Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Jesus Savarkar Loved

In a few weeks’ time from now, the world will be celebrating Easter. It is the day of Jesus’s resurrection—the day he came back to life. This is also the occasion when a plethora of conspiracy theories start doing the rounds in media. They offer various scenarios as to what happened to Jesus after he was crucified. The most recent and most profitable of all speculations was Dan Brown’s 2003 novel that would have us believe that Jesus went to France. But Ganesh Damodar Savarakar, in 1946, had already claimed that the Tamil Brahmin Jesus actually came back to his homeland in Tamil Nadu—which is obviously some distance away from France—and from there moved to the Himalayas. The English translation of the Marathi book Christ Parichay is being published now, seventy years after the original came out. Its publication a month before Easter may just be an innocent coincidence but given the intellectual landscape of the country, it may not be so. The newspapers have reported some of the highlights from the book, here are a few we could look at.

The first claim is that Jesus travelled to India after his crucifixion. But, this theory only appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries—one version said he came via Afghanistan and went to Kashmir and China, and was buried at the age of 120; the other, Savarkar’s, adds a twist saying that he first came to Tamil Nadu and then went to Kashmir where he took nirvikalpa samadhi at the age of 49. But no Jewish or Roman record supports any such assertion. There is no contemporary report or document that says Jesus was revived by his disciples or that his body was stolen, which, if true, must have been recorded in the official papers of the imperial Roman government.

The second and more interesting claim in Savarkar’s book is that Jesus was a Vishwakarma Brahmin. Now, Vishwakarma in the Hindu pantheon is the god of artisans, the manual labourers, who are considered to be Shudras and not twice-born Brahmins. So while Savarkar does acknowledge that Jesus was a carpenter, one wonders why he didn’t declare him to be a Shudra. Or did he think a Shudra could not be spiritually enlightened?

The third claim is that Jesus was dark complexioned. Well, that makes him more Dravidian than Brahmin. Tamil Brahmins are more likely to light complexioned—one only needs to look at some famous Tamil actors and actresses to confirm that. Jesus is the saviour of all; it doesn’t matter whether he was black or white. One only wonders what point Savarkar wanted to put across.

On a more a serious note, Indians of all castes and religions have been fascinated with Jesus. Ganesh Savarkar must have been an admirer of Jesus but it seems his Brahmin-tinted ultra-nationalist glasses could not accept that the Son of God may have taken birth in an arid middle-eastern country, away from—what his brother Veer Savarkar had said—his pitru-bhumi (fatherland).

He seemed to have loved Jesus enough to claim him as a part of his spiritual landscape, but he was much too constrained by politics to surrender to Jesus on his own terms.