Common Prophetsis a remarkable book, and not only for its exceptionally low price. Basically it takes the view that five prophets of Judaism and Hinduism not only have the same life trajectories but are the same people. Christianity and Islam, which came later, are also covered but far more lightly. The basic Judaic text here is the Pentateuch or first five books of the Bible, and the New Testament is not covered at all.

While it is believed the five prophets who delivered God’s message to Jews and Hindus were different persons who delivered different messages, the author challenges this view with the starting point that if there is one God, then the messages would have been the same. The author finds close parallels in the narratives of the five prophets of Judaism and Hinduism, and concludes that Adam was Swayambhu Manu (4000BC), Cain was Indra (3200BC), Noah was Vaivaswat Manu (3000BC), Abraham was Rama (2100BC) and Moses was Krishna (1500BC), and all had their origins in the Indus Valley.

At first the reader might think this a great spoof, a leg-pull, but the author’s startling conceit is backed by geographical, archaeological, nomenclature/linguistics and local legendary evidence all put together by the author ,with a plenitude of maps, photographs, satellite images and diagrams. In annexes he goes further into the destruction of Sodom, the war of Lanka and the Exodus to Israel (1445 BC) covered in greater details.

The author places the Garden of Eden, the Islamic Bakka and Adam/Swayambhu Manu at Pushkar. It will be tedious and even unnecessary to recapitulate all the arguments backed by many images given by the author for his thesis; much will depend on the reader willing to be iconoclastic; to suspend belief and prior knowledge and inherited assumptions while reading this book. Thus, the Flood was local and not global; Jalore was its probable location, between Loteshwar and Anupgarh. Ancient Ayodhya was located at Ghuram, Moses/Krishna lived in Mitsrayim/Chanhu Daro, the Pharoah was an Indian raja, the Exodus took place from India, specifically Vadnagar, the parting of the waters was not at the Red Sea but the Indus.

Jhunjhunwala contends that his many researches show that the five prophets in the Semitic and Hindu traditions were one and the same persons in their timings, genealogies, narratives, and locations. More work will be needed to reconcile the teachings of the two traditions with a reinterpretation of the texts since the present versions are seemingly opposed to each other. The author seeks to retrieve the common origins of both traditions; he modestly states in conclusion; “We do not reject the possibility that these observed similarities arise out of coincidence. However, there may be real gains for humanity if we find that the observed similarities did arise from the common narratives of the two traditions.” This review cannot do justice to Jhunjhunwala’s thesis because no one reviewer is competent to examine the multiple aspects, which call for intense specialisation. But let it be said that this book is more than a curiosity; it breaks spectacular new ground, which is worth close examination by a community of experts.

The reviewer is India’s former Foreign Secretary