Thursday, August 22, 2013

Punditji on Jew Question, 1896


In 1911, at the age of seventeen, much before he became a skeptic, much before he become famous for investigating Helen Duncan - the last 'witch' of England, C. E. Bechhofer visited Kashmir as part of his great adventure in the East, or as he admits, as part of cure devised by his father "to knock the nonsense" out of him, rid him of poetry, Marxian socialism, women's suffrage and other such ideas.

At ruins of Martand, in the faded pages of a visitor's book he discover traces of a terrific controversy of many years ago. In his book, 'A wanderer's log; being some memories of travel in India, the Far East, Russia, the Mediterranean & elsewhere' (1922) , he writes:

A certain old gentleman, Colonel Coburn, who, besides his other activities, started a timber firm and a visitors' agency, claimed in ten scratchy pages of hysterical Christianity that the Kashmiri Hindus (most of them now forcibly converted to Mohammedanism) were originally Jews who had fled from Palestine after the Crucifixion, and that they had built this temple after the style of that in Jerusalem. Thus he explains to his 'dearly beloved brothers and brethren in Christ' the faithlessness and treachery of the modern Kashmiri.
"If," concludes the old gentleman, "you should find a wounded viper lying on the road, do all you can to care and restore it to life, for he will be grateful to you for it and repay you the debt of gratitude he owes you for what you have done for him, but if you find a Kashmiri in the same condition, get off your horse and kill him outright, for if you do him a good turn and save him, he is sure to be ungrateful and do all the damage he can in return! But all the fingers of one's hands are not the same length, as a native saying her is, and there are many noble exceptions to the above rules, and a good Kashmiri servant, like a good Scotch or Irish tenant out of their own countries, is about the best one can find."
Martand temple . Burke.  1870.

It is an idea, a theory that in a comic twist, sons of Kashmiri Pandits have now come to believe - We are Jews. Ironically, the answer to the theory was given in the same visitor's book by an anonymous Kashmiri Pandit with a wicked sense of humour. 
On the next page I found this comment from "A Kashmiri Pundit": I have read with interest the funny remarks of Col. Coburn about these ruins and the origin of the Kashmiri Pundits. After reading those remarks I am disposed to reverse Darwin's theory and hold that people who live to a great age are likely to pass down into the same animal to whom Darwin has traced the genealogy of mankind."
In the book the story ends there. But, there is more. The account of Bechhofer's visit to Martand and Bhawan was earlier published in a magazine called The New Age - A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature and Art (Volume 13, Number 13. July 24, 1913). In it Bechhofer wrote that the comments were made around fifteen years ago (should make that around 1896) and Colonel Coburn's establishment had since been taken over by an American (and "must be avoided"). And about that comment by Pandit he added: 
A Kashmiri Pundit, forsooth! It reeks of the Bengali lawyer. And I much prefer the statement of an English traveller, a little later: "Very interesting ruins, but saw no Jew at all"
And then, yes, and then there is this: "A very impressive place, interesting owing to my dear heathen forefathers and relatives believing in the sanctity of this spot, which I do not. - P.M. Rudra, Srinagar, 1898."
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Vinayak Joo Razdan

2 comments:

  1. I guess this is the basis for the theory of Kashmiris belonging to one of the Lost Tribes from Sinai. Blatant racist attitude of the Englishman towards the Kashmiris, but then not surprising considering they were the imperialist conquerors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay. I more story about our 'White Gods' later tonight.

      Delete

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