Situated in the Himalayan region of Ladakh, India, the imposing Hemis Monastery has been around since before 11th century. One can imagine the stories and legends that surround this beautiful old Buddhist monastery. The most staggering story or legend has been passed down by a Russian journalist named Nicolas Notovitch, who had released a book titled, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ.
A rather unpopular claim, Notovich’s story came into public knowledge in 1894. He claimed that Jesus was in India during his Lost Years, the proof of which lies at Ladakh’s Hemis Monastery.
According to him, after hurting his leg during his Ladakh visit, Notovich was forced to take rest at the Hemis Monastery in the highlands of Ladakh. It was here that Notovich was shown a document written in the ancient Pali language. The document, according to Notovich, was, in fact, an unknown gospel, called Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men. It covered the story of a man named Issa, and detailed his travels and studies in India. The man was recognised as Jesus Christ.
However, the story about Jesus spending his Lost Years was not really read by Notovich himself but was translated by local lamas. Of course, not being able to understand the language, he was helped the local lamas in the monastery.
After Notovich wrote about it in his book, the Christian world was shaken, and most scholars vehemently discredited the story. Later, Nicolas Notovich had himself confessed about fabricating the story.
Return of the legend
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Years later, in 1921, a contemporary of Swami Vivekananda, called Swami Abhedananda, also visit the Hemis Monastery in search for truth, and also to study Buddhism. The Indian monk too claimed to have come across the same manuscript as claimed by Nicolas Notovich himself. But here too, the book jacket was supposedly translated for him by a local lama, and the story was equivalent to the one published by Notovich.
After the death of Swami Abhedananda, one of his disciples had visited Hemis Monastery, yet again in search for the document. However, he was told that the document has disappeared.
The Lost Years of Jesus refers to Jesus Christ’s life from 12 years of age to 29 years of age, before the start of his ministry.