The birthday of Jesus Christ, who many believe is the son of God and the Savior, is celebrated by most Christians around the world on Dec. 25. However, there exists many mysteries and contradictions regarding the biography of the historic Jesus. Among the most fascinating and controversial parts of his life have to do with what he did and where he went during his adolescence and early manhood -- roughly between the ages of 13 and 30 -- i.e., the "lost years" (which the New Testament completely omits).
Some scholars believe that Jesus went eastward along the legendary Silk Road route to present day India, Tibet and China and immersed himself in the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. Some even think that he died in what is now Kashmir, the mountainous province in the extreme north of India, and was even buried there.
The Navhind Times, an English-language newspaper published in the western Indian state of Goa, reported earlier this year that some scholars in India believe that Jesus, during his lengthy period of time in Asia, visited and studied in Hindu temples in Puri and Banaras and in Buddhist monasteries in Tibet -- all of which solidified his philosophy of non-violence. In addition, the Times claimed, Jesus may have even met some well-known Indian historical figures from that period, including Raja Gopananda of Kashmir and King Shalivahana.
The theory that Jesus learned ancient wisdom in India and the East contends that when he was about 30, he returned to his native land of Judea and began his public mission of preaching. Still, a smaller segment of those who believe Jesus spent many years in India allege he never returned to the Middle East, but died in Kashmir and is buried in the Roza Bal shrine in the city of Srinagar. Still others think he survived the crucifixion by the Romans and somehow escaped back to Kashmir (a distance of at least 2,500 miles) along with his mother Mary and a handful of followers.
According to the Roza Bal theory, Jesus lived until he was 80 years old in Kashmir, where got married and fathered several children. The Bible declared that Jesus ascended to heaven -- Kashmir is known as "heaven on earth." Moreover, many Kashmiris believe they are the descendants of one of the lost 10 tribes of Israel who fled the Assyrian occupation (suggesting that Jesus would seek refuge among his own people).
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According to a documentary produced by the government of India called “The Roza Bal Shrine of Srinagar,” the shrine is the tomb of a man named Yuza Asaf, who is actually Jesus Christ or Nazareth, the prophet to the Children of Israel. Upon arriving in India, the teenaged Jesus apparently traveled through Punjab, Rajasthan, and lived in Jagannath Puri, Rajgriha and the Himalayan regions. The film claims that ancient texts in Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit back up this tale.
If these account are true, it would likely destroy the very foundations of Christian beliefs (not surprisingly, most Christian scholars and adherents utterly reject these theories). The Times cautioned, moreover, that there is no concrete incontrovertible evidence to validate these assumptions. Among other things, it is inconceivable that Jesus would cowardly flee his homeland especially after he ordered his disciples to preach the concepts of love and salvation.
In an interview with TombofJesus.com, Yashendra Prasad, the man who wrote and directed the documentary “Roza Bal Shrine of Srinagar,” said that the Indian government has taken a neutral view over the issue of Christ in Kashmir. “[The Indian government] does not want [the] flaring up of any conflict on this issue,” Prasad said. “Personally, I would like the government to be proactive to get scientific investigations, like DNA testing of the tomb, done. However, the environment has to be amicable for this. There are elements in the world, as well as in Kashmir, who do not want this. They do not want to allow scientific investigation at Roza Bal.”
Indeed, while the Ahmadiyya Muslim community claim that Jesus (a revered prophet in Islam) is buried in Roza Bal, most Muslims think this belief is blasphemy. Nonetheless, the Roza Bal shrine is a popular destination for both tourists and even some Christian pilgrims. BBC described the shrine as a “modest stone building with a traditional Kashmiri multi-tiered sloping roof.”
A caretaker of the shrine, who rejects the notion that Jesus is buried there, complained to the BBC: "It's a story spread by local shopkeepers, just because some crazy professor said it was Jesus's tomb. They thought it would be good for business. Tourists would come, after all these years of violence. And then it got into the Lonely Planet [tourist guidebook], and too many people started coming.”
The mystery will likely never be resolved.