Saturday, May 16, 2009

Origin of Fantastical tales about Yus Asaf of Rozbal also known as Jesus of Kashmir

Photograph from
'The tomb of Jesus' by Mutiur Rahman Bengalee (1946).
Bengalee was instrumental in bringing
Ahmediya movement to North America in the 1930s.  
According to the fantastical stories the rod of Moses was also originally kept at the grave of Yus Asaf of Khanyar but was later moved to the shrine of Sheikh Zain-ud-din at Aishmuqam, that there is another grave the real grave underneath the present one kept at the location. And so on. The stories are fantastic. Recently some one even wrote a thriller around the stories titled 'Rozabal Line' inspired by the'Rose Line' in "Da Vinci Code".

I first read about - 'Rozbal, Jesus in Kashmir, grave of Yus Asaf (Kashmiri Jesus) at Rozbal Khanyaar...and so on', many years ago as a teenager when one afternoon I discovered a tattered old thin book (don't remember its name) in the Ranbir Singh library of Jammu about the Kashmiri Jesus. I was certainly intriguing, especially at that age. Now I am intrigued by interest of people in this tale. And since then, having read some original sources, I have learnt some new things about it the origins of this Jesus.

These fantastic stories about 'Jesus in Kashmir stories' first started doing rounds towards the end of 19th century and were spread and started by Ahmedias. It actually had more to do with power tussle among the Muslims.

Muslims believe Jesus Christ was not crucified but rather ascended straight to heaven. They also believe that his second advent would signal the end of world... that would be Qiyamat (the Day of Judgement). As opposed to this Ahmedians have their own concept of the last Messiah. Ahmedians believe Christ, wounded and in an unconscious state, was removed from the cross at the last moment and moved to a secret burial altar . Special ointment (marham-i-isa) was applied on his wounds and over days he eventually got better. But then he came out of the burial vault and traveled to the holy land of Kashmir where he taught the lost tribes of Israel, became known as Yus Asaf, lived until the age of 120 and was finally buried at Khanyaar.

Today's the start of 20th century thee stories were picked by visiting foreigners who were already fascinated by the 'Jewish' looking Kashmiris and now by these interesting tales about Kashmiri Jesus.

Sir Francis Younghusband, Resident of Kashmir for three years starting 1906, about these Jesus in Kashmir stories, wrote in his book 'Kashmir' (1911):
"Other interesting types of Kashmir Mohamedans are found among the headmen of the picturesque little hamlets along the foot-hills. Here may be seen fine old patriarchal types, just as we picture to ourselves the Israelitish heroes of old. Some, indeed, say, though I must admit without much authority, that these Kashmiris are of the lost tribes of Israel. Only this year there died in the Punjab the founder of a curious sect, who maintained that he was both the Messiah of the Jews and the Mahdi of the Mohamedans; that Christ had never really died upon the Cross, but had been let down and had disappeared, as He had foretold, to seek that which was lost, by which He meant the lost tribes of Israel ; and that He had come to Kashmir and was buried in Srinagar. It is a curious theory, and was worked out by this founder of the Quadiani sect in much detail. There resided in Kashmir some 1900 years ago a saint of the name of Yus Asaf, who preached in parables and used many of the same parables as Christ used,as, for instance, the parable of the sower. His tomb is in Srinagar, and the theory of this founder of the Quadiani sect is that Yus Asaf and Jesus are one and the same person. When the people are in appearance of such a decided Jewish cast it is curious that such a theory should exist ; and certainly, as I have said, there are real Biblical types to be seen everywhere in Kashmir, and especially among the upland villages. Here the Israelitish shepherd tending his flocks and herds may any day be seen."
The founder of the sect (Ahmedian) was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian who died in 1908.

The really interesting thing is that at the root of these stories was a Russian Jew converted to Greek Orthodoxy, a man named Nicolas Notovitch ( believed to be the inspiration for the character of Great Game Spy in Rudyard Kipling's Kim).

In 1887 Nicolas Notovitch, visited India and Tibet. Notovitch claimed that during his travels in the Himalayas, at the monastery of Hemis in Ladakh, he came to know about the 'secret life of Jesus' through a 'Tibetan gospel' (that he translated as) "Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men." In 1894, Notovitch got this 'unknown gospel' published in French as La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ. And it later became famous 'The Unknown Life of Chris'.

According to this text Jesus at the age of thirteen ( start of his lost years ) traveled to India and learned the local religions of Jains, Hindus and Buddhists and preached to them.

And so the stories goes on.

Now, here's the interesting part.

