So here I am in Srinagar, the epicentre of the Jesus-in-India theory, blogging & breakfasting on my hotel boat on the tranquil oasis of the splendid Dal Lake. My journey here from Jammu began at 7.30 AM sharing a taxi with a pleasant Indian family for the 300 K to Srinagar, Kashmir. We began on a steady rise, climbing out of the smog-like mist that had descended on the Punjab a few days previously & steadfastly refused to budge an inch. The sight that greeted us was lovely, full of forest & slopes that were getting higher & steeper with every turn. The roads were busy & often slow, our driver doing his best to overtake every tractor & truck that blocked our swift passage. then often as we tried to overtake, there would often be in our way one of the vast convoy of trucks heading south filled with apples for all of India.
This state of affairs has led the Indian government to build a great double-carriageway between Srinagar & Jammu, which was under construction as I write. Thus this portion of the massif is practically one gigantic building site, the residue of grand ambition & a feat of engineering that should marvel the world – when it is finsihed of course. Until then, I, & every body else on the planet making the journey by road, must struggle & shuffle forward in a stop-start fashion. We also past numerous road-safety signs such as ‘After Whiskey, Driving Risky,’ & braving treacherous corners where one false move sees a vehicle & its occupants tumbling hundreds of meters to their inevitable dooms. Personally, my vertigo & I were petrified, but we both survived the journey to the Kashmir border & its ‘Titanic Viewpoint.’
We had arrived at the famous vale at the end of the harvest season, where the paddy fields are shorn of their rice & have browned in the summer sun. Two months ago, were were told, all was green & surely contained the magical quality that makes the Vale of Kashmir so special. Another 80 k later we had arrived in Srinagar, the region’s capital, & swiftly took rooms in a decent enough hotel – the marathon 12 hour journey from Jammu having taken its toll.
Srinagar itself was a marked change from the cities of the Gangeatic plane. Despite its million inhabitants, the city was less busy, & cleaner, & in certain places had a quite European feel. Flat rooves were few & far between, with most houses having steep metal rooves to let the rains flow freely to earth. I bore witness to a great Kashmiri storm, which exploded in violent fury & raged for half an hour or so of torrential rain & booming thunder, after which it disspeared leaving a cool freshness & finally blowing away the mists that had been all prevailing for days – in the distance I could now see the mountains which had stepped out of the haze like handsome young soldiers on parade.
The next morning I embarked upon my research mission. The tomb of Jesus could wait awhile, but what was more enticing was a chance of meeting the esteemed Kashmiri scholar, Fida Hassnain, who more than any man has unearthed genuine historical references that support the existence of an Indian Jesus. I had come across his books in Edinburgh & found them to be well-researched & full of obscure tit-bits. His own interest in the subject began in 1965, when he first heard of Nicolas Notovich in the archives of the Moravian Mission in Leh, Ladakh. After this, he states himself that;
It took me many years to locate & examine oriental sources, in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Arabic, Persian & Urdu dealing, with the lost years of jesus. The material was rich &, unlike much of the historical material to which the church had access, on the whole, untouched since ancient times. These ancient documents, recording as they did a little-known connection between Christianity & the east, were of immense fascination to me – each new discovery further fuelling my passion for the quest
He was well placed to do this, being the one-time Director of Archives, Archaeology, Research and Musems for Kashmir, which gave him an intimate access to ancient documents. He also acknowledged his own place in this new academic tradition by stating , ‘A research work entitled Messiah Hindustan Mein (Jesus in India) by Hazrat Mirz Ghulam Ahmad opened new vistas of research for me.‘ His fantastic work in the field secured his place as its leading exponent, & since the seventies, a series of scholars have sought his company. Each was greeted with warmth, & had been freely given access to all the documents & information uncovered by the Professor. I got his address from a smart looking guy in the street, & one short rickshaw ride later Victor & I found ourselves in the Parray Pura district of Srinagar, knocking on the gate of a pleasant & large detached house. To my joy, Fida Hassnain came to see who we were, & I was amazed how sprightly he was on his feet, given he had passed his nineteith year. After greeting him as auspiciusly as I could, we passed an amiable hour in his garden discussing ideas & sharing theories. I told him how much I respected his work on the matter of Jesus in Kashmir, & also asked him if he had ever heard of Philostratus. He had not.
It was a sublime moment, & I seized my chance. I asked Fida for a pen & paper, & sketched for him a brief outline of how Appollonius had travelled to India to meet Iarchus, & where to find teh appropriate information on the web. As I explained I believed I had discoverd new evidence for Jesus’ time in India, his eyes lit up with a youthful excitement & I surged with pride. I had travelled many miles to show him my work on Jesus, which were built, of course, upon his own fifty years of study. His magnum opus on the field had been published only the previous year, & he gave both Victor & I a copy to take away. The book is called Jesus in Kashmir, & became a new companion for my stay in the area, & contained more than half a century of research, whose quantity & quality of textual references I found quite remarkable.
