Indians at Herod’s Gate: A Jerusalem Tale

by Navtej Sarna

  • Category Travel
  • Format Hardback
  • Imprint Rainlight
  • Price 500
  1. ISBN: 978-81-291-3451-6
  2. Pages: 208 pages
  3. Date: July 2014


Eight hundred years ago Baba Farid, the great Sufi saint of the Chisti order, visited Jerusalem, freshly wrested back for Islam from the Crusaders by Saladin, and meditated there for forty days in an underground room. Later, an Indian Hospice was born through a waqf endowment around that room and has welcomed Indian pilgrims—and soldiers—to Jerusalem ever since. For close to a century, through the tumultuous years of the British Mandate, the Second World War, the birth of Israel and the ensuing decades of conflict, the Hospice has been looked after by an Indian family—first by Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari, a police inspector’s son from Saharanpur, and then by his eldest son, Sheikh Munir Ansari.
Following in the tradition of literary travellers such as Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux, Navtej Sarna wanders through the timeless narrow lanes of Old Jerusalem, sifting through fact and fable to tease out the unique story of the Indian Hospice and the Ansari family. What starts off as a personal conversation becomes a deeply researched but lightly told account that weaves historical narrative with telling personal detail.


Navtej Sarna is the author of the novels The Exile and We Weren’t Lovers Like That; the non-fiction works The Book of Nanak and Folk Tales of Poland; the short-story collection Winter Evenings; and translations of Guru Gobind Singh’s Zafarnama and Mohinder Singh Sarna’s short stories on partition (Savage Harvest). Navtej Sarna’s short stories have been broadcast on the BBC World Service and he contributes regularly to The Times Literary Supplement, The Hindu and other magazines and journals.

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