In 1887, Nicolas Notovitch wasn't the only one traveling in that region, another great gamer - Francis Younghusband was also on a journey that took him from 'Peking to Kashmir via the Gobi Desert, Kashgaria, and the Mustang Pass'. The two men met on the edge of Zojila Pass somewhere between  Srinagar and Leh. Nicolas Notovitch was on his way from Kashmir and Francis Younghusband was on his way to Srinagar.

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband was himself very much interested in the 'new' and strange ideas of 'Easter Mysticism', 'Spiritualism' - 'the Occult', Madame Blavatsky kind of ideas, the one in which world was run by secret cult of masters living in Tibet (again an idea first conceived in 1870s ). Younghusband certainly toyed with these ideas, especially in his later years - often to an absurd level, one can even call him the 'Grand Daddy of Hippies'. At one time he did mingle with Theosophists of Blavatsky.

And yet in his book 'The Heart of a Continent: A Narrative of Travels in Manchuria, 1884-1894' , published 1896, Francis Younghusband wrote:
"A march or two after passing Skardu, the chief place in Baltistan, I met the first European on the south side of the Himalayas. He was not an Englishman, but a Frenchman, M. Dauvergne; and in his tent I has the first good meal and talk in English I had had for many a month. A few marches further on I met another European. This one at any rate, i thought, must be an Englishman, and I walked up to him with all the eagerness a traveller has to meet a countryman of his own after not seeing one for nearly seven months. But this time it turned out that the stranger was a Russian! He announced himself as M. Nicolas Notovitch, an adventurer who had, I subsequently found, made a not very favorable reputation in India. I asked M. Notovitch where he had come from, and he replied that he had come from Kashmir. He then asked me where I had come from. I said from Peking. It much amused me, therefore, when leaving he said in a theatrical way, "We part here, the pioneers of the East!"

The same M. Notovitich has recently published what he calls a new "Life of Chirst," which he professes to have found in a monastery in Ladakh, after he had parted with me. No one, however, who knows M. Notovitch's reputation, or who has the slightest knowledge of the subject, will give any reliance whatever to this pretentious volume.
But the stories were already travelling and there were many takers, there always are.

In fact according to one view, Notovitch actually took inspiration from an idea that was already in the air. This idea came from a fictional work of Blavatsky titled Isis Unveiled (1877) in which a traveler with the broken leg is taken to Mount Athos in Greece where, in the monastery library, he discovers the text of Celsus' True Doctrine . The idea of Jesus' flight to India was also inspired by a particular statement in Isis Unveiled that alludes to his travel to the Himalayas. She wrote:
Do what we may, we cannot deny Sakya-Muni Buddha a less remote antiquity than several centuries before the birth of Jesus. In seeking a model for his system of ethics why should Jesus have gone to the foot of the Himalayas rather than to the foot of Sinai, but that the doctrines of Manu and Gautarna harmonized exactly with his own philosophy, while those of Jehovah were to him abhorrent and terrifying? The Hindus taught to return good for evil, but the Jehovistic command was: "An eye for an eye" and "a tooth for a tooth."
 - Isis Unveiled, Vol. 2, Page 164

 And the story found a pioneer taker.



  1. Good research done and i saw a documentary recently in BBC "Did Jesus died ?" ..similar findings but they showed the carved foot prints which is still there and it reflected the scars of the crucification as well..

    that thing made me think in different dimension..if I am not wrong i had never seen Muslims worshiping in that manner..its either Hindus or Buddhist do the Pada worship..this is casting a doubt when it actually happened..and why it is called "temple" of Solomon ?

  2. this one is interesting :

    The question of the tomb

    The Qur’an says: "And we (God) made the Son of Mary, and his mother a portent and we gave them refuge on a height, a place of flocks and water springs" (Surah 23:50). According to orthodox Muslims, this verse refers to life in Paradise or God’s help to Mary at the birth of Jesus. Mirza Ahmad interpreted it as a reference to an actual place on earth. He thought it was Kashmir and searched there for a tomb which could be regarded as that of Jesus. There are many anonymous tombs in the Indian sub-continent and Mirza Ahmad pointed to one of these as being that of Jesus. However the local inhabitants do not believe that it is the tomb of Jesus. The grave is known locally as that of a saint, Yus Asaf.

    This tomb is like hundreds of other tombs of saints. The Muslims in the area believe the tomb had been in the possession of the Hindus. Then in about 1400 AD a Muslim called Syed Abdur Rahman, nicknamed Bulbul Shah, came from Turkistan with about a thousand fugitives. He is said to be the one who introduced Islam into Kashmir and declared this grave to be that of a Muslim saint.

