GEMS  OF  KASHMIRI  LITERATURE
AND  KASHMIRIYAT
The Trio of Saint Poets - I
by
P. N. Razdan (Mahanori)

LALLESHWARI

Bio-Data and Background Information


Lalleshwari
(Born 1320 Death 1390 A.D)
Born at Pandraethan Village (ancient Puranadhisthana)

Lalded was married at the age of twelve to one Pandit boy at Pampore (ancient Padmanpora) where presumably she was renamed Padmawati, as per the Kashmiri Pandit tradition, by her-in-laws.

Ref: Nunda Reshi's Shruik:

The Lalia of Padmanpora,
Gulp by gulp Amrit who drank,
who saw Shiva face to face everywhere:
Grant me too that boon,
O. Lord Shiva!
C/p Tran (JLK P. 88)

The Hindus called her Lalleshwari and the Muslims Lalla Arifa. But both endearingly called her Lal DED (Grandmother or Grandma). This is certain and continues as such to date.

Note:  Lal in Kashmiri means an unnatural growth internal or external, bodily projection. Lalla's belly had grown like a hanging lump of fleshy cloak down to her knees.

In the absence of authentic historical records there seems to be much confusion about the exact dates of her birth and death. According to Noor Namas and Reshi Namas she was born sometime between 1300- 1320 A.D. and died round about 1377 A.D.

The renowned, modem historian Sh. P.N. Kaul, Bamzai, puts it in the middle of the 14th Century. Some put her year of birth as 1335 A.D. and Prof. C.L.Sapru locates, her date of birth in 1360 A.D. These sources and recently, "Kashmir: Behind the Vale". record her year of demise as 1377 A.D.

One is unable-to recollect the dates recorded, if any, in a persian booklet (lssar-ul-lbrar) which I had studied, with the help of a Persian knowing friend, long ago, as desired by J & K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages to focus attention on the vegetarian aspect of the most popular Kashmiri saint, Nund Reshi, whose shrine at Chrari- Sharief is thronged by devotees, both Hindus and Mulsims, everyday and who is said to have been her spiritual heir.

According to these conflicting, approximative presumptions, the date of Lalla's demise, 1377 A.D. coincides with the year of birth of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani Thus the contention doesn't seem to stand on firm ground and is self-contradictory. As is well known, both Lall Ded and Nunda Reshi were, quite discernibly contemporaries for quite sometime. After extensive study and intensive research work, in 'LAL DED 1973 Prof. J.L. Koul opines that the dates of birth and death of Lalleshwari was some time between (B 1317-20A D ) & (d 1387-90 A D ) These dates seem to be in consonance with Circumstantial evidence and hence more authentic and nearest the truth.

Extensive and intensive research work by youthful scholars in collaboration with experts is the need of the hour to arrive at logically and correct dates of birth and death of both Lal Ded and Nund Reshi.

MATRIMONIAL RELATIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS

Lal Ded could not be and was no exception to the common lot of womanhood, the world over in general and Indian womenfolk in particular. Her mother-in-law, perhaps as a means of cathartic projection of her own experience, often incited her son against his wife. Being unintelligent and too dull to observe and appreciate the nobility of Lalleshwari and the divine sparks in her, he would thoughtlessly slight and perplex her. Lal Ded remained ill--treated and ill-fed despite the family control of her affectionate father-in-law.

Lalia's hypocritical mother-in-law was cunning and tricky. She would usually place a large round shingle underneath the cooked rice in her plate at lunch and dinner-time to display her deceptive affection for Lal Ded and, at the same time, to show to others how hefty the latter was. Lalleshwari would always finish eating quickly the scanty rice, wash her plate and the pebble and deposit them at their specified places before attending to other chores.

She would not utter a word of protest, much less complain against such a strange way of ill-treatment, but take every care to sheild her husband as well as mother--in-law and their honour.

