Saturday, July 2, 2011
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Holy row in Kashmir over 'Jesus tomb'
By Haroon Mirani
Lonely Planet took pains to add a disclaimer when it described the "" in its latest edition for India, but this didn't stop curious foreigners flocking to the Roza Bal Shrine in downtown Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir's summer capital. Muslim youths responded by roughing up their tour guides.
The tomb's caretakers say it has two graves, both containing Muslim saints. The most recent, Syed Naseerudin, was a Medieval saint whose life is fairly well documented - it's the grave's earlier inhabitant that has drawn all the attention.
Yuz Asaf was reportedly a charismatic preacher who arrived in Kashmir from Israel with his mother, Mary, in 30AD. In Kashmiri his name means "the healer" or "the shepherd, the one who teaches others". His nickname, "Issa", is the local name for Jesus Christ.
The idea that Jesus survived the crucifixion and traveled to Kashmir with his mother or wife has been around for over a 100 years, and popular novels like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code have renewed public interest in alternative versions of Biblical history.
"The tomb's history was recorded from 112 AD, much earlier than the advent of Islam and around the same time Jesus Christ lived," said Suzanne Olsson, the New York-based researcher and author of Jesus in India, The Lost Tomb. "There is no question of the tomb containing any Muslim saint."
But both Christians and Muslims dismiss the idea as blasphemy. Both religions say Jesus Christ was taken by God into heaven, while some Islamic and Christian sects say there will be a "second coming" of Jesus Christ.
"Yuz Asaf and Syed Naseerudin are buried here and both are Muslims," Mohammed Amin Ringshawl, the caretaker of the small tomb, which is surrounded by a nondescript, one-storey shrine, told Asia Times Online.
Louis Jacolliot, a French barrister, colonial judge, author and lecturer is credited with first propounding the theory that Jesus spent time in India. His book, La Bible dans l'Inde, ou la Vie de Iezeus Christna (The Bible in India or The life of Iezeus Christna), was first published in 1869.
There is no record of Christ's life between the ages 12 to 30 in the New Testament, and researchers have been trying to piece together the era known as "the missing years" for centuries.
In 1890, published The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, which referred to Buddhist scrolls found in a monastery in the Ladakh region of Indian-administered Kashmir. The scrolls, according to Notovitch, described Jesus as coming to India and living and studying Buddhism there in the "missing years".
The controversial Ahmadiyya sect, which believes that Jesus was a mortal who died a natural death in India, has released numerous books on the theory. Most famous is Jesus in Heaven on Earth, written by Khawaja Nazir Ahmad in 1952.
Aziz Kashmiri, a local journalist, co-wrote a book in 1973 with professor Fida Hassnain that claimed Jesus died in Kashmir at the ripe old age of 120. Hassnain, a former director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Museums for Jammu and Kashmir, also co-authored a book with Olsson entitled Roza Bal, Beyond the Da Vinci Code.
Alongside the dozens of factual books published on the matter, the heavily researched thriller The Rozabal Line, by Ashwin Sanghi was published in 2007.
Authors who claim Christ is entombed in Roza Bal say the evidence is conclusive.
"At Roza Bal tomb the sarcophagus is laid in an east-west direction, in line with Jewish traditions, rather than the Muslim tradition of north-south," said Olsson. The researcher added that the sarcophagus in Roza Bal was covered with a gravestone laid in a north-south direction to give it a Muslim identity.
At the shrine, the footprints of Yuz Asaf are carved into stone, showing some peculiar injuries. "These can only have been caused only when a nail is pierced through the feet laid one over the other during crucifixion," said Olsson, adding, "There is no history of crucifixion in Asia." A recent documentary by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on the subject used computer graphics to recreate the wounds.
Professor Hassnain claims Jesus chose Kashmir as his destination because Kashmiris and Afghans originate from the "10 missing tribes of Israel". He says the people settled in the new countries after being driven out of Israel by the Assyrians in around 720 BC. "Jesus had come to preach among his own people," according to Hassnain.
Many tribes in Kashmir call themselves "Bani Israel" (children of Israel). Local tour operators say Jesus passed through the famous tourist spot Yus-Marg (Meadow of Jesus), a beautiful valley, during his journey into Kashmir.
"On his way [to Kashmir] the mother Mary passed away in [what is now] Pakistan and a shrine was built there at present-day Murree [derived from Mary]," said Olsson. She says the connection between Kashmir and Jewish traditions is strengthened by the presence of graves of the Prophet Moses and his brother Aaron at Bandipora and Harwan in Kashmir.
