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Of the Magi, high priests, kings... and how India got its 'boxwallas'

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28.12.2018

“You’ll be bitten by mosquitoes
Despite yourmachhardani
Your appearance is still crumpled
Though your clothes are from Armani
However young you think you are
You look as old as your poornani
But no sweat
No regret
Let’s raise animbu-pani
Here’s to being Hindustani!”
From Rustom and Sowhat by Bachchoo

This Christmas brought a few minor revelations which I propose, gentle reader, to regale you with (or possibly bore?-Ed. Mmm, yes, there is that, but let’s take the risk -fd.)

A famous choir on the radio sang the carol:

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star…”

The lyrics are about the three dudes who came to anoint Christ as the messiah. In the New Testament only Matthew, one of the four authors of the gospels, mentions them. He doesn’t say that there were three of them but he does say they brought the newborn Christ gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As a consequence, throughout the ages the assumption that the three gifts were borne by three “kings” has prevailed.

Matthew doesn’t call them “kings”. He calls them wise men. Now Matthew, though he spoke Aramaic, wrote his gospel in demotic Greek and it then was translated into Hebrew and subsequently English. I don’t know what Plato’s word for his “philosopher-king” was or........

© The Asian Age