125 years of age. This, of course is indirect evidence that Jesus surivived his crucifixion, when he was 33 years-old. Elsewhere in Islamic writings, Hazrat tells us, ‘The Kanz-ul-Ummal states both; ‘God directed Jesus (on whom be peace) ‘0 Jesus! Move from one place to another’ — go from one country to another lest thou shouldst be recognised and persecuted.’

So that brings us to today. After another free breakfast, we finally began to spend some money & hit the busses north. 6 hours later we pulled into Jammu, the city of Temples, & our first hills since Britain! We’ve just got a hotel room who run a taxi service up to Srinagar in Kashmir in the morning – 300 k away – & its cost us a tenner each, including the room. Meanwhile, the internet cafe Im in right now has a room full of playstation 2s – so that’s keeping Victor happy for a few hours

Roll on the Himalayas

Jammu
10-10-13

Kurukshetra & Krishna

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Victor Pope & I left Delhi on Thursday morning, upon what our travel agent called the ‘Best train India.’ It wasn’t amazing, be we did get western seats, complimentary newspapers, tea & a breakfast snack. We spent a pleasant enough two hours heading north through the uninspiring Gangeatic plane, before disembarking at the town of Kurukshetra. Our reason was the Bhagavad Gita – the Song of God – a text interpolated into the great Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata. The singer of the Bhagavad Gita is the Hindoo blue-skinned diety known as Krishna, as he stands in a chariot with Arjuna before the massive battle of Kurukshetra. There are a number of reasons why we should connect Krishna with Jesus;

1 – Christos is the Greek translation of Krishna

2 – The tenth century text the Bhagavata Purana tells is that Krishna was born by divine “mental transmission” from the mind of Vasudeva into the womb of Devaki, a direct tally with the virgin birth of Jesus.

3 – Y Masih writes, ‘The phenomenon of ‘Krsnajanmastame’ in which the child Krishna is represented as a suckling at the mother’s breast. Nanda, the foster-father of Krishna had gone to Mathura to pay his taxes (just as Joseph had gone to Bethlehem for census). Krishna was born in a cow-shed (Gokula exactly as Jesus was born in a manger); massacre of infants of Mathura by Kamsa (just as was the massacre of infants by Herod)

4 – The Bhagavad Gita has many parrallels with the sayings of Jesus, as in;

Krishna – I am Beginning, Middle, End, Eternal Time, the Birth and the Death of all. I am the symbol A among the characters. I have created all things out of one portion of myself

Jesus – I am the Alpha & the Omega, the Beginning & the End, the First & the Last.

Krishna - By love & loyalty he comes to know me as I really am, Iove you well. Bear me in mind, love me & worship me so you will come to me, I promise you truly for you are dear to me

Jesus – Anyone who loves me will be loved by my father & I shall love him & show myself to him

Baby Krishna - born in a manger!
Baby Krishna – born in a manger!

These points of contact are both too numerous & to palpable to ignore & we must consider the BG as abstract evidence for Jesus having been in India. Robert Frederick Hall spoke of the, ‘Exact synchronism with the mystery-religion taught by Jesus Christ,’ & that, ‘No longer will this ancient epic be treated as some obscure or ‘heathen’ philosophy, peculiar to an Eastern Race, a relic of past human superstition, but as setting forth the fundamental Doctrine of all Masters, & especially of Jesus Christ & the Apostles.’

Thus, Kurukshetra was a great place to start my quest for the Indian Jesus. After arriving at the town, we called into a jewellers, where I enquired about the battlefield. He was friendly guy, eager to help, whose mother named him Parikshit, after the grandson of Arjuna. After telling me that I was actually standing on the battlefield, which spread & sprawled about us for 48 square miles, he sorted us out a rickshaw for a couple of hours in order to see the sights. Most of these were temples marking events which occurred during the battle, but it was in the archeologcial museum at the historical town of Thanesar (formerly Sthaneswar), on the edges of Kurukshetra, that I found my clue. Just as Troy consisted of several different cities spread out over millennia, so Thanesar has been shown to have been built six times, the earliest of which has been dated to the Kushan era, which began in the first century AD.