After two nights in the hotel we left for pastures new; Victor had found us a family-run houseboat n Dal lake, & what a joy it was to be there. A village on water, one must travel to & from the ‘mainland’ on the oar-drawn shakaras, a watery oasis of calm away form the sheer incessancy of India. Food was cooked by mother & served by a 17-year old ‘servant’ from a village 60 k away. A few meters across the water resided a family who loved on teh lake, not for tourism but for life, a half-carved shakara testament to a world that passeed its humanity amidst these gentle settings. It proved a perfect place to poured through the pages of Fida Hassnain’s latest book, underlining passages & filling them with scholia for the days ahead. Then, when my studies were done, it was time to explore the places I had been reading about; not thousands of miles away from Scotland’s national library, but a ten rupee ride away across the pleasant green waters of the Dal lake.
The next morning we resolved upon a plan to circumnavigate the impressively beautiful Dal lake, which forms the liquid heart of the city. Hopping in a rickshaw for the short ride to the Rozabal, the shrine of Yuz Asaf, i.e. Jesus. A Kashmiri historian, Mulla Nadiri, stated (in 1420); ‘In a work by a Hindu it is said that this Prophet was in reality Hazrat Issa, the Soul of God – on whom be peace and salutations. He had assumed the name of Yuzu Asaph during his life in teh valley. the real knowledge is with allah. After his demise, hazrat issa, on whom be peace & salutations, was laid to rest in the tomb in the locality of Anzimar. It is also said that the rays of prophethood used to emenant from the tomb of this prophet.
On arriving at the shrine I found it painted green & white – the colours of Islam. Indeed, Srinagar is 96 percent Muslim, who after appropriating the shrine for themselves, have declared taking photographs of the shrine strictly forbidden, a matter which seriously irked the locals after I innoculously shot the shrine.
“It is an international dispute,” I was told by a tall, unpleasant looking fellow. It is amazing how religious sentiment still divides humanity to this day, which I felt the full force only a minute or two later. We were just departing from the shrine, when passing an open window I saw the very tomb of Yuz Asaf inside the shrine, covered with a velvet blanket. It seemed such a harmless act taking a swift snap, driven by my need for litological to leave no stone unturned if you will.
However, only a second or two after taking the shot, I was accosted in the street by an angry, begrizzled man in his forties, demanding my camera with loud shouts & manhandling me to the ground. Victor quickly rushed to my rescue, but instead I insisted I could handle my attacker, but saving the camera was more important, & gave him it with a swift, sly back-hand. Not long after, I had overpowered my foe & brought the action to a stand-still, & was just about to argue my litological rights when I was grabbed by Victor & thrust down a side-alley & into the nearest rick-shaw. Speeding away, I looked down at my shirt & realised that in the kerscuffle the bounder had ripped the second top button off my new shirt!
“Driver, we must go back…”
“No,no,” piped in Victor, “Keep driving!”
“But I must give the scoundrel my tailor bill!” I retorted with the passionate of elan the hard done by.
“Nonsense, my friend… you know those two men we were observing cutting the throats of chickens near the shrine.”
“Well, I observed them running down the street towards us… they were still holding their knives.”
The incident reminded me just how many millions have died for their faith over the millenia, & I knew that from that skirmish on I would have to curtail my inbuilt northern swagger when handling such a sensitive subject as human religion.
Leaving the shrine, we then proceeded to the NE corner of the Dal Lake, where a curious passage in a 12th century Kasmiri history called the Rajatarangini seems a garbled account of the Crucifixion;
Samhdimati’s guru, Isana, came to perform funeral rites, found Sam’s skeleton still attached to the stake, and noticed an inscription on the skull which predicted: “He will have a life of poverty, ten years’ imprisonment, death on the stake, and still thereafter a throne.” Isana wondered about this, but later, in the middle of the night, smelled incense, heard bells ringing and drums beating, and saw witches outside on the burial ground.
Isana pulled out his sword and went outside, and saw the witches rebuilding the body with their own limbs and flesh, then calling Samhdmati’s spirit back to the body. Thereafter, they covered him with ointments and “enjoyed themselves with him…to their full desire.”
Then just a couple of miles away, there a kind local led us through pleasant foresty to the ruins of a Buddhist Temple, built by the Kushan Emporer, Kanishka, in the first century AD. During my conversations with Professor Hassnain, he had suggested it had been the site of the great 4th Buddhist Council c.78AD & that Jesus had probably been there as an old man. It was at this council that a new branch of Buddhism was accepted called Mahayana, or ‘the Great Vehicle.’ Back in Edinburgh I’d found it curious how both Christianity & Mahayana Buddhism had sprung up at roundabout the same time, & how these new religions were wrapped around a saviour-figure who preached love & compassion – in Mahayana Buddhism his name is Avoleketisvara. With Jesus being buried in the same place as Mahayana Buddhism was launched, the connection has become too tangible to ignore, & I feel a deeper investigation of ‘the great vehicle’ is in order. Luckily, the chief center of this faith is in Ladakh, only a 16 hour taxi ride away through the mountains, skimming along the LOC, the de facto border line between Pakistan & India that is often used as target-practice for the motar shells of Pakistani militants.