New Delhi: The spotlight is back on Jesus Christ and his India connection as the world celebrates Christmas Friday. Some historians believe he spent 17 years of early life - from the age of 13 to 30 - in India learning Buddhism and the Vedas.
"There are references that Christ`s family (parents) settled in Nazareth, but the next time he appeared in Nazareth, Jesus was 30. He was said to have been growing in wisdom and stature in the missing years," British film producer Kent Walwin told IANS.
Here to receive the Dayawati Modi Award for arts, culture and education in 2009, Walwin`s latest project, "Young Jesus: The Missing Years", will explore early years of the messiah, which are not described in the Gospels.
According to Walwin, his movie is "on the Apostolic Gospels, which says Jesus was last seen in West Asia when he was 13-14 years old".
The first part of the movie will be based on Gospels and the second part of the movie will be "pure conjecture based on archival material", the filmmaker said.
There are several references to the India connection.
In 1894, a Russian doctor, Nicolas Notovitch, published a book called the "The Unknown Life of Christ" based on his extensive journeys in Afghanistan, India and Tibet.
During one of his journeys, he visited Leh, the capital of Ladakh and spent some time at the Buddhist monastery of Hemis when he broke his leg.
At the monastery, he was shown two large yellowed volumes of a document in Tibetan language, "The Life of Saint Issa". Jesus was referred to as Issa - or the son of god - by the Vedic scholars who tutored him in the sacred texts.
Notovitch noted down 200 verses from the document at the back of his journal which he kept during his travels. The document later created a storm in the West.
Monks at the monastery of Hemis, located 40 km outside Leh atop a hill, corroborate to the legend of Christ in India.
"Jesus is said to have visited our land and Kashmir to study Buddhism. He was inspired by the laws and wisdom of Buddha," a senior lama of the Hemis monastery told IANS. The head of the Drukpa Buddhist sect, Gwalyang Drukpa, who heads the Hemis monastery, also believes in the legend.
Swami Abhedananda, a Bengali spiritual scholar and seer, had journeyed to the Himalayas to investigate the "legend of Christ visiting India". His travelogue, a book titled "Kashmir O Tibetti", tells of a visit to the Hemis monastery in Ladakh. It includes a Bengali translation of 224 verses of the "Issa legend" which Notovitch copied.
In 1952, another Russian, Nicholas Roerich, a philosopher and a scientist, visited Hemis and recorded the legend. According to Roerich, "Jesus passed his time in several ancient cities of India such as Benares or Varanasi".
"Everyone loved him because Issa dwelt in peace with the Vaishyas and Shudras whom he instructed and helped," Roerich said in his account.
Christ`s teachings in the ancient holy cities of Jagannath (Puri), Benares (in Uttar Pradesh) and Rajagriha (in Bihar) earned him the wrath of the Brahmins, forcing him to flee to the Himalayas after six years, historians and authors say. Christ, say archival documents, spent another six years studying Buddhism in the Himalayas.
German scholar Holger Kersten`s book, "Jesus Lived in India", also tells the story of the early years of Jesus Christ in India.
"The lad arrives in a region of the Sindh (along the river Indus) in the company of merchants. He settled among the Aryans with the intention of perfecting himself and learning from the laws of the great Buddha. He travelled extensively through the land of the five rivers (Punjab), stayed briefly with the Jains before proceeding to Jagannath," Kersten says in his book.
An English version of an Urdu treatise written by the founder of the Islamic Ahmaddiya movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), also tells of a "second visit by Christ to the subcontinent" after his "reported escape from the Cross".
Christ visited Afghanistan, "where he met the Jews" who had settled there to escape the tyranny of the Jewish emperor Nebuchadnezzar and then came to the Kashmir Valley, where he lived for many years.