A belief that Jesus travelled to India and adopted Buddhist teachings and methods has been around since at least the 19th Century when scholars attempted to explain the similarities between Christianity and the much older Buddhist teachings. Traditions have it that during the ‘missing years’ i.e. those not chronicled in the New Testament, Jesus travelled to the ‘lost tribes’ of Israel who had not returned to the Holy Land but had settled in Afghanistan, Northern India and beyond.
In addition to this, an increasing number of traditions suggest the survival of Jesus after the Crucifixion, some even going so far as to suggest his eventual death and burial. These stories are supported by Buddist and Hindu texts as well as, surprisingly, Islam.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion and travelled to India, there continuing his teachings until his death. The Ahmadi sect believes that Jesus was an important prophet of God and the Messiah of the children of Israel, as foretold by Moses. They claim that Jesus foretold his own fate and subsequent return would be similar to that of Jonah: "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39,40).
The implication here being that, after three days “in the heart of the earth” Jesus would return but, unlike the traditional interpretation, his ordeal is one of survival rather than resurrection, implied by the reference to Jonah.
They also believe that the reports of the crucifixion support survival rather than death and ascension:
- Blood and water gushes from the spear wound – a sign of a beating heart
- Unbroken legs – prevented death from respiratory distress
- Death on the Cross usually takes days,not hours
- Aloe and Myrrh used on his body were for healing the living not embalming the dead
- After ‘death’, Jesus denied being an apparition and also called for food
The Sanskrit text Bhavishya Maha Purana written AD115 contains an account of Salivahana, a king of India, meeting "Isa-Masiha" (Isa the Messiah). Isa-Masiha is described as a religious person of fair complexion who was a foreigner. Isa is also the name used for Jesus in the Quran. At one point, Isa explains to the king who he is “I am called a Son of God, born of a virgin, minister of the non-believers… I come from a foreign country where there is no truth… I appeared as the Messiah.”
Buddhist writings prophesy a Bodhisattva (an enlightened one), named 'Bagwa Metteyya' a Pali phrase which literally means "fair-complexioned", or "white traveller”.
In the 10th century, the Muslim scholar Al-Shaikh Al-Said-us-Sadiq wrote ‘Ikmaul-ud-Din’. In it, he speaks specifically of a Christ-like foreigner, and his disciple Ba’bad, spending his final days in Kashmir: “Then Yuz Asaf… reached that country which is called Kashmir. He travelled in it far and wide… until death overtook him. He then directed Ba’bad to prepare a tomb over him. He stretched his legs towards the west and head towards the east and died.”
One place in particular has received increasing attention as a result of the speculation. In the India-controlled part of Kashmir, a town named Srinagar is said to be home to nothing less than the tomb of Yuz Asaf - Jesus himself. The name Yuz Asaf is also linked to Jesus in the Takhat Sulaiman (Throne of Solomon) temple at Lake Dal in Srinagar. Four inscriptions there state:
1. The mason of this pillar is Bihishti Zargar, year fifty and four (AD78)
2. Khwaja Rukun son of Murjan erected this pillar.
3. At this time Yuz Asaf proclaimed his prophethood. Year fifty and four (AD78).
4. He is Jesus, prophet of the children of Israel.
The Tomb itself is a whitewashed building known as Rauzabal, meaning ‘the Honoured Tomb’. Local tradition states that the entombed was a prophet of Ahle-Kitab (People of the Book), and his name was Isa. The prophet Yuz Asaf came to Kashmir from the West (Holy Land) in the reign of Raja Gopdatta (c 1st century A.D) according to the documents held by the current custodian of the tomb.
A carving at the tomb located at the base of the sarcophagus shows Footprints with wounds, said by some to be the signs of crucifixion. The tomb is also East to West, consistent with Jewish burial.
Due to the increased influx of tourists largely due to a Lonely Planet report identifying it as the tomb of Jesus, Rauzabel is now closed to foreigners; whilst it can still be viewed from the outside and an (empty) sarcophagus viewed through the windows, the tomb itself is closed to all but locals, who are allowed to briefly enter to offer prayers.
Whatever the facts behind it, it cannot be denied that there are many studies devoted to the topic and many people who believe that Jesus survived his crucifixion and is buried in Kashmir.
Pictures and a walkthrough of the tomb can be found here