Long before Dan Brown ever dragged the idea into the global imagination, there were theories that Jesus did not in fact die on the cross. It’s a theory that challenges one of the central tenets of Christianity - without His death, there would be no resurrection and without that - well, no miracle on which to found a major religion.
by Shahnawaz Khan
Alternate theories abound. One of them leads to Kashmir, to a place called Rozabal. Some believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion and then travelled east to India and lived out the rest of His life in Kashmir, where He died of old age and now it is His body that lies buried in a small tomb shrine in Rozbal, part of the Khanyar locality of Srinagar.
Locals believe it to be the shrine of a preacher and a prophet called Yuz Asaph, which maybe an Indianized version of the name Jesus. The theory was propogated around 1899 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiya Muslim sect who claimed that Yuz Asaph was buried at Rozabal and said he had papers that proved his descent from the buried prophet.
New York-based researcher Suzanne Olsson has been trying to obtain DNA samples of the man or men who may be buried in the tomb. She too believes that Yuz Aspah and Jesus may be the same man and wants the chance to prove it. Furthermore she claims to be the 59th descendent of Jesus. Her attempts - both legal and illegal - to obtain DNA samples from the tomb have incensed the locals who responded by closing the shrine to visitors.
“It is over eight years now, since we had to close the shrine. We were facing lots of problems with people coming to say that Jesus is buried here. It is against the teachings of Quran,”
According to the Quran, Jesus, also one of Islam’s prophets did not die on the cross, but instead, God raised Him up to Himself alive. So the residents of Rozabal don’t want people to think that He is buried there or anywhere.
These days Rozabal, unlike most shrines of Kashmir that are routinely visited by local Muslim residents, is open only once a month for prayers.
The persisting frequency of foreign visitors have made the local youth hostile.
“We have forced away tourist guides and taxi drivers who bring in foreigners and tell them Jesus is buried here,”
a youth standing near the shrine told me. He made it clear that he wanted me to leave too, despite the fact that I’m Muslim and Kashmiri.
And they’re serious. When Olsson continued in her efforts to obtain her DNA samples, the management of the shrine successfully petitioned to get her visa cancelled.
Photo - flickr Mehraj Mir