Dan Brown’s bestseller, “The Da Vinci Code” revolves around the existence of the Holy Grail whose location is mysteriously hidden in a coded form by Leonardo Da Vinci in his painting in the Louvere Museum in Paris. We have something similar in the Hemis Monastery in Leh, Ladakh, the “land of passes”, also popularly called the “Little Tibet”, which is the northern most province of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is a land of high mountains, glaciers and deserts. Most striking feature of the land are the dry mountains of all hues and shades with a deep blue sky. In many parts on a cloudless day, the landscape resembles perfect “Moonscape”, which has prompted many explorers and writers to call it the “Moon land”. The land is absolutely dry. A high altitude desert. Along the valleys irrigated by the famous River Indus, which gave India its name, there are patches of green, like oases in a desert. Wherever there are water channels whether in the valleys or higher up along side the barren mountains, one distinctly sees streaks of greenery. Leh, a small town of about 20,000 people, is the district headquarter and the main gateway to this entire region. It is the most developed town of its size in the whole country and has been the major stop over on the famous silk route going across the Karakoram pass to Yarqand and Kashgar in China. Ladakh is the home to the earliest form of Tibetan Buddhism. The Monasteries housing hundreds of Lamas and fully active right from the ancient times derive their spiritual connections from Lahasa in Tibet. The largest Monastery is Hemis, situated deep inside a side valley of Indus secluded by the mountains about 40 kilometres from Leh. It houses 500 Lamas. Like all other monasteries, Hemis contains a large number of books and manuscripts written in Tibetan containing Buddhist scriptures and teachings of Buddha. Among these manuscripts, there is one, which describes the complete life of Jesus Christ. This manuscript is at present in a sealed chamber of the monastery containing many precious relics, statues and other items. The chamber has been sealed because the head lama of the monastery is living in exile in Tibet. He had gone to Lahasa for studies and got stuck there when the Chinese occupied Tibet. A Russian historian and scholar, Nikolai Notovich, who visited Ladakh in 1887, was the first person to bring the manuscript to the notice of the outside world. During the course of his travels he passed through the Hemis Monastery. There the Lamas informed him about a manuscript, which described life and teachings of Jesus Christ as well as his sojourn in Leh. He tried to persuade the Lamas to show him the manuscript and help him in translating it. However, they refused to do so. Notovich was very sad and disappointed and left the Monastery in a very depressed mood. On way to Leh the donkey he had been riding slipped and the fall fractured his leg. He was carried back to the monastery where he was forced to stay for sometime to recover from this injury. The Lamas nursed him back to health and became very friendly to him. They ultimately showed him the manuscript and helped him to translate it.
On his return to Europe, he tried to get it published but no one was prepared to do it. Finally, he succeeded in getting it published in English in New York in 1894 in the book form under the title “The Unknown life of Jesus Christ”. The publication of the book raised a storm in the entire Christian world. It was labelled blasphemy. Many missions were sent to Hemis to verify the existence of the manuscript. Even Vatican got interested. Many attempts were made to totally deny the existence of the manuscript. Notovich was alleged to be a fraud. Even his visit to Ladakh was refuted. It is said that secret missions were sent to Ladakh and Tibet to completely destroy the manuscript after locating its copies in various monasteries. However, there were many other witnesses who had seen these writings before and after Notovich. Others who had seen or written about the manuscript include Nicolas Roerich, Madame Elisabeth Caspari, Lady Henrietta Merrick and Swami Abhedananda. Lady Henrietta Merrick in her book, “In the World’s Attic”, published in 1931 writes, “In Leh is the legend of Christ who is called “Issa”, and it is said that the monastery at Hemis holds precious documents fifteen hundred years old, which tell of the days he passed in Leh where he was joyously received and where he preached”. The manuscript is available in a book form both in the British Museum Reading Room as well as in the Library of Congress in Washington. The reference number for the US Library of Congress is: LC Control Number: 12037261. The author is shown as Notovich, Nikolai, 1858. The title is “The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ”. Published in 1894 by G.W.Dillingham, New York. LC Classification: BT 520.
N82 Microfilm 12697 BT. It has not been possible in recent times to check and authenticate the existence of the manuscript because of its being in a sealed chamber of the monastery. The importance of the manuscript is thus almost the same as that of the Holy Grail described in Dan Brown’s book, the Da Vinci Code. The rediscovery of the manuscript in the monastery may vindicate the existence of the Holy Grail. All the attempts to get the sealed chamber opened to verify the existence of the manuscript have failed as no one is prepared to take up the responsibility among the local Lamas. The only chance left is to persuade His Holiness the Dalai Lama to intervene. In view of his personal quest for knowledge and the ultimate truth, he will definitely assist in solving this centuries old mystery. The story about the search and verification of the manuscript can be an exciting plot for Dan Brown’s next book provided he is prepared to go all the way to Ladakh and also approach His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event of opening of the sealed secret chamber in the monastery and the taking out of the manuscript for public viewing can be telecast live throughout the world. If ultimately the genuineness and authenticity of the manuscript is established, the entire Christian belief will undergo a revolutionary change. The Hemis monastery itself will become a focus of global attention. The project will generate so much interest worldwide that the Ladakhis will not know what hit them? Anybody interested in taking up the Project?