  3. Thanks for the comment!
    Most of that information comes from a book called - The Ahmadiya movement (1918) by Walter Howard Arnold (1883-1918) in the series 'THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF INDIA'.

    It was more like a Cristian critique of the Ahmadiyan beiefs.

    Quoting passage from the book, chapter THE AHMADlYA MOVEMENT AND CHRISTIANITY:

  4. Ahmad declared, unqualifiedly and repeatedly that if Christians were right in their assertion that Jesus died and rose again, Christianity was true and he was an impostor. It is therefore important to examine in detail his alleged proof of Christianity's error in this respect.
    His position may be summarized as follows :
    Jesus did not die on the cross, but was taken down by his disciples in a swoon, and healed within forty days by a miraculous ointment called, in Persian, Marham-i-'Isd. He then travelled to the East on a mission to the ten lost tribes of the children of Israel, believed by Ahmad
    to be the peoples of Afghanistan and Kashmir, and finally died at the age of 120, and was buried in Khan Yar Street, in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.

    The alleged proofs of this unique theory are contradictory and utterly unsound. As proof that Jesus did not die on the cross, the fanciful " swoon theory," ridiculed by Strauss and now discarded, was adduced to the effect that Jesus, whose legs were not broken, was taken down from the cross in an unconscious condition by his disciples, and later revived, a fact held to have been confirmed by the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, which were those of a living man, not a disembodied spirit. In other passages Ahmad seems to be advocating in part the so-called "fraud theory," which held that Jesus' dead body was removed from the tomb by his disciples to make possible their assertion that he had risen from the dead. Ahmad would modify the theory to make the body still alive when removed from the tomb, so that Jesus could then be spirited out of the country within forty days. In support of this theory Jesus' prediction in Matt. 12: 40 is quoted, declaring that, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so
    shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." By interpreting the analogy literally Ahmad asserted that Jesus must have been alive continuously in the tomb, as was Jonah in the belly of the fish.

  5. The passage in Matt. 16: 28, "There be some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom," was interpreted by Ahmad, as we have seen (p. 88), to mean that Jesus must still have been alive at the destruction of
    Jerusalem by Titus in 70 A.D.

    Ahmad also argued that if Jesus had actually risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, as Christians believe, Christianity to-day would not be spiritually dead, as he declared that it is.

    So much for the escape from death on the cross. Even more fantastic are the "proofs" of Jesus' subsequent activities in the East and death and burial in Kashmir. First of all there is the a priori reason, based on Jesus' declaration : " I am not sent but unto the lost
    sheep of the house of Israel " (Matt. 15: 24). Who and where, Ahmad asked, were these lost sheep ? He replied that Jesus referred to the " ten lost tribes " of the
    original children of Israel.
    1 These tribes, he asserted, were the ancestors of the inhabitants of Afghanistan and
    Kashmir, to whom Jesus must therefore have gone with his Gospel. The Hebrew characteristics and antecedents of the Afghans and Kashmiris were brought forward to substantiate the declaration, which did not originate with Ahmad, that they represent the remnants of the original
    Kingdom of Israel.
    2 It was insisted upon by Ahmad that, since there is no record of Jesus' having visited those
    regions before his crucifixion, he must have done so afterward, a fact borne out by his words in John 10 : 16, " And other sheep I have which are not of this fold...they shall hear my voice."

    [1 It is now conceded by most scholars that the search for the ten lost tribes is a fanciful quest based on the false assumption that the entire population of the Kingdom of Israel was carried away captive by Sargon II, King of Assyria, and that it then maintained its distinct
    ethnic peculiarities. Only a small part of the population is now thought to have been exiled to Mesopotamia and Media (I Chronicles 5 : 26), and it was doubtless soon absorbed in the native population.

    See Cornhill : History of the People of Israel, Chicago, 1898, p. 126 ; or any other authoritative Old Testament history.

    2 The following paragraph from the article on Afghanistan in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Ed. 1910, Vol. I, p. 315, will serve to show what basis there was for Ahmad's contention : — " But the Hebrew ancestry of the Afghans is more worthy at least of consideration, for a respectable number of intelligent officers, well acquainted with the Afghans, have been strong in their belief of it ; and though the customs alleged in proof will not bear the stress laid on them,
    undoubtedly a prevailing type of the Afghan physiognomy has a character strongly Jewish. This characteristic is certainly a remarkable one ; but it is shared, to a considerable extent, by the Kashmiris (a circumstance which led Bernier to speculate on the Kashmiris' representing the ten lost tribes of Israel), and, we believe, by the Tajik people of the Badakshan."