Once, while carrying a pail of water on her head from a brook, Lalleshwari was intercepted by her husband. He fell upon her, breaking to pieces the earthen pot with a rod. The pieces fell to the ground but the water remained frozen pitcher shaped at its place. After filling all the vessels at home, she asked her stunned mother-in-law if there were any other vessels to be filled. On getting a negative reply, Lalleshwari threw the remaining water out at a place which later came to be known as Lalla-Trag (marsh) It has dried up since.

Such a particular aspect of self-denial, patience, self discipline and forbearance are unparalleled in human behaviour.

However, once on a festive occasion while filling a pitcher at the river ghat, she was asked by her girl friends what the festivity and merriment at her home was all about. She said

"Whether they slaughter a ram or a lamb, Lalla will never miss her shingle".

The allusion to her routine travail is reflective of the stress of circumstantial exasperation seeping into her delicate demeannour and ticking her divine leanings. This led Lalleshwari slowly and steadily to resort to secret spiritual practices deep sadhana and yoga in seclusion. A highly talented and reputed scholar yogi of the time, Sidha Sri Kanth (Seddha Mol) of Srinagar became her guru.

"He whose senses are under control attains the status of a place of pilgrimage", says Abhinav gupta.

Accordingly, Lalleshwari lived a life of purity guided by the discipline of the doctrine and principles of yogic philosophy. Her experiences matured, knowledge deepened and transformed the ascetic in her into a yogini of the highest order". Says Yoganandaji Maharaj. "Lalleshwari is the supreme mistress of Yoga ''Thus, purified by the crystal clear waters of Vedanta, it seems, and drinking the milk of Upanishadic thought, she invigorated and revitalised the Trika-Philosophy, the three fold science of an individual, his immediate and remote environment in the universe, pervaded by the supreme energy in its totality (To use Swami Laxmanji's interpretation).

Says Lalleshwari:

Shiva's present everywhere.
Where lies the creek to distinguish
Between a Hindu and a Mussalman?
Quick witted if you are,
Recognise yourself and realise God !
- Commentary on Lall Vaakh No 1

Lord Shiva is almighty all pervading, Omnipresent Omniscient and exists in the very electric charges pulsating in the nucleus of even the smallest atoms of matter and seeped in all that exists universally in material or immaterial substances, perceptible or imperceptible to bodily senses or special sensations as well as in the mystries of emptiness or the secrets of the Wilderness of the Void in boundary less space crowned by a bejewelled emerald blue skies presided over by the model of sobriety the Puran-Mashi full moon that shine and emit serene soft light to dispel and twinkle off the dreadful darkness of gloomy nights and lulls us to a pleasant, dreamless sleep after scorching summer days. And the glaring bright sun, projects forth warmth bearing light to sustain biological life and causes phenomenal, natural changes in the atmosphere, hydraulic cycles as well as physico-chemical actions and reactions, continental drifts and storage of energy in various forms, known or unknown, all for uniform benefit of life on earth without any distinctions or discriminations of any kind what-so-ever.

Lalleshwari's concept of Shiva's universal presence or Omniscience combined with the qualities of eveness, truth, goodness and beauty enjoin upon us to follow her didactic message of imbibing the qualities of impartiality of judgement, indiscriminating attitude towards all, equality, equanimity, love and affection for the socio-economic, socio-political as well as socio-cultural and religious harmony. Hence she says,

"Shiva is Omnipresent
Distinguish not between a Hindu
and a Mussalman"

For they say. 'Love begets love', and may I add 'Evil begets evil'.

And the latter is too contagious to control and disturbs the mind, raises tempers, causes tensions, leading to violence that becomes a perpetual source of turmoil and threat to life and property—a life of chaos and Vagrancy.

How apt is the age-old Kashmiri saying.

I bought nettle transplanted it,
But-alas! I myself became the first Victim.
of its painful pricks.

Hence, the truth of Shiva is Omnipresent (Omniscience). Distniguish not between a Hindu and a Mussalman!

