The Christ in Kashmir

By K.N. Pandita – A western scholar has recently made some revelations about the story of Judas and the travel of Jesus to India. In this connection, I have some ideas to put down.

Since a long long time, there has been a tradition in Kashmir according to which a certain place in the city of Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir (now in Indian control) called Rozabal is attributed to be the grave of Jesus Christ. During the days of British rule over India some Englishmen visited the grave regularly just to satisfy their curiosity.

This site called Rozbal is located in the heart of the old Srinagar town. Strangely, it has escaped the wrath of radicals in course of time. In Kashmir there were some people who believed that this was actually the grave of Jesus Christ. One Dr. Aziz, who died some years ago, devoted much of his time to a study and research of this site. He was of firm belief that it was the grave of Jesus Christ. He was a homoeopath and attained some fame through the ideas he spread.

After the independence of India in 1947, tourism industry developed and more and more people began coming to Kashmir. The story of Rozabal being the resting place of Jesus Christ spread far and wide. Europeans, both Christians and Jews, began paying visits to the place and writing articles. In particular, the French scholars and tourists showed much interest in it. The place remains intact and stands where it is without having been damaged in any way ever since the people of Kashmir began to believe it was the grave of the Christ.

Now turning to known history, we are told that the 12th tribe also called the Lost Tribe of the Jews of which a mention occurs in the Torah (Pentateuch) travelled all the way from Israel to Afghanistan. There are many Muslim historians who have asserted that the present-day Afghans are the offspring of the Jews of the lost tribe. The Arab historians have also reported the story. Now since Kashmir was geographically contiguous to Afghanistan, the Jews of the lost tribe, some of them if not all, strayed into Kashmir also. These settlers and those in Afghanistan are in many respects similar in their physical and social anthropology. This is pointed out by many European writers also.

Among the commonality of physical features between the two peoples of Jewish decent, the Afghans and the Kashmiris, we find that their foreheads are broad, noses curved to some extent, colour is fair, colour of hair is black, etc. In particular one can say that there is a grain of truth that the people of Jewish origin in these areas have hooked nose.

On the side of their mental specifications, both of them are instinctively usurers meaning deeply interested in lending money on interest. Nowhere in the Islamic world (remember that both the communities converted to Islam at the end of the day) do we find the Muslims indulging in usury as much as we find in Afghanistan and Kashmir. In Kashmir, there are families that have been practicing usury for many generations. This is also true of some sections of the Afghans.

Secondly it is commonly believed in Kashmir that only two communities in the world sleep naked in their beds, the Afghans and the Kashmiris. Some attribute this trait also to the Jewish people. Thirdly they are reported to be miserly, unfaithful, selfish and obstinate. These traits are certainly there in the Afghans and Kashmiris and may be the result of local economic and social conditions.

As I said, at the end of the day both of them converted to Islamic faith. But that conversion did not really convert their mentality, which is a matter of genes rather than of faith. By and large, negative qualities have been attributed to these people and even when they converted to Islam, not much pride was taken in having adopted a religion with universal reach.

Now closing up the discussion triggered by the new thought that Jesus had a family and migrated to India, I have to add a few more points. We have an early 17th or late 16th century history written in Persian (Farsi) and titled Dabistanu’l-Mazahib. Its meaning is “The School of Religions”. The author is one Mohsin Fani, a Farsi scholar of his times. In the first place, the authorship of this work has remained a matter of great controversy. Who was Mohsin Fani, where was he born, where did he die; who were his tutors and contemporaries, what are his sources etc. are all unanswered questions. That apart, as far as his work is concerned it is an amusing and unique history of religion ever written in India or in the entire Farsi literature. Mohsin Fani is said to be a Kashmiri or of Kashmiri ancestry. He has written about the faiths that prevailed in Kashmir from ancient times down to his own days. Thus in that sphere he is the first who has given us some pioneering accounts of the religions that prevailed in Kashmir in 16th century and earlier.. This work has been translated into French by twin translators namely Shea and Troyer. Many Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and western scholars and orientalists have worked on this book and each one arrived on his or her own conclusions, which I am not going to discuss here. Now the work does very emphatically make a mention of the Jewish faith among other faiths that flourished in Kashmir. And in the process he has also made a mention of the grave of Christ in Kashmir to which I have alluded.

