Author: Saadut
•9:21 AM

In the narrow inter woven lanes of down town Khanyar, Srinagar in Kashmir is a small non- descript shrine of a medieval Muslim saint Youza Asaf also called the Rosabal shrine, the name of the locality also being Rosabal. This shrine is in the close vicinity of one of most revered shrines in Kashmir that of “Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jeelani” also known locally as “Dastageer Sahab”. The Rosabal shrine of Youza Asaf could pass as just another of the hundreds of shrines dotting Kashmir with its Kashmiri architectural roof, typical to most shrines in its choice of green and white, central rising dome with multi tier slopes; had it not been for the renewed interest generated in this shrine by global media and foreign visitors. In the Rosabal shrine the graves of the two saints exist, enclosed within a wooden chamber and the grave stones covered with a green cloth. 

According to the care takers of the tomb, both graves of the Rosabal shrine belong to Muslim saints, one of who is a medieval Muslim saint Syed Nasserudin and the other is Saint Youza Asaf. Saint Youza Asaf is reported to have arrived in Kashmir in 30AD, and of late it is this tomb of Saint Youza Asaf that has become a must visit on the travel itinerary of many foreign tourists to Kashmir, many of them believing that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion, travelled to Kashmir and lies buried at the Rosabal Shrine under his adopted name of Youza Asaf.  However in Kashmir the locals have rejected these theories, maintaining that the site has two famous Muslim saints buried there.

Are these rumors new founded? The idea of Jesus in Kashmir has been making rounds for more than a century. Russian war correspondent Nicolas Notovitch claims to have visited Leh (in north Kashmir) and learnt about the “Life of Saint Issa” (Issa is the name of Jesus Christ), a text which was later published in French as “La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ” (1894). According to Nicholai Notovich during his travels to Leh (North part of Kashmir) he met Lamas in the monastery who in exchange for an alarm clock and a thermometer, was shown a manuscript which had references about the story of "Issa a traveler from Israel", who had visited this part about 2000 years ago. However the claims of Nicolas Notovitch were contradicted by Archibald Douglas (then a teacher at the Agra Government College in British India) who visited Hemis monastery at Leh in 1895 and claimed that there was no evidence that Notovitch had even been there. Swami Abhedananda a disciple of Swami Ramakrishna travelled to Leh (north Kashmir) in 1922, claimed to have been shown the manuscript having references to “Life of Saint Issa” by the lama, and translated that part of the manuscript, reference for which is found in the book “Journey into Kashmir and Tibet” by Swami Abhedananda. 

According to the propagators of the Rosabal legend, Jesus travelled with his mother Mary, who after being weakened by the tough travel in her old age died in Murre (name of the town resembling Mary) in Pakistan. Murre is 170 kilometers west of Srinagar and close to Rawalpindi. As per the same legend Jesus is said to have entered Kashmir from passes over the meadows of Yusmarg (or Yuzmarg, marg meaning meadow)  which is about 40 kilometers south of Srinagar. 

Ahmadiya sect, a controversial minority sect of a few hundred followers claims that Jesus died a natural death and is buried in Kashmir. The book “Jesus in Heaven on Earth” by a leading member of the Ahmadiya sect, Khawaja Nazir Ahmad in 1952 writes about the 'journey of Jesus Christ to Kashmir' to preach to the lost tribes of Israel (the Kashmiri’s) and about 'his death and burial in Kashmir’.

In 1973 a local journalist Aziz Kashmiri in his book “Christ in Kashmir” claimed that Jesus was buried in Kashmir and died here at the age of 120. The writer has since passed away but his book continues to rekindle the legend. 

Professor Fida Hassnain a former director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Museums for Jammu and Kashmir claims Kashmiri’s originate from the "10 missing tribes of Israel" and that was the reason Jesus chose Kashmir as his destination, to preach among his own people. Prof Hassnain claims that Kashmiri’s were driven out of Israel by the Assyrians in around 720 BC and came to settle here (in the new countries) after that. Incidentally Prof Fida Hassnain has also co-authored a book “Roza Bal, Beyond the Da Vinci Code” with Suzanne Olsson. Olsson also claims that 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.