Note: Besides its other interpretations, this Vaakh reflects the ethical and metaphysical aspects of her systematic spiritual life.

C/P JLK 57 NKK 57
C/P Parallel NSP No One P.P. No. 1/

Guru Shishya Discussion

The following discussion between the Guru and his disciples should be of interest to the reader:

Once, Lal Ded's husband approached her guru, Sedha Mol, requesting him to help make Lal Ded return home, The guru agreed and the discussions that took place included an interesting interlogue.

Husband:

No light equals the light of the sun,
No pilgrimage is there like the one
To the Ganga
No relative excels a brother, and
No comfort is there like that of a wife!

Sedha Mol:

No, light parallels the light of
One's eyes;
No pilgrimage is there, like
The one, on one's knees.
No relative's better than one's own pocket, and
No comfort is there, like a warm blanket:

Lal Ded:

There is no light like
The knolwedge of ultimate TRUTH,
No pilgrimage, like the one
of the love of the Supreme,
No relative like the Lord himself,

Commentary to Lalla Vaakh

a) Unlike the English word 'Nude'  equivalent to the English word 'naked' which is used in Kashmiri in multipurpose senses.

i) Without normal apparel
ii)   Scantily dressed
iii) Sparsely apparelled
iv) Unmindful of dress worn by lady irrespective of the normals of time.
b) Likewise the Kashmiri word  is double meaning equivalent to roaming about or dancing.

c) Kashmiri phrase 'nangai natchun' apparently seems to be current rumour for common people like us.

d) Despite the popular notion of the vertically downward projection of Lalla's belly into a fleshy lump to cover her private organ may or may not be a fact. For, in the light of her spiritual perfection, it seems controversially irrational and incongruous. For, her short or affectionate pet name of address and the surrounding neighbourhood must certainly also have been 'LALA' (or 'LALAl' etc. in feminist accent) and the same probably followed her in her in-law's house.

The inspiring que of my interpretation came from Prof. J.L. Koul's scholarly book 'LALDED' of 1973.

For, for her Gurus 'Gur-Shabad' i.e. her Guru's advice

"Draw within from without, tickled Lalleshwari's' spiritually susceptible inclination and she at once by a reflex action withdrew from without to merrily delve down deep into the domain of her choice to probe into the depths of her inner soul. Absorbed thus she roamed about the depths of her soul in relation to her body and the super soul called Almighty Lord. The process advanced in a happy concentrated mood in dancing and treking to reach and analyse the truth of ultimate reality of the focus of the energy of the energies of which only a few of such energy rays are known to us in the form of heat, height, etc. In this way she almost became one -with the Lord of the Universe the source of eternal dynamism of the Universe."

Hence the rumour of is simply a misnomer.

And, no comfort like
The fear of God:

C/P & contrast LAL DED by JLK published by Sahetya Academy of 1973 page 18.

The Turning Point

Lalleshwari's bubbling desire of spiritualism and her innate leanings towards the spirit, had drawn her to a high ranking, reputed Sadaki and realised Yogni by Guru Sedha Mol as said before . He administered her with his Guru Shabad- (Guiding directive). This ultimately Proved to be her fuming point.

Says Lalleshwri.
My Guru gave me but one Gurashabad;
He told me to move within from without.
That hit my (Lalla's) Nail, on the head;
I realised myself and shed off the veil;
Self realised, I began to dance
In freedom.

C/P JLK 21, NKK 21
  or 3(a)

My Guru whispered into my ear
But one Guru Shabad;
He asked me to seek myself
Within myself, not without,
The magic worked,
I become free and,
Began dancing in
Blissful Boom:

What use to me are
Those fives, tens-and elevens
Who lick cooking kettles and go away
If we gather together and pull
The same rope, in the same direction,
Then, how can a single cow
Elude eleven of us?

Thou are the sky, the earth and air,
Thou the day and night;
Thou art the grain, flowers and sandalwood,
Thee, the water, universe, all;
Then what remains to adorn thee with
O. Lord ?

