Sometimes, when you go hunting for something, (not snipe :p) you find something much more interesting For instance, a few days ago, I was talking about King Asoka of India and in the process of browsing through his Wikipedia entry I happened to stumble upon a reference to the Nine Unknown Men.
Now I’m a conspiracy theory nut (OK, maybe nut is too strong a term – I don’t live and breath conspiracy theories but I do enjoy hearing them and coming up with ones of my own :p) and so I immediately pricked up my ears and went over to the new Wikipedia entry. I must say that the entry kept me enthralled (and immersed) for quite a while – much like the reference to snipe hunting that I linked above. (Incidentally, I don’t know if I’ve heard the term snipe hunt before a couple of days ago but since then I’ve come across it a couple of times and wanted to see what it was all about – good stuff :p)
But back to the Nine Unknown Men. Apparently, the story goes that India actually presents a facade of being a technologically backward/developing country whereas it actually is far more advanced than the other countries in the world. The story continues on to say that this is due to the efforts of King Asoka, who realized that there was a certain kind of knowledge that would always be used for evil in the hands of humanity and so set up the group of Nine Unknown Men to guard this knowledge so as to ensure that it didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
From all I can gather, this story/theory was not started by Indians themselves but rather by a few Europeans who visited India and later wrote about this mysterious cabal. Of course, later, the theory seems to have been picked up by Indians as well and it is said that some prominent Indian scientists are believed to be either part of the Nine or in communication with the Nine regarding various subjects such as microbiology, alchemy, communication and gravitation. In fact, there are quite a few corollary stories such as the one about a secret temple under the Ganges River which cleanses the water of the rive using radiation (or microbes according to another account).
It’s an interesting theory and if you want to write a story, there’s enough material for several books. In fact, the whole story for some reason reminds me of a Philip Jose Farmer novel (or rather, an amalgamation of several). Now that I’ve read about them, the Nine Unknown Men are probably going to turn up in my own writing at one point or another – just not in the same way that they’ve been portrayed before :p