"The grave of Moses is also in the Jewish tradition of east-west. There are many more similarities between Kashmiris and the Middle East socially and culturally," said Olsson.
A former caretaker of the Roza Bal shrine, the late Basharat Saleem, claimed to possess a family chart that proved he was a direct descendant of Yuz Asaf. The word Roza Bal is derived from the Kashmir term Rauza-Bal, meaning "tomb of the prophet".
Olsson say she hopes DNA testing would yield a major breakthrough in her theory. Olsson, who claims to be the 59th descendant of Jesus Christ, plans to return to Kashmir soon to obtain permission from the authorities to conduct a DNA test at the Roza Bal shrine. Given the shrine's sensitive nature, this is highly unlikely.
Locals vehemently oppose the testing, saying it would be a desecration of the shrine. Olsson's DNA project is not just limited to Roza Bal, she is working on other related graves, particularly at Murree, where she reportedly enjoys the government's support.
"The Islamic republic of Pakistan has been most cooperative," said Olsson. "Famous Pakistani archaeologist, the late Dr Ahmad Dani, was the lead archaeologist for this project."
She said a Pakistan television channel's offices had been built above the site, making the exact grave site difficult to find. "We could be able to locate it with ground-penetrating radar, but we will need the help of the army," said Olsson. She added that another major challenge was finding the US$40,000 needed to fund the DNA tests, which are to be carried out at Oxford University in England.
Olsson said the Roza Bal test would be part of a large, ambitious project called "The DNA of God", which would study seven grave sites in Pakistan, Kashmir and Tibet.
If the project ever does make it to Kashmir, it is likely to have a heated reception. "These crazy researchers and some Ahmadiyya sect academicians are just spreading lies by saying that Yuz Asaf in reality is Jesus Christ, which we are not going to tolerate," said a youth who lives near the shrine.
Sitting on an uneasy calm after a 20-year-long anti-India insurgency, the Jammu and Kashmir government is also unlikely to sanction anything that could spark religious violence. And the tomb's caretaker, Ringshawl, told Reuters in late April that the shrine was now officially closed after Olsson allegedly tried to break in to carry out a DNA test.
"The foreigners are hurting Muslim sentiments, so to avoid any trouble we have locked the sanctum sanatorium," he said.
Haroon Mirani is a Kashmir-based journalist
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The shrine is called by Lonely Planet, as the “Jesus Tomb” . There are some caveats about blasphemy, but is marked as a must-visit tourist spot in the Valley.
Caretaker Amin said some local traders circulated these “lies” thinking it would be good for business. “They thought it could become a tourist hub after all these years of violence.” He said after the shrine made it to the Lonely Planet, too many people, often rowdy, started coming in. One of the tourists damaged the tomb and took the broken piece home as a souvenir.
Rozabal is not the only story linking Jesus to Kashmir. It is said that he also visited a Buddhist monastery, the ruins of which are near Srinagar. The stories of Jesus in India date back to the 19th century and find mention in a plethora of texts by scholars of varied persuasions — Islamic, Buddhist and Christian. In fact, it is believed that during his missing years (between 12 and 30), unmentioned in the Gospels, Jesus was in India and picked up Buddhist ideas.
Amin said the Caretakers’ Committee has decided to convene a religious leaders’ meeting to discuss the issue. But Olsson insists that there’s nothing sacrilegious about her DNA project. “It’s routinely done around the world. From Egyptian mummies to the Christian Saint Luke, people are using this scientific tool to help study ancient history,’’ she said in an email interview to TOI-Crest from New York. “The DNA from Rozabal will tell us a lot about history,” she went on to say. “First, who is Yuz(a) Asaf? We’ll never know until archaeologists are allowed to examine the artefacts and the tomb.”
Olsson refuted allegations that she had attempted to remove anything from the tomb, or dug it up. “I can’t imagine who started those rumours or why,” she said and maintained that the belief that there is a Muslim saint in the same tomb is untrue. “The tomb predates Islam and could never be a Muslim tomb.”
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Today, millions of people of Christian faith are celebrating Easter which marks the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. For them, it’s a culmination in the Christian calendar as it marks the victory of Good over Evil, of God made man coming victorious out of some evil hands, of showing Jesus' victory over death itself, which really reveals Himself to be God as opposed to us, men.