C/O JLK 70, NKK 70.

No need's there of garden, flowers
Oil lamps, water or sesamum:
He, Go with faith and Bhakti
Heartily trusts his Guru's word.
And, of his oven volition,
Contemplates on Shiva,
He'll do what he says
With easel

CIP JLK 67, NKK 67

With a florists heart and
Abiding faith,
Offer Him thy flowers of  Bhakti:
In bone with sacred Mantras use
A 'Naeri Kalush ' to pour the nectar of
Obeisance on Him;
Thy mute prayers to Shiva'll thus
Heed, thy Soul:

C/P Vaakh No 6,7 ,11 Shruk No Poem i/10, IV 4 XV (15,6)
C/P JLK 69, NKK 69.

Note: The two Vaakh, 6&7 and, the chronology of her existence testify to her being the pioneer and forerunner of the Bhakti movement of India.

Salvation 'ld I obtain
Even while living
A Social life, day and night:
Ever beloved of the gods are
Those, that live for others
(OR Those That are selfless :)

C/P Shruk No 4,5 Poem No Xl/3
C/P JLK 110, NKK 110

Exhausted I was, seeking myself
Within myself;
Co'cooned around me was
The secret of mystic knowledge
Tended and rocked it till
I attained my goal:
Found I there, pitchers and pitchers
Of nector but, --- no drinkers

C'P JLK 99 NKK 99

Thou art within me
And without:
I contemplated, scanned and
Analysed myself and thee:

A century later, Sant Kabir gave vent to a similar spiritual experience in one of his dohas:

The more you observe the red glow-
Of my red pearl, the redder (beloved )
It becomes;
I went to see the redness,
And, I too fumed red

A double century later, Mira Bai burst into song:

None but Girdhar Gopal
Is mine,

Thus she too bathed in the sun-shine of one God.

Century after century from 14th century onwards, Lalleshwari and Nund Reshi were followed by Ramanands, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Mira Bai all, high-ranking saints of the Bhakti Movement. While Tulsi Das (contemporary of Akbar) composed Ramayana, Mira Bai took solace in Lord Krishna who was her Girdhar Gopal.

However, the honour of being the first scribe of the Kashmiri language in the form of Mahany Prakash, goes to Shitikanth. Lalleshwari is credited with laying the reinforced concrete basis of the language by her dextrous coinage of apt idioms and proverbs to infuse life and dynamism into it from its very infancy. The language, thus enriched and ornamented by lively idiom pregnant proverb, depth of philosophical thought and messages of social welfare and peace, became the main vehicle of communication of ideas among the Kashmiri people.

Her cryptic, terse sayings still continue to enliven scholarly discussion and resolve social problems.

Votary of Vegetarianism and critic of animal sacrifice

O, you dull pandit, you offer
A living ram to a lifeless stone,
It 'li cover you in woollens.
And shield you against cold;
It'll feed on water and natural grass,
And crumbs:
Who has advised you to sacrifice
A live-lamb as an offering
To a dead rock ?

C/P JLK 65. NKK 65

The stone that forms the temple
and the prayer hall,
The very same stone forms
The sanctum sanctorum.
And the rolling mill:
Shiva is hard to reach,
Take the cue:

C/o JLK 66,NKK66.

Commentary for Vakayas No 11, 12

As a Shaivite, mistress yogni, the Divine for Lalleshwan is NIRANKAR formless, limitless, boundless, timeless, changeless, non conceiveable (mentally or physically), non--confined to any place and yet, not non-existent anywhere, either. To her, God is one absolute Truth, infinite and Omnipresent, all pervading. She has realised her inner sun and moon in objectless, self-consciousness, vacuum, nothingness (void, emptiness and essence of cosmic consciousness.

Lalleshwari is firm on NIRGUNA aspect of goodhood, without any attributes, qualities, objectives or " person-ifications such as, God is gracious, merciful, just or great, as against its complementry SAGUNA counterpart, wherein visual or verbal images are used as catalysts of concentration on the focussing object, both as mental or material images so usually used by the followers of different religious sects in one form or the other as rightly noted by the author of "Negationism in India ", by an European scholar.

