Kolkata filmmaker traces Christ's 'India trail'

by Sujoy Dhar, IANS, November 6, 2005

New Delhi, India -- Where was Jesus Christ between the age of 12 and 30 years? He supposedly visited India during this period, according to a theory, and a filmmaker here has tried to follow Christ's yet unexplored trail in his new movie.

Though the Bible does not give credence to such theories, engineer-turned filmmaker Subhrajit Mitra's "The Unknown Stories of the Messiah" focuses on the unexplored life of Christ and his unaccounted years in the Bible.

Did Christ visit India after his crucifixion? Is a tomb in the Kashmir Valley that of Christ? These are some of the controversial questions Mitra raises in his film.

"Christ supposedly visited India, according to an alternative theory," Mitra said.

"Neither the Bible nor the mainstream gospels give credence to such theories but the scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea or at Nag Hammadi (in Egypt), believed to be the first drafts of the Bible, corroborate the alternative theory about Christ," Mitra told IANS.

"According to Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic scriptures and beliefs, Christ visited India during the period of his missing years in the Bible and stayed in the country for 14 years.

"His Christianity was influenced by Hinduism as we find that the New Testament of the Bible was more akin to Hinduism than Judaism.

"In Bhavishya Maha Puran, a text dating back to the second century AD, there are references of Christ's interaction with King Shalivahan, the grandson of Vikramaditya, in Kashmir.

"Scholars say it happened after Christ's resurrection," said Mitra.

He also noted that there were different isolated pockets that corroborated the "alternative theory" about Christ.

This alternative theory was strengthened after some scrolls (dating back to between 200 BC and 100 AD) were discovered in 1947 in a group of caves near Khirbat Qumran in Jordan at the northwestern end of the Dead Sea.

Two years before that, in 1945, some scrolls dating back to 350 AD were found tucked into a large jar at Nag Hammadi village in upper Egypt.

Mitra's film, produced by Atanu Roy of Sweet Melody, seeks to unearth the truth through the discourses of an archaeologist (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) and a novelist (Aparna Sen).

"We have shot in Ladakh, Kashmir, the Silk Route, Kerala, Varanasi and Puri for the film - following the trail of Christ," said Mitra.

"There are many documents in the vault of the Vatican and the church doesn't publish them because they obviously want to project Christ as a god and not as a human.

"Assimilation of all such stories raises the question why there was no proper research on the alternative theory about Christ," said Mitra.

German scholar H.J. Trebst, who has been researching on the subject of Christ's missing 12 years, invited scholars to a seminar at Puri in Orissa in November 2003.

According to some scholars of the Orient and the West, Christ had visited Puri where he had studied Veda and yoga before returning home to preach Christianity.

Christ also studied Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent, according to Trebst, who has done extensive research in Ladakh and Nepal to trace the evidence of Christ's itinerary in the subcontinent.

According to Trebst, Puri was a famous seat of learning some 2,000 years ago and history has revealed that various religious leaders visited the city over the centuries.

There is also a belief that Christ's tomb is in the Kashmir Valley and foreigners, especially Israelis, visit it in large numbers. The main attractions in the valley for Israelis are two graves - believed by some to be those of Christ and Moses.

A section of the local population believes that Kashmiris are one of the lost tribes of Israel. Aziz Kashmiri, author of the book "Christ in Kashmir", insists that Kashmiris are descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel and that Christ died during a visit to the valley.

According to Mitra, it is time serious research begins to verify the alternative theory about Christ and his Indian connections. About 2.3 percent of India's population of 1.1 billion follows Christianity, with about 60 percent of them being Catholics.

The History Channel has shown interest in his film, Mitra said.