For someone who has studied the possibility of Jesus as having had a life after crucifixion, the celebration could appear as futile because he would have found evidences that Jesus did not die on the cross. Yet, this celebration is first and foremost spiritual. Many men and women around the world are taking time to reflect on their relationship with God. For me, this mass communion with God that will take place on this day is even more important than any knowledge that we may have of events of Jesus’ life. Remembering the lives of great souls like Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, etc serves essentially this purpose: this mass prayer, this mass spiritual communion that will take place on a special day of remembrance is very positive and useful for our planet, for our world. It will reinforce our own spirituality and this always brings in more vitality in whatever we will choose to do afterwards. For me, God is the formidable energy field behind the world, an energy that we can tap in whenever we feel the need to, and disconnecting from Him will tend to make things more difficult for us. A non-believer doesn’t know that he can request help in whatever he is trying to achieve in life. He feels like he is on his own, that he can only count on some few friends or relatives around him to get things done, to help him out, and my own experience of life has shown me that such an individual will often struggle in life. Because you don’t always have your friends and relatives at your side. But you always have God at your side and within you, around you. Prayer time is the time to remember this, to experience this.
Prayer and meditation are ways of discovering the potential that we all have inside of us. This is a practice that should always be encouraged. According to Sathya Sai Baba, man is like a beggar sleeping on a chest full of treasures. Man is simply not aware of his own spiritual potential. He will feel depressed for this and that reasons, will often find trivial causes that he will attribute to his sorrow and sadness. For me, all enlightened spiritual masters like Jesus, Siddhartha Gautama, Guru Nanak and the rest have only worked at making us discover our own spiritual potential. Prayers at Easter or at Christmas are simply occasions that man gives to himself to tap into that potential of his, using that spiritual connection that he always have with the Lord of the Universe, a potential that he always had and carried with him at all times…..Whether we believe that Jesus died or not, on the cross doesn’t change the fact that we can all connect to the Source of life, God and that we should do it as often as we can, so that we remember that we are never alone in whatever we want to achieve in life.
Happy Easter to all Christians around the world!
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Arif Khan is a London based researcher and writer, most noted for his work as Editor of the Tomb of Jesus Website (www.tombofjesus.com). His academic and professional interests centre around Computer Science and IT (MSci Computer Science - London 2004), yet from the age of 19 he has had research articles published in magazines and journals on a variety of theological, historical and social issues.
A strong personal interest in the 'Jesus in India' theory, along with his IT background, meant Arif was an ideal candidate for editor of the Tomb of Jesus Website, a position he has held since 2003. The website has become the online centre for Jesus in India studies, bringing together research material from Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist sources in a rich multimedia experience.
Arif has had letters published in several national newspapers in the UK including The Times, The Independent, the Guardian and the Scotsman. His letters have been on issues ranging from the veil and protests after the Muhammad Caricatures to the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on The Da Vinci Code.
Arif appears in Paul Davids' 2008 film, Jesus in India, providing analysis on a number of topics including the theory that Jesus survived the Crucifixion, the Lost Tribes of Israel in India, the Islamic responses and varying beliefs on Jesus and the Rozabal tomb in Kashmir. Arif Khan also took part in a panel Q&A session after the premiere of the film in Palm Springs, California in October 2008.
A member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Arif has been actively involved in leadership roles for the community at local and national level ranging from a local youth leader to assistant to the national youth publications secretary.
Now aged 27, Arif is focusing on continuing research into the Historical Jesus with particular emphasis on the varying portrayals of Jesus in world faiths and the alleged tomb of Jesus in Kashmir. In addition to questioning the orthodox beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam towards Jesus, his research includes Buddhist and Hindu responses to Jesus.
Arif is currently producing a series of articles - starting in July 2009- for the internationally respected The Review of Religions magazine, which has been in publication since 1902, starting with looking at the latest research on the Crucifixion of Jesus, and moving on to topics areas such as the Shroud of Turin and the Rozabal Tomb.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The website of Paul Davids is here.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
This is an interview (in two parts) of Paul Davids and Edward Martin, the producers of the movie Jesus in India which aired on the Sundance Channel in December 2008 (See info here). They talk about the making of the film, the difficulties they went through to be able to bring that movie to the public attention. They also present the impressive array of experts that have intervened and collaborated on the film like the Shankaracharya himself, His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
In the second part, there will be questions asked to them by the auditors of Coast to Coast AM. The host of the show is George Knapp. The Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion and came to live in the
Note as well that the movie Jesus in India on DVD is now available for purchase on the official site here. You can choose the best shipping option (From UK, from
Thursday, September 18, 2008