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Promised land, Cursed people

Kashmir has been called a “Paradise on Earth”. Almost all famous explorers and travellers who have visited Kashmir from ancient times praise in their accounts and travelogues the natural beauty of this land. The lofty mountains with snow clad peaks and glaciers. Dense and lush green forests dotted with enchanting meadows. Gushing mountain streams with water rushing down on boulders resembling fast flowing milk. High altitude mountain lakes with hanging glaciers sticking to cliffs surrounding these and ice floes floating within. The mountain slopes and meadows with rows upon rows of all varieties of flowers and scented herbs. The dense forests with very tall pines unmatched in majesty and grandeur. Dozens of side valleys of savage beauty not seen any where in the world. The beauty of nature is truly overpowering and awe inspiring. It is beyond description and can only be experienced by being there! The description of “Promised Land” in Bible aptly fits Kashmir. According to Bible, Paradise-the place where humankind was created lay to the East. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.” The Garden of Eden is stated to be situated between four rivers. Mesopotamia, where the Garden of Eden is usually supposed to exist, has only two rivers as the name of the region implies. Whereas area around Kashmir has four rivers, Indus, Jehlum, Chenab, and Ravi. Thus Kashmir is truly a land between the rivers. Bible mentions that Lord showed Moses the “Promised land” but directed him not to enter it. “Go thee unto Mount Nabo and die, but thou shalt not go unto the land which I give to the children of Israel”. “The Lord said unto Moses, get thee on top of mount Pisgah and lift up thine eyes eastward, and Northward, Westward and southward and behold the “Promised Land”…. The land of milk and honey…. The land which drinketh the water of heaven…..The land is good and peaceable….the Land where no galley with oars shall go!” According to some legends Moses is buried near Athwattu in the land of Moab (Mowu) opposite Bandipore earlier known as Bethpor which is a derivative from the Beth-peor of Bible. The view of the valley from top of a mountain locally called Nebo-bal is as per the description of the “Promised Land”. Kashmir is locally known as Kashir and a Kashmiri is called a Koshur. Jews call Koshur something approvable and pure especially in regard to food. Many explorers and travellers from ancient times have written about the striking resemblance of Kashmir to Biblical lands. It has also been mentioned in many accounts that in ancient times Kashmiris allowed only Jews to enter the valley. A Kashmiri shepherd wearing a robe (pheran) and a skull cap tending his sheep near a village is a typical scene from some biblical movie. If Kashmir is the “Promised Land” are then Kashmiris the God’s “Chosen People?” The Jews call themselves to be the “Chosen People of God”. There are many theories about the origin of Kashmiris and some claim that they are the descendents of the lost tribes of Israel. A lot of research was done on the subject by British anthropologists in mid-19th century who were travelling with British troops. That research concluded that many of the Kashmiri tribes were remnants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Main start to these theories about the Jewish origin of Kashmiris was given by the book of George Moore, “Lost Tribes” printed in 1860. Subsequently a number of books have been written on the related subjects especially about the presence and burial of Jesus in Kashmir. These include, “The Fifth Gospel” and “In Search of Historical Jesus” by Professor Fida Hassnain; “Jesus died in India” by Faber-Kaiser; and “Jesus Lived in India” by Holger Kersten. There are other sources such as the controversial book, “Unknown Life of Christ” written by a Russian explorer Nicholas Notovitch about the Hemis Manuscript in 1889; “Jesus in Heaven on Earth” by Khawaja Nazir Ahmed of Woking Muslim Mission, UK, and a number of references in “Bhavishya Maha Purana” and Kalhan’s Raj Tarangini. This is an interesting subject for research. Among the Gujars in Kashmir there are some who claim to be descendants of Bani Israel. The tribe of Pakhtoons living in Gutlibagh near Ganderbal also claim to be descendants of Moses. There are striking similarities to the etymologies of Kashmiri place names and those found in “Torah” and the “Book of Chronicles”. There are two important objects in Kashmir claimed to be of Jewish origin. The first is the “Staff of Moses” which is claimed by some to be among the relics held at the shrine of Sufi Saint in Chrar Sharif and by some in the cave shrine at Aish Muqam. The other is the Ka Ka Pal stones in a temple at Bijbehara. If we take Kashmiris to have a Jewish origin then one of the most important characteristic they have inherited is the God’s curse on Bani Israel. Holy Quran describes in detail the doings of Bani Israel. Their greed, their impatience, their betrayal of Prophets sent to them from time to time, their insolence, and their backsliding on the Covenants they had with God is detailed in Sura Baqara. Moses conveys to them God’s command to sacrifice a Heifer but they send him back asking for colour, type, and age etc. of the Heifer. Finally they agree for the sacrifice but not with goodwill. God curses Bani Israel for their insolence and ordains that they will wander from place to place. Kashmiris are facing a similar fate. The extent of suffering they have undergone in last four centuries as well as their present condition makes one think that there is God’s curse on them! They are totally enmeshed in a vicious circle of suffering without any chance of escape. In spite of this they do not mend their ways. Walter Lawrence in “The Valley of Kashmir” has described in detail the character and disposition of Kashmiris. “The Kashmiri bears an evil reputation in the Punjab, and indeed throughout Asia. Proverbs liken him to a snake in his morals, and to a fowl in his manners, and men are warned against admitting a Kashmiri to their friendship. Moorcroft, Hugel, Drew, and Barnes describe them as “Selfish, superstitious, ignorant, supple, intriguing, dishonest, false-tongued, ready with a lie, and given to various forms of deceit”. Moorcroft, however, admits that the vices of Kashmiris are not innate, but are due to the government under which they lived. These vices are the effects of his political condition rather than his nature.” Walter Lawrence concedes that in a country where there was practically no justice, the only weapon in the hands of the weak was lying or subterfuge. He states that two national features of their character are –lying and envy or malice. “A Kashmiri cannot see any one getting on in life.” However, detailing the good qualities, Walter Lawrence writes, “Kashmiris possess an individuality, and a national character which will cling to them wherever they go. Kashmiris are fond of their own country, its food, its water, and its dress….. Finally, though the character of a Kashmiri leaves much to be desired, I think that it is to their credit that it is not worse, considering the few chances they have had for becoming truthful, manly, and self-respecting….A man who can be beaten and robbed by any one with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men, and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris, and unfair to twit them with absence of such virtues. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”. Had Walter Lawrence been alive today, he would have been shocked to see the condition of Kashmiris who have had no chance to breathe and grow in the freedom he had envisaged for their transformation. They are stuck in a much worse condition! This is possible only because of some curse. Will this curse ever lift from us? Not until we mend our ways!

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