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India’s 2000-year-old Secret Society: The Nine Unknown Men Myth or Reality?

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Article by Shruti Banik, The North-Eastern Chronicle

Visuals by: Anupal Deuri Bharali

India’s secret society? Well, our country has always been the ancient land of legends, magic, spirituality, and mysticism. While many mystic ideologies have received a scientific explanation, myths remain grounded in their suspense. One such myth that roams one of the world’s oldest civilizations is the rumoured secret society – the ‘Nine Unknown Men’.

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You must have heard of ‘Illuminati’, ‘Priory of Sion’ or ‘Opus Dei’, but long before they came into the picture, about 2000 years ago, there sprung up India’s very own secret society. If myths are to be believed, the ‘Nine Unknown Men’ could be one of the oldest secret societies in the world.


What is this society about?

Legends say that this secret society was established by Emperor Ashoka the Great after his regretful victory in the Kalinga war. The sight of bloodshed and death had transformed him to embrace the peace of Buddhism. He realised the destruction power could bring if knowledge fell into the hands of the wrong men.

It was then that he established a group of nine men honouring them with the responsibility of gathering, developing, and experimenting with new scientific theories; each man was designated one book that he had to revise, update, and make the end knowledge flawless. Of course, the men’s identities were undisclosed, and they were sent across the world in their quest for learning in the guise of spreading Buddhism.


Since great universities like Takshashila (Taxila) and Nalanda, with their worldwide scholars and library of wisdom, did exist in earlier times, it’s no doubt every theory was carefully documented. These nine men were responsible for their section of data only. Some say it was done not to let greed take over responsibility. When one was to retire or had deteriorating health or was dying, a successor was carefully chosen to continue the task.

At any time, there could only be nine men – no more, no less – and they could be from any corner of the world. The only objective was to guard their scripture with their lives and not let powerful ideas be in the wrong hands. The number ‘9’ has special significance in the Indian context with ‘9 celestial influencers’ as per Indian astrology, ‘9 universal elements’ according to Hindu philosophy, and courts of emperors having ‘9 influential men’.

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It is believed that when the time was right, and India’s people were ready to accept change and become progressive, the ‘Nine Unknown Men’ provided them with the knowledge needed at the time. Any time the system topples, they are meant to create balance.

The legend was lost to the world until 1923, when Talbot Mundy wrote a novel named “Nine Unknown Men”, speaking a great deal about them. He attested his claims to the fact that he came across it while serving in the British Police. However, it seems unlikely that India’s best-guarded secret would be revealed to an outsider. In his novel, Mundy speaks of the nine disciples studied by the men: Propaganda, Physiology, Microbiology, Alchemy, Communication, Gravity, Cosmology, Light, and Sociology.

Now the question arises – Are they real or only a myth?

The author, Talbot Mundy, owes his in-depth research on the subject to the transcripts that were written by the great Emperor Ashoka himself. It was further explored in the novel, The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, where they claimed that Pope Silvester II had met the society and died a mysterious death when he tried to reveal a ‘secret gadget’ he had acquired to the public. The 19th-century French administrator and writer Louis Jacolliot also affirmed society’s existence.

However, if they do indeed exist as some of the most genius minds, why didn’t they save India from plunder, death, and massacre? What if they are only meant to protect the scriptures by any means and not interfere in the end and clash in society? Maybe we will never know.

Indian geniuses in ancient times could determine many modern constants accurately, like the value of Pi or the distance between Earth and Sun; physicians like Sushruta and Charaka had performed Plastic and Cataract surgeries. Can that be attested to this secret society?

In another mythical idea, great men in the mortal world, like Pope Sylvester II, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstien, and Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, are said to be part of this society. They were only meant to release snippets of information for advancement in society. Some tremendous scientific discoveries in India are attested to them as well.

In the end, maybe we will truly never know the truth. The existence, if real, is kept well-guarded and must remain so for the good of the world. If false, we have a phenomenal saga at hand. Win-win in both!

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