Billions of people the world over are familiar with Jesus the Icon and Jesus the Prophet, but few know anything about Jesus the Man.
Even the Gospels of the New Testament have only a few fleeting and vague references to him as a flesh and blood being. There is almost no account of his life before the age of thirty. So, who was this Jesus, and why is a major part of his life missing from any source?
Notable historians and well regarded personalities like Nicholas Roerich, Holger Kersten, Edward T. Martin and Dr. Fida Hassnain, among others, have uncovered evidence of a major spiritual personality who originated in ancient Israel, crossed Central Asia through Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan and made his home in the north Indian Himalayas. Recently the Dalai Lama himself acknowledged the existence of the alternate Jesus narrative.
The claim is that Kashmir was the destination of the ‘Lost Tribes of Israel’ as well as the place where Jesus spent his youth and possibly the destination of his last journey. A contention that explains strong remnants of the Hebrew diaspora—culture, rituals and language—found at various points along the old Silk Road.
Among the fascinating notions that have emerged from the extensive spadework is that of a Biblical ‘Promised Land’ that existed far outside the traditional boundaries of Israel and the Middle East.
The Nicholas Notovich Incident:
Nicholas Notovich, an aristocratic Russian, born in the Crimea in 1858, is an integral part of any studies about the phenomenon of Jesus in the East. He was an erudite and respected author and political scientist who began his career as an expert in Russian affairs before his great trip eastwards.
In the 1870s, he set out on an exploratory trip of the grand orient, and after traveling through Afghanistan, the Punjab and Lahore, eventually found himself in Kashmir. On the way from Kargil to Leh, Ladakh, he went up to a Buddhist monastery where he befriended a Lama and had extensive conversations on religion with him. To his utter shock, the monk professed to have an intimate knowledge of the Christian God Jesus. They referred to him as ‘Issa’ and claimed he had lived among them for several years.
These accounts had been preserved through the ages in a number of monasteries across Ladakh and Tibet. His interest now highly piqued, Notovich decided to investigate the claim for himself and made his way to the monastery at Hemis, in Ladakh.
The aging and yellowed scriptures that were presented to him had detailed accounts of Issa’s travels from Israel with a group of traders at the age of fourteen, across Central Asia to India where he traveled through the country, fought the Brahminical orthodoxy of the time, studied under various spiritual sects and finally adopted the non-discriminating teachings of Buddha.
He was said to have lived in the region until his late twenties and then made his way back to the land of his birth, Israel, which at the time was beset by corruption and moral decay. There he became known as a spiritual master and clashed with the entrenched status quo of the time.
Notovich now felt that he had come across the most powerful discovery in two thousand years; written manuscripts giving stunning details of the lost years of Jesus, between the ages of twelve and thirty, that are not mentioned in the Bible and showing that Jesus had been tutored by Buddhists.
After the Notovich incident, several more accounts of the same theory from diverse sources were documented. An intriguing hypothesis about the hidden Jesus has emerged.
Jesus followed the ancient Silk Road to the East with a group of traders and explorers in search of the fabled Promised Land where the ‘Lost Tribes’ presumably went.
He spent his adolescence and early adulthood in northern India, under the tutelage of Buddhist monks, adopting their tenets and becoming a spiritual master.
He then returned to the land of his birth, Israel, and eventually became an influential figure with a substantial cult following, which angered the entrenched orthodoxy of the times and won him many enemies.
He survived the Crucifixion, was taken off the cross the very same day, tended to by Joseph of Arimathea, among others, and was smuggled out of the area by the Essenes, a secret spiritual cult of the times, which he belonged to.
He returned to the ‘Promised Land’, which has been identified as the vale of Kashmir in the Himalayas and lived to a ripe old age.
He is buried in Rozabal, Kashmir, in the town of Srinagar where his distinctly Hebraic cenotaph is worshipped to this day.
According to written and oral traditions, after death Yuz Asaf was entombed in Khanyari, the old section of Srinagar. On the floor next to an ancient grave at Rozabal, Professor Fida Hassnain discovered a crucifix and a rosary that had been embedded since antiquity. In addition, he found two footprints carved into the stone with the marking of a crucifixion scar etched into each print.
In Eastern Pakistan, next to Kashmir can be found the tomb of Mary on a hilltop just outside a small town called Murree or Mari. The grave is called Mai Mari da Asthan, which means “the final resting place of Mother Mary.” Her tomb faces east-west, as in Jewish custom, rather than north-south as in Islamic custom.
The Hindu holy manuscript, Bhavishya Maha Purana, contains some ten verses indicating that Jesus was in India/Kashmir during the reign of King Shalivahan, which has been placed within 39 to 50 C.E. and that he had become known as Yuz Asaf and Issa Masih (Jesus the Messiah)
The history of the Kashmiri people is shrouded in mystery as is the history of other people in that region. Most Kashmir researchers are of the opinion that many inhabitants of Kashmir are descendants of the Lost Tribes who were exiled in 722 BCE. They wandered along the Silk Road into the countries of the East, Persia and Afghanistan, until they reached the Kashmir valley and settled there.
Others say the wanderings began approximately three hundred years later. The wanderers settled in Kashmir, and kept their traditions, until they were forced to convert to Islam when the spread of Islam reached the valley. The priest Kitro in his book, the ‘General History of the Mughal Empire’, said that the Kashmiri people are the descendants of the Israelites.
The traveling Arab historian El Bironi in the 12th century wrote, “In the past, permission to enter Kashmir was given only to Jews.”
The priest Montserrat said in the 15th century, in the time of Vasco da Gama, “all the inhabitants of this area who have been living here since ancient times can trace their ancestry, according to their race and customs, to the ancient Israelites. Their features, their general physical appearance, their clothing, their ways of conducting business, all show that they are similar to the ancient Israelites.”
Not Just a Coincidence:
All across the old Silk Road (Turkey, Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir) can be found vestiges of Hebrew language, culture, tribal customs, rituals, names of places, tribes, foods that clearly originated in ancient Israel. The name Israel is very common among the Pathans of Afghanistan. They also light a candle for the Sabbath, have side-locks, beards, and an emblem or design of the Shield of David.
Within Northwest Afghanistan, centered in the city of Herat, anthropologist O.M Burke came across a sect of some 1000 people who are devotees of Yuz Asaf, whom they also knew as Issa, son of Maryam. They have clear accounts of Issa, the prophet from Israel, having escaped the cross, traveled to India and settled in Kashmir. He was regarded as possessing the power to perform miracles.
There are a number of geographical areas in modern day Kashmir which correspond with Hebrew names of sacred sites in the Promised Land. There is a place called Samaryah which corresponds with Samaria. Pishgah with Pisgah, Nabudaal with Mt. Nevo, Bushan with Bashan, Gilgit with Gilgal, Heshba with Heshbon, Amunah with Amon, Gochan with Goshen, Median-pura with Midian. Guzana corresponds with Gozan which was a place in Assyria where the Ten Tribes of Israel were deported.
Clearly the Jesus legend continues unabated, albeit with new dimensions being added to fill out the story. It makes the myth all the more fascinating and compelling and is a testimony to the contention that world religions have common sources lost in antiquity.
Vikram Zutshi is a documentary filmmaker, writer, photojournalist, scuba diver and yogi based out of Los Angeles. When he is not submerged underwater, circling a sunken galleon, or at twenty thousand feet above sea level, filming the Himalayan snow leopard, he can be found contemplating the infinite while unsuccessfully trying to unwrap himself from the perfect Garbhapindasana. He can be reached at [email protected].
Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul
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