But all such limiting boundaries thin out and vanish automatically as a sadakh draws within from without, probes his inner-self and is self-realised. Refer to L.V .44 etc. and
 
 

Vaakh Trio (a)  Specific :1/57. (21/89).22/118.
       27/127. 30/130. 30-A/130.
       35/84. 37/58(44/134) (45/133).
       51/103.54/102. 55/112.
Lalded by JLK 1973.  (b) 13/116.28/24. 29/7. 32/14. 33/68. 34/69. 40/113. 46
NKK 1988  (c) 5/70. 9/99. 10.23/1
N. Reshi 1.2.6.21. etc.
P. Poems 1st/4,5,9,19,25,.etc.
European authors "Negatonism in India"  Pages 154 to 165 (only photostat copy of these pages available with me).
Kalyan
Kalpataru,
1993 (Pages 555-557.571-72)
The Journal Of Poetry Society India 1993, Vol 3, 
No.1 Page. 27
 Whereas saguna form of worship may appear to be analogous to a growing infant or child seeking sustenance and shelter from and  rushing to his mother's lap for consolation and comfort, in NIRGUNA. A Yogi seeks liberation of his soul from boundage, to become one with the. Supreme Soul.

On studying L.V. Number 11 and 12 along with L. V. Number 1,3,5, 6 one gets the impression that Lalleshwari abhors the grotesqueness and irrationality of animal sacrifice in which, a living lamb is killed as an offering to a non-living stone idol, the focussing object of worship or likewise, the depletion of aesthetics in and, irreverential installation of the focussing symbols do not seem to be in good taste.

Lalleshwari was a thought provoking saint-poetess, profound Shaivite philosopher. deep thinker, creative artist and the builder of the Kashmiri language. She has been and still continues to be an unmatched sage, seer, sadakh par excellence. As such she relieves in nirankari Divinity and nirguna type of worship and Sadhana as observed above. She is a ruthles critic of ritual religion and, worship too. And yet, says she:

With a florist's heart and
Abiding faith
Offer him the flowers of BHAKTI.

IMMORTALITY AND THE PHILOSOPHY OF EQUALITY

Shiva is omnipresent,
Distinguish not between
A Hindu and a Mussalman

We existed ever before and'll exist for ever;
We permeate all, did so earlier and'll
Continue prevailing all, for ever;
The immortal soul shuttles between life and death,
The sun ceases not rising and setting.
nor is it destroyed:
Siva ceases not coming and going:

C/P JLK 116, NKK 116.

Thus does this versatile genius of a Yogni and poetess of eminence communicate her enlightened experience on the path of self-recognition and the 'thrill of self consciousness' and widening vision to quote late Swami Laxmanii.

Hefty eating in quick succession'll
Lead you no where:
Meagre eating or non-eating'll
excite your ego;
Be moderate in food and
moderate you'll be in everything.
Sustained moderation'll open the doors of
Warm Welcome for you;

C/P JLK 27, NKK 270

i) According to Washington report 4 (INA) from the National Institute of Aging, Baltimore, less eating prevents incidence of aging by controlling against diseases.

ii) Also read L.V. Number 41.

Sadhana without the purity of spirit in action has no meaning for Lalleshwari, Sadhana, without the removal of the cloak of evil, bears no fruit, Lalleshwari skilfully conveys the ticklish message by blaming herself rasher then others in the matter (C/P also Vaak.h No. 48)

Learning by rote, my tongue and palate
Dried .
That thou art my destiny.
I found not the right way
To act and reach thee.
Telling the beads,
My thumb and finger
Wore out; and yet, my friend
I couldn't get rid of
The duality of mind:
C/P JLK 44 NKK 44

Note :- A Persian couplet quoted in the preface comfortably comes to my mind again right now saying

There's no righteousness except in the service of man.

