For most people, the Bible's story of the Garden of Eden -- with Adam, Eve and a talking snake -- is a fable of some imaginary paradise in the Middle East with no basis in reality.
But what if all those assumptions are wrong? The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that when ancient civilizations fall, the survivors try to keep alive the old world by passing down its histories. But, he said, those survivors only remember the names of people, places, and events while the details are largely lost and forgotten.
Is there a lost and forgotten history within the Garden of Eden story and if there is, can we find enough archaeological, linguistic, and historical records from other parts of the ancient world - such as India, China, and Mesopotamia to find it?
To begin any search for the "real" Garden of Eden, we must first answer 2 questions: 1) Where was Eden? 2) When did this event of Eden and the loss of Eden take place?
It will surprise many people to know that the Bible clearly says the Garden of Eden was in India. The word "garden" simply means "an enclosed area," and the Bible says this garden was in the eastern part of a larger land called "Havilah." According to Jewish Talmudic commentary and tradition, along with the writings of the fathers of the early Christian Church, Havilah was India. Further, of the 3 rivers said run through Havilah -- the Tigris, Euphrates, and Pichon -- those same sources suggest the Pichon is India's Ganges River.
Leaving aside all the other evidence linking the people and culture of the early Bible to that of ancient India (detailed on my website, www.shalomaste.com), let's accept the earliest authorities of the Bible on the Bible's earliest history.
According to tradition, Year One of the 5772-year-old Hebrew/Jewish calendar marks the time when Adam and Eve left Eden and journeyed west. There are 3 clues we can take from this story in a search for its roots in real history: 1) It happened about 6,000 years ago, 2) It involved the ancestors of the Hebrew people who are the ancestors of the Jewish people, 3) The fall of a peaceful, Eden-like civilization led to the outward, western migration of people from that older area.
Is there some recorded, major world event that meets all those criteria? Yes. About 6,000 years ago, a great peaceful kingdom in ancient India was torn apart in a civil war between royal cousins and their allies. At the end of this war, called the War at Kurukshetra, 4 million men -- three generations of males -- were dead. In the post-war chaos of the "new order" millions of people began to migrate away from the Ganges River region in eastern India. With great hopes that they could establish a new and better civilization of peace and prosperity, these migrants from the east founded a new kingdom along the banks of the Indus River in western India.
The earliest Bible stories offer another 3 clues for tracing the likely history behind them. 1) A long time after the events of Eden there is a Great Flood, 2) Noah, the main figure of the Bible's flood story, is safe in a boat when he sees "the world" destroyed by the flood, 3) After the flood, Noah's ark lands somewhere where he can see the Ararat Mountains that run from their heights in modern Turkey to its foothills near the Persian Gulf.
There are more than 200 records of a great flood event that happened 4,500-4,800 years ago, and these ancient stories come from regions throughout the Middle East, South Asia, China, and the Pacific Islands. Among them, the tales of the worst devastation come from India where the walls of waters are reported to have ripped up the landscape for 100 miles inland. Recent studies suggest an asteroid impact in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar was the cause of this well-remembered catastrophe.
The Bible reports that Noah saw "the world" destroyed by the flood. If Noah did not see the entire globe submerged, then what he witnessed was the end of a world civilization. Until the fall of the Roman Empire about 2,000 years ago, there was only one world center at a time. In the ancient world of 4,500 years ago that world center was the Indus Valley of ancient India.
If Noah's ark floated away from the Indus River and traveled west for 40 days, his boat would have landed in the Persian Gulf -- within sight of the foothills of the Ararat Mountains.
In the early Bible, we are told of 3 groups of people: 1) The Righteous Ones (Adam to Noah), 2) The Hebrews (Abraham to Joseph), and 3) The Israelites and Jews.
The Hebrew people are introduced after the flood and their name gives us a final clue. The word Hebrew means "wanderers who came from the East," and refers to immigrants coming into Mesopotamia in the Middle East from the Near East. If Noah had landed in Turkey, his descendants would have been called "people who came from the North."
And now you know why the Bible says the Garden of Eden was in India.