When Subodh-ji, my Hindi teacher, heard that I was hoping to visit some Christian ashrams, he suggested that I visit Kurukshetra, to see a friend of his from the days when he had been evangelising India. Pastor KD Bhutt had himself studied Hindu philosophy and spent time as a sadhu before a Christian friend told him of Jesus’ promise: “Come unto me, all ye weary and heavy-laden, and I will give ye rest”. Pastor Bhutt describes having felt Jesus come and lay His hand on his head, and suddenly he was flooded with joy and peace. Later he was called by God to go to Kurukshetra, a city almost entirely high-caste Hindu.
That was about thirty years ago. Pastor Bhutt tells stories of how, in the early days, his family were on multiple occasions evicted from their rented accommodation when it was discovered they were holding small Christian gatherings. Once they had to spend the night under a tree. Now, however, they have a church in the centre of town which draws a thousand people each Sunday. During the week they use the building to run a school. On the outskirts of the town they have almost completed a building project which will host a Bible school – “but in Indian style: it will be like an ashram”, Pastor Bhutt tells me.
Kurukshetra is named after the battlefield on which took place the great battle of the epic Mahabharata. You can go to see a banyan tree which claims to be the very one under which Krishna spoke the words of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, some three millenia ago. We did so, as part of my being shown around the town. Beside the ancient banyan was a shrine to Krishna, and in front a man sat cross-legged, prayer beads in one hand, and in the other a small booklet with a picture of the blue-skinned deity on the cover. As we approached, this man leapt up, exclaimed “Hallelujah!” and ran over to greet us. He ran over to us, and began to tell me his testimony: some years ago, he had been about to commit suicide, when Pastor Bhutt had shared the gospel with him, after which he had given his life to Christ – much to the chagrin of his family. As we left I asked Pastor Bhutt – who had previously been telling me of the difficulty of making his Hindu converts realise the exclusive claims of Christ on their worship – why, if the man was a Christian, he was sitting before a Hindu shrine. “Oh, that man is just pretending to do rituals to Krishna because of his family – he’s probably actually saying the name of Jesus while he sits there – didn’t you see him leap up and praise the Lord?”