And respect, for all life:
Spiritualism doesn't establish itself by
telling the heeds, prayer and kneeling alone:
Nor does it impress by donning
A Hermit's robes

MULTI FACETED PROFUNDITY OF LALLA'S VAAKHS

Lalleshwari seems to have delved deep into the realms of her self-consciousness guided by sparkling rays of the inner, master Sun, which reveals the ultimate Truth, gifts one with the right choice of inspiring words of wisdom that kill all evil and pain, of every kind, cool and compose the soul and delight the mind with intuitive foresight and divine discrimination and discernment.

Let the reader relish and estimate for himself/herself the sweetness of expression and profundity of divine, social and cultural message in the foregoing and the following Vaakhs of Lal Ded.

Underneath your very feet. is
A concealed ditch,
And you are dancing over't
Tell me dear, how does your
Mind allow it ? How do you like it?
Your life long collections, all
You have to leave behind
Tell me dear, how
Do you relish your food?

Ref. Trans (JLK3) NKK3.
 

The flesh of my feet stuck to
The Tracks
only one showed me, the only
One path to the only ONE
Even if those, that hear this
May go mad:
From hundreds of path., Lalla
Chose only but one:

Ref. Trans (JLK 87 NKK87)

The Finale:

Towards the late seventies or eighties of the fourteenth Century A. D. Lalleshwari is said to have gone to Bijbehara town in Anantnag district in South Kashmir. There, her soul said to have left her physical body to merge into the Supreme Soul

A dispute is said to have arisen between the Hindus and the Muslims, the former wanting to cremate the body according to Hindu rites wereas the latter wanted to bury it according to the Muslim, code. For she was the grandma Lal Ded for all irrespective of creed or status in life.

Appreciating the sentiments, the siprit of the yogini is said to have asked those present to bring two large washbasins. The body is said to have sat inside one and inverted the other over her head. Thereafter the body is stated to have shrunk slowly till the two washbasins overlapped. After sometime of those present are said to have ventured to remove the upper washbasin. They found there nothing but a liquid formation. Half of the liquid is said to have been taken by the Hindus for cremation and the other half by the Muslims for burial adjacent to the local Jama Masjid .

An analogous episode is said to have repeated itself more than a century later on the demise of Sant Kabir. After a similar dispute over the mode of disposal of the body, the, saint's corpse kept in the coffin is said to have turned into flower-petals, half of which were cremated by the Hindus and the other half buried by the Muslims.

For the present, it will be enough to conclude the discussion with a quotation from a modern scribe, Fida Mohd Husains, recently published book entitled. . "The Beautiful Kashmir Valley" published by Rima publishing House New Delhi. I quote.

" The earliest Kashmiri work is MAHANAY PRAKASH written by Shati Kanth. Lalleshwari composed her philosophy in the language of the people, she expressed her spiritual and mystic experiences in Kashmiri. Her songs became popular and the people committed to their heart and passed on from generation to generation.

To crown all, her message did cut through the man-made barriers of religions. Hindus as well as Muslims became her votaries with equal gusto. Her appeal was humanistic and not sectarian. Her approach was of positive affirmation and not of negative abjuration.

Lalleshwari did not preach any religion, she even disdained ritual. She projected a way of life quite in harmony without cultural traditions, in which a happy amalgamation was made of what was good in Buddhism and even Islamic.

Her Clarion call to assimilate human values in those days won for her the esteem and acclaim of Hindus and Muslims alike and the edge of ruthless proselytisation got blunted. It was no mean an achievement on her part in uniting the lost children of one god. Her message was so appealing that the tallest of Muslim Rishis of Kashmir  Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din Noorani made her his ideal and expressed what he owed to her in these words :-

"That Lalla of Padmpur was fortunate enough in gulping the ambrosial nectarine draughts; thereby she wojour adoration as in incarnation of immortal Divinity. Benevolent God, grant me also such a boon."
 

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