|The Rozabal shrine. (AFP)
Srinagar, April 2: Troubled Kashmir has not seen many western tourists over the past few years, but a small nondescript shrine in Rozabal locality here continues to quietly attract inquisitive visitors from abroad.
Rozabal is the shrine of medieval Muslim saint Yus Asaf, but several alternative theories floated in the West describe it as a tomb of Jesus Christ. Such was the popularity that its caretakers were forced to close the shrine for Western tourists some three years ago, lest it hurt local sensitivities.
Some believe Jesus survived crucifixion, travelled to Kashmir, adopted the name of Yus Asaf and is buried at Rozabal. The shrine has of late found mention in the Lonely Planet guide — a bible for most tourists — leading to renewed interest in the West.
Some people from Europe claim it is the grave of Hazrat Issa (Jesus) and they had approached us with a request to open it and take DNA and other samples. But we have turned down their requests, said Mohammad Amin Ringshawl, the shrines caretaker.
Ringshawl said the management had locked the sanctum sanctorum some years ago and it is opened on rare occasions only for locals.
In Kashmir, there are no takers for such theories, barring a few hundred strong Ahmadiya Muslims — one of the reasons they are treated as heretics by mainstream Islam.
The interest in Kashmir first arose in 1887 when Russian anthropologist Nicholas Notovic, in his Unknown Life of Jesus Christ, claimed he had seen documents in Ladakhs Hemis monastery describing Jesuss years from 12 to 30 BCE in India.
Of late, a flood of literature, including a Da Vinci Code-type potboiler called The Rozabal Line by Ashwin Sanghi, and documentaries have led to renewed interest.