Roll on two millenia & Thanesar & the surrounding area has been placed firmly in the Indian mindset as being the location of the battle of Kurukshetra. Inbetween, & before their destruction by the Mughal conquest of North India, the Thanesar district was awash was with holy buildings. In 634 AD, the Chinese explorer, Xuanzang described several Buddhist monasteries & a few hundred brahman temples. A line of thought one could take, then, would be that not long after the singing of the Bhagavad Gita, let us say about the time of Jesus, the first temples began to spring up at Kurukshetra, which by the time of Xuanzang had become a veritable city.

Taking Notes...
Taking Notes…
Victor wishes he brought sandals...
Victor wishes he brought sandals…
Thanesar
Thanesar

The discovery of the first century strata at Thanesar was a wonderful litological nugget, unearthed in a museum in the field, far from the collections of western libraries & the prying eyes of the google mega-brain. I have only been in India a few days, & this little discovery was a great boost to my confidence; the truth of Jesus’ stay in India lay out there somewhere, & was probably connected in some fashion to Krishna. The names were the same, the teachings were the same, & now the dates, of at least the Kurukshetran version of Krishna, were the same.

We spent that night in an ok-ish hotel, which lacked running water (a problem with the electricity) but had a great dining area & even better food. There were also mosquitoes on the prowl, & I spent a restless night fully clothed trying to avoid the post-bite itchiness that kept me awake; Victor’s hands & arms, by the way, are currently covered in red blotches. The next morning we set off again, intending to catch a train to Amritsar & its Golden Temple. Unfortunately, match-day sharpness hasn’t quite kicked in yet, & we missed the train, or rather let it come in & out again without boarding it. There’s not many English speakers in the highly-agricultural state of Haryana & I got muddled up at the station – it won’t happen again. Not keen to wait another day in Kurukshetra, I swiftly came up with another plan. Before I arrived I had read about the city of Patiala, not too far away, & so after buying a train ticket from Patiala to Amritsar for the Sunday, we set off on a rickety bus. The first part of the journey was pleasant enough, but it was at the transit town of Pehawar that things got decidedly squashed.

As our new bus came in to the roar of its bleeping horn, people literally sprinted across the station & into the rough commencement of a mad free-for-all for all the seats on the bus. We were too slow with our bulky bags, & were forced to stood up for an hour in a highly overcrowded bus, which is OK for a one-off but I wouldn’t like to repeat it again all that soon. Anyhow, en route we crossed the Sarasawathi river were soon enough in the state of Punjab, a predominantly Sikh state, Jackson Pollocked by the men’s bright & often garish turbans. The city had a much warmer feel than Kurukshetra, with cages full of birds, & traders at every turn all placed into sections, such as one which sold guns, a relic of the fighting nature of the Sikhs so successfully utilised by the British empire.

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I hadn’t really slept since I arrived, & convinced Victor to have a couple of nights in mosquito-free comfort, which led us to a lovely four-star hotel with room service, laundry & air-conditioning (priceless) for only £15 a night. Its mad really, a decent enough room in India can cost about 3 or 4 quid, & a delux one about a tenner more, whereas in the West the difference in prices can be hundreds, if not thousands of pounds.

Roadside horoscope
Roadside horoscope

So that brings us to today. After crashing early last night I was up at 5AM, writing my book, waving away these little flies that congregated round the lights in a mad ecstasy-fuelled rave. Then, just as the sun was rising, they all fell out of the sky & died in their droves, to be swept away by a little Indian boy cleaning the floor with a brush. Once Victor had woken up, we took a rickshaw to see the decaying palace of a Maharahjah, known as the Sheesh Mahal, which has three statues of Queen Victoria in the grounds – I love wandering through the ruins of empire, whose memory, I find, has eroded a little more with every visit of mine to India.

The Sheesh Mahal with its dried up lake
The Sheesh Mahal with its dried up lake

Then it was back to the hotel, where I shall complete my de-jetlag, watching the English football to a few cool kingfishers, while keeping an eye on the Burnley score through the hotel’s wi-fi. We are top of the Championship at the moment & I find it rather apt that in the year that they got there, Jimmy Anderson – the Burnley Bomber – skittled the Aussies in the Ashes, & a lad from Accy Road is poised to solve the ancient mysteries behind the real Jesus Christ.