Sir Francis Younghusband who was the then representative of the British crown to the Dogra king of Kashmir, in his writings ‘Kashmir’ (published in London 1909) wrote (page 112): “Here may be seen fine old patriarchal types, just as we picture to ourselves the Israelitish heroes of old. Some, indeed, say… that these Kashmiri’s are the lost tribes of Israel and certainly, as I have already said, there are real Biblical types to be seen everywhere in Kashmir and especially among the upland villages. Here the Israelites Shepherd tending his flocks and herds may any day be seen.”

According to some reports Kashmiri or Kashahmiri are Hebrew words and an attributive name of the Israelites. The root is Kas(h)ah, similar to the Arabic kashiya. Famous Arab traveler and historian El Bironi in the 12th century wrote, "In the past, permission to enter Kashmir was given only to Jews." There is yet another legend which speaks of King Solomon having reached Kashmir Valley and aided the people of Kashmir in successfully regulating the main river of Kashmir (Jehlum). In fact according to same legend the name of Shankracharya hill located in central Srinagar is Takht-e-Sulieman (the mount or throne of Solomon), locals still prefer to call the hill by that name. Of course there is a majority who disagree with the legend of ‘King Solomon’ and believe that the name “Takht-e-Sulieman” was actually given by Shah-e-Hamadan (Amire Kabir).

(A late 1800's photograph of Shankracharya Hill, then captioned 'Solomons Throne' proves that the hill was called such centuries ago also.)

Mullah Nadiri in “Tarikh-i-Kashmir” (History of Kashmir written in 1420) writes about how the existing Hindu structure on Takht-e-Sulieman (now Shankracharya hill) was restored by a Persian architect during the reign of Raja Gopadatta (79-109 AD) and during the renovation, the following was found inscribed on the steps in old Persian: “Dar-een wagt YuzAsaf dawa-i-paighambar-imikunad.  Sal panjah wa chahar”. This translates into “At this time, Yuz Asaf announced his prophetic mission.  In the year 54." And also was found inscribed “Aishan Yuzu paighambar-i-bani israil ast” which again translates into "He is Yuzu, the Prophet of the Children of Israel." The inscriptions of the temple stand since destroyed but may have been recorded by other historians as well. A pillar next to the temple was torn down in the later part of the last century after the temple had already been renovated, and a TV transmission tower was erected in later years.

Locals at Rosabal, Khanyar in Srinagar claim that in 2002 American Suzzane Marie attempted to desecrate the shrine by wanting to start digging and exhume the remains of the saints, which was not allowed by the locals as it is considered UnIslamic. Following strong protests from the locals for hurting their religious sentiments, she had to leave Kashmir. Since then the sanctum sanctorum of the Rosabal shrine has been closed and is opened for locals only on rare occasions.

According to Sam Miller (BBC correspondent) if legend is to be believed Jesus attended a famous Buddhist meeting held at a Buddhist Monastery, at Chandapora near Harwan, in the north of Srinagar city (site is also called ‘the Buddha site’) in 80AD. The site is known as a historical place of Buddhist learning and also for its Buddhist artifacts and terracotta.

In its edition for Indian subcontinent Lonely Planet made a mention of the Rosabal shrine and the legend associated with it, however with a disclaimer. The disclaimer not withstanding, this entry in ‘Lonely Planet’ has had a cascading effect with foreign tourists flocking to the area at downtown Srinagar in search of the tomb. Pertinently in the Bible there is no record of Jesus Christ’s life from the age of 12 to 30, a period also known as “the missing years”, most Christians believing that Jesus lived in Nazareth during that period. It is during this “the missing years” period that the propagators of the legend of ‘Jesus at Rosabal’ claim that Jesus had travelled to Kashmir.