  6. So much for the a priori argument. As far as the historic evidence that Jesus came out to the East is concerned, Ahmad cited as his primary authority Nicolas Notovitch's Unknown Life of Christ, in which the author claimed to have seen an ancient manuscript in Tibet, describing
    a journey of Jesus to India for purposes of study during the interval between his visit to the Temple at Jerusalem and his baptism by John. Even had this story of Notovitch not been exploded by Prof. J. A. Douglas, of Agra, in 1895, 1 it is difficult to see how Ahmad could think that a visit of Jesus to India in his youth, before his active ministry began, lends any support to the theory that he passed his later life, and died, in Kashmir.

  7. Two other stories, introduced by Ahmad as evidence for his theory, were the well-known tale of Barlaam and Josaphat, 2 in which various traditions are related with respect to an Indian prince (supposed to have been Buddha), variously styled Josaphat and Yus Afat ; and an ancient tale translated into Urdu, Ikmdl-ud-Din ("Perfection of Faith"), now out of print, written by
    a Persian historian, Muhammad Ibn-i-Bahwaih, in the fourth century of Islam, which narrates the Jiistory of an Indian prince and saint named Yus Asaf, who wandered to Kashmir, where he died. In neither case did the hero, Yus Afat or Yus Asaf, an Indian, have any connection whatever with Palestine or that section of the world, so that there is no shadow of a reason for identifying him with Jesus, even if we admit the bare possibility that there actually was such a man, who lived in India proper, or in Kashmir, many centuries ago, and at his death was buried in Srinagar, Kashmir.

    1 Cf. J. N. Farquhar : Modem Religious Movements in India,
    Macmillan, New York, 1915, pp. 140, 141. Also Prof. Douglas'
    article in The Nitieteenth Century for April, 1896.

    2 Cf. article " Barlaam and Josaphat," in The New S chaff -
    Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Funk & Wagnalls,
    New York, I, p. 485, where the origin of the story, falsely ascribed by
    some to John of Damascus, is traced to an Indian story, the
    Lalitavistara, composed some time between the beginning of the
    Christian era and 600 A.D. The version of the story in the Qadian
    library, which I have seen, is that contained in Volume X of the
    Bibliothcque de Carabas.

    This brings us to Ahmad's culminating " proof " of his theory, the alleged "great discovery" that the tomb of Jesus is on Khan Yar Street, in Srinagar, Kashmir. In the summer of 1913, after considerable difficulty in learning its exact location, I visited this tomb, resembling hundreds
    of other tombs of Muhammadan saints, with rags tied to the inner gate by those (both Muslims and Hindus) who had left money with the keeper to pay for che intercession of the occupant of the tomb. The Muslims of the city, for the most part, hold that this tomb was in the
    possession of the Hindus until the time of Bulbul Shah, 1 who decided that it was the tomb of a Muhammadan prophet and honoured it as such. Since that time Muslims have been in possession, calling it the tomb of an unknown prophet, named Yus Asaf. This tomb, Ahmad declared it had been miraculously revealed to him, is the tomb of Jesus Christ. The first proof he brought forward was that the Kashmiris believed it was the tomb of a prophet, and since Muhammad was the last of the prophets, and is known to be buried in Medina, this must have been the tomb of his predecessor, the prophet Jesus. But the more important proof had reference to the name Yus Asaf. Ahmad said that the word Yus, or Joseph, the Josaphat to whom reference has been made, was
    a corruption of Yasu, 2 called the original name of Jesus. The word Asaf he declared to be the Hebrew word asaf, to gather, which he said had reference to Jesus' mission
    as the gatherer of the ten lost tribes.

    1 The popular name of Syed Abdur Rahman, who, arriving in
    Kashmir from Turkestan with 1,000 fugitives in the fourteenth
    century, is given the credit of establishing the Muhammadan religion
    in Kashmir.

    Cf. "Islam in Kashmir," by H. A. Walter, in The Moslem
    World, IV, p. 340.

    1 Yesu is the name for Jesus in Urdu.

  8. There is other historic evidence supporting Jesus's migration to Kashmir. Ofcourse, we can not accept rationally that a person can vanish from Jerusalem without a trace. He must have gone somewhere. And we know that Israeli diaspora settled in Afghanistan and Kashmir were also waiting for a Messiah.

    A stone sculpture of foot prints with cricifixion marks is also present in tomb. It was there before Notovich arrived there. Or the book written in 1877 was published.


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