Patiala
05/10/2013

Extra Bit – Our new Swiss friend, Manuel, had hurriedly left the hotel & we presumed he’d headed up to Srinagar where we were gonna meet him. Instead he went to Rajahastan, from where he e-mailed us this warning…

Hey damo

I got myself the ticket to srinagar from trek & travel. After i met the guy we met on our first day and we had a lassi with. I told him about my plans and after he heard the price he was like: are you crazy? That must be some kind of rip-off. We went to a official travel agency and i showed them my voucher. The guy there confirmed that there’s probably something wrong with the deal. He told me that it’s quite common that if you stay on a houseboat in srinagar they’ll drug your food and drinks so you get sick and unable to leave. They advised me to change the hotel to stay out of trouble when they realize that i’m not doing the trip.

Delhi & Dharma

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The earliest years of my life coincided with the end of the half-penny coin as legal tender. I remember as a wee thing buying sweets for half a p at the newsagents. Once the ha’penny bit had gone, for a while we we offered two sweets for a penny, until all of a sudden all sweets were now 1p. This was my first taste of inflation, by the way, & I didn’t enjoy it at all. Anyhow, half a pence is the lowest Ive ever spent on anything in my life – until, that is, I got an Indian sim card, where after every call you get a text telling you how much the last call cost & how much credit you have left. Seriously, one call cost me 0.132 of a rupee, & with a rupee worth more or less a penny, that’s a transaction that cost me 0.1 pence! The last time I was in India, I was getting 63 rupees per pound – but now its hitting a ten year high & giving me a hell of a lot more spending money – happy days!

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Thus, in my first full day in India, once Victor Pope had arrived from Edinburgh, we could afford to take a driver for the day & buzz about the sights of Delhi. Along for the ride came Manuel, a 28-year Swiss guy old I’d met at the airport & is pretty much headed to all the places me & Victor are – our new best friend. Our car, by the way, & driver, & petrol, cost us only £11 for 8 hours – mad, eh? In this time we checked out some of wicked Delhi’s forts, buzzed about British-built New Delhi for a bit, then hit the Indian Habitat Centre for a great photo exhibition & a sitar recital. The Sitar guy was wicked, connecting with his tabla player like two loved-up gay guys on the job. In the audience was this very auspicious grey haired pandit (maestro) who was almost conducting proceedings – moving his own hands as the main guy strutted his stuff on the fretboard. Its a credit to the sitar system that ancient pieces have been passed down from master to student quite note for note over many centuries.

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Today was public holiday – Mahatma Ghandi day – so everything was closed & a little less wacky races, so I decided to begin my pursuit of the Indian Jesus in earnest. Me & Victor entered the extremely modern, ten year old Delhi metro system (for 16p), & buzzed along to the Hauz Khas area & the Tushita Mahayan meditation centre. On the way I got chatting to a young Hindoo, who told me he had read the New Testament & felt that the teachings of Christianity & Hindooism were very similar – which of course they are, springing, as they do, from the same source. Once in Hauz Khas, a cool half-Indian, half-British monk called Kabir met us in the street, clad in orange robes & as mellow as a Buddhist mantra. His grandmother on his mother’s side was a Bullen, by the way, which I thought an auspicious sign. He gladly led us to the centre & its library, where I was left to perform my litologocal dig. I will come to the Buddhist Avatar of Jesus all in good time, but until then suffice to say I found evidence in the library which confirms my suspicions.

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While I was doing this, I sent Victor to a nearby Deer Park Id visited before. He returned at 5PM, just in time for a talk by this Australian Buddhist on Mindfulness being the Key to Happiness. I found it quite rewarding myself, but Ste thought it unfair he couldn’t let go of his anger by shouting at his computer (its a scary sight trust me) & got nothing at all from the talk. After this we went back to the IHC for a performance of Kathak. I’d really fallen in love with it the last time I was in India – Its a traditional folk dance of south India that is simply a thrill & delight to watch. A combination of ballet spins, manic tap dancing & poetic hand-arm movements, backed up by tablas & sitars, its a relentless hurricane of bodily movement that makes my own hyperactivity seem veritably slothlike – even Victor thought it was, & I quote, ‘Alright!‘. The costumes are gorgeous & uniform, as is the syncrhonicity of highly complicated dance routines.

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So that’s Delhi in a nutshell – the city’s improving; less poverty, more affluence & a riot of sensory stimulation. Tomorrow morning we hit the road & the Raj, or rather the Radge, awaits.

Delhi
2/10/2013

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