The second point which I want to state is that in Kashmiri language the world “juw” is appended to the name of an elderly person as a mark of respect, for example Qadir juw or Rahman juw or Shanker juw. This practice is common between the Muslims and the Hindus and the sense is precisely the same. But one very strange thing about this word is that it is generally used by the womenfolk of both the communities when addressing an elderly male member of their own clan or outside the clan. I wonder and others also wonder whether this word “juw” is borrowed from the word Jew being so similar in pronunciation. Now I have come to know that the usage of the suffix “juw” is also common in the dialects of the people living in the Eastern Turkestan region or what we today call Yarkand, Khotan, Kashghar etc. in the Chinese province of Xiniang or old Sinkiang. Aural Stein, the great Hungarian Indologist has also stated this in his profound and scholarly works on that region and its people. The question arises did the remnants of the lost tribe of the Jews go as far as Eastern Turkestan? Or did they come to Kashmir from Turkestan. It has to be remembered that in olden days Kashmir was linked to the famous Silk Route and there was brisk trade along the Kashmir artery of this route.

If we have any knowledge of the main Silk Route of ancient times and its arteries right from its place of origin in Eastern China and all across the Central Asian underbelly to the Black Sea or the Dardanelles and then to the European continent, we should have no difficulty in understanding that there was brisk movement of traders in this whole region where trade was carried by camel caravans. Thus a group of the Jews using their trading skills did control the entire trade from Syria to Eastern Turkestan region. Their presence in Afghanistan and Kashmir and Eastern Turkestan etc. should not spring any surprise to us. Their trading activity continued even after their conversion to the Islamic faith.

One important question arises at this point. How come that in the entire region, we have predominantly the Sunni Muslims and only in the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan, we have had either the kafirs (infidels) till the end of 19th century or the Israelis of the Agha Khan order? I refer to the Southern Badakhshan and Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. But in northern slopes of these mountains we have still the people of Zoroastrian faith or the fire-worshipping faith. I have personal knowledge of this because I have lived among them for some time and marked their traditions carefully. One can explain it by the inaccessibility of roads and means of communication. These areas were less open to waves of rapid social and political changes in the course of history. The life style of the people in these regions is still primitive (not necessarily bad). They stuck on to their ancient faith and tradition especially when an intruder was not round the corner.

The epicenter of all traditions and life style in the region was in Balkh in Afghanistan, known to the Vedic scholars as Bhakri or Bahli. It is a fascinating study to go into the history of Balkh and ask very amusing questions like why did the Barmecides rise from Balkh who as powerful ministers of the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad changed the history of Islam? Why was the 173 feet tall statute of the Buddha carved out of the rocks in Balkh-Bamiyan (destroyed by the Taliban)? Why did the Greek commander of Alexander raise the Gandhara Kingdom with its centre at Balkh? According to a Zoroastrian tradition, Zoroaster was born somewhere around Balkh mountains in cold region and then the greatest Sufi of Islamic world namely Maulana Jalalu’d-Din Rumi was also born in Balkh. Prior to him the great celebrity of Ismaili faith Nasir Khusrav was also born in Balkh region. At Balkh, there existed the biggest fire worshippers temple called Nav Bahar (Nava Vihara of Buddhist records) which has been adequately describe by Arab historians.

All this is an indication that there is something unusual attached to the region, which I cannot explain. It is not without surprise that the Americans are pounding the region militarily and in terms of other spheres of human activity. Now this region is going to be the epicenter of international power strategy. Do you know that only a week back, the Commander of the American forces in the Gulf region was flown secretly to forward posts of Kashmir LoC in Uri and Tangdhar sectors, which are close to the Azad Kashmir military posts? This whole region has to be taken into account as single strategic entity.

Now back to the original discussion, in the background of the region under discussion, should we think that the story circulated recently about Judas as not having done the wrong thing and that Christ having moved to India could be the clue to saying that he came to Kashmir and finally dying there was buried in a grave called Rozabal.

The world Rozabal comprises two parts; roza (of Arabic origin rawzah meaning the garden or a spot) and bal is a Kashmriazed Sanskrit word used as place- suffix for a place where water is close by. May be at present day Rozabal in Srinagar, the water stream once called mar ran close to it and hence Rozabal. But I have difficulty in accepting that it was a Hindu shrine and later on taken over by the Muslims.)

In final analysis, this remains an open subject and scholars ought to focus attention on a comprehensive and convincing research on it.

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