In fact the historical pointers or references available, including the reported Buddhist manuscript at Leh, the inscriptions found at Takht-e-Sulieman, similarity of Jewish words in Kashmiri, do not prove his burial legend at Rosabal : they could  however at the most  just come close to the legend of his visiting Kashmir and then going back to Nazareth.

And if you still are trying to make an opinion about the claims of Jesus in Kashmir remember there have been other claims of Jesus visiting parts of world including England, for which famous poet William Blake had said "And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England's mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England's pleasant pastures seen?"

In his film “And Did Those Feet“ Dr Gordon Strachan (Church of Scotland minister) claims that it is "plausible" that Jesus came to England for his studies 2,000 years ago and may have visited  Penzance, Falmouth, St-Just-in-Roseland and Looe, (in Cornwall) and also Glastonbury (in Somerset) where legends of Jesus do exist. But all of these fables and assumptions of Jesus visiting Kashmir and / or England have not been backed by any concrete evidence hence remain as just stories.

Both Muslims and Christians dismiss the rumors of Jesus buried at Rosabal shrine and claim them to be blasphemous, Christians believing that Jesus was crucified and Muslims believing that Jesus was taken to God: both religions also believing in the second coming of Jesus Christ. Some locals claim this rumor was started by local businessmen and shopkeepers to attract foreign tourists and the rumor got a flip after being mentioned in Lonely Planet. Even professional historians dismiss the rumors as baseless, but then the legend has already found its way into tourist guides, numerous documentaries and books. The Rosabal legend has already inspired a fiction thriller “Rozabal line” by Ashwin Sanghi, a sort of sequel to Dan Brown's “Da Vinci Code”.

Fact or fiction, but the legend around the shrine has aroused renewed interest in this place that has long been hot bed of insurgency, turmoil and been befit of any major economic activity. The legend of Rosabal could have far reaching results for the tourist traffic in Kashmir. If the legend continues to grow the foreign tourist traffic could register a steep growth. However the interest in the tomb has to be separated and segregated from efforts to desecrate it, which could inflame religious passions locally. Science can surely find alternate ways of establishing the truth related to the legend of Rosabal, without disturbing the peace of the saints buried there. 

The claims and the legend regarding Jesus in Kashmir have not been based on any concrete evidence till now and any linking the Jesus legend to Kashmir will need concrete scientific basis than mere books, documentaries and hearsay.  Till that time the legend of Jesus in Kashmir will continue to lure travelers to the Rosabal shrine in Srinagar, Kashmir, and writers will continue to weave stories around the fable. 

May 23rd, 2011) 

My Personal belief is:

"That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
—Holy Qur'an, (An Nisa 157-158)

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On May 12, 2011 at 9:06 PM , Anonymous said...

Very well researched, makes for an interesting and informative read! :)

On May 12, 2011 at 9:51 PM , Anonymous said...

In case of suzzane olsson, she does not talk at the prescence of jesus in kashmir. she claims that yuz asaf was her ancestor and had also got orders to excavate the body inside the shrine via then sec. to CM mr. shafi shaida, but this was disputed by locals and therefore she fled back...the shrine is a place of contrversy and should not be given much importance.
well written anyway.

On May 13, 2011 at 12:10 AM , Anonymous said...

Mr. Shafi Shaida was the personal attache to C.M. Omar Abdullah. I met at the C.M.'s home several times and DID have permission. How could I lie about such a thing! I think people were scrambling to cover their trails when someone at Roza Bal started making a row over this....he was earning a good living from the donations to Roza Bal and regarded it as his own personal ATM machine... to get to the truth, follow the money.
Written by Suzanne Olsson (linked back to Facebook)

On July 12, 2011 at 5:57 PM , Anonymous said...

Very informative article.
I Really want to visit Kashmir now :-)

On February 25, 2015 at 12:37 PM , Unknown said...

Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this .very interesting information.i would like to do all the information
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