Lal Ded is a household name in Kashmir. She is a saint and a poet whose Vakhs are sung by almost every women in Kashmir and through Lal Ded Kashmiri languge has got a chance to survive. All her life passed into a legend and along with her verses became a part of local storytelling and oral performance tradition, handed down from generation to generation.
Lal Ded was the leading poetess of 14th century. She was born in 1320 and died in 1392. She was born in Padmanpor near Pampore, District Pulwama. Lal Ded is known by various appellations like Lalla, Lal Arifa, Lalleshwari, Lal Yogeshwari and Lalla the great.
Lal Ded was the first poet in Kashmiri literature. Her verse-sayings are timeless and deeply embedded in Kashmiri culture. Her poetry was in the form of devotional poems containing five lines called Vaakhs. These vaakhs describe the relationship between man and God and the deepest urge of human soul, i.e., to be one with the Almighty. In one of her vaakhs, she talks about the temporary nature of this world and advises people not to get overwhelmed by worldly pleasures and charms. Her poetry teaches humanism and is a treasure of wisdom, love, truth, peace and eternal joy.
Lal Ded received brief education in religious texts from the family priest who has been identified as a learned scholar and yogic practitioner Siddha Srikanth. But very soon she was married at the age of 12, in accordance with the customs of her community. but her married life proved unhappy because of the ill treatment of her in-laws. It is said that she never complained, even when she was humiliated and did not receive proper food which made her constantly half-fed. There is even a Kashmiri saying: “Whether they killed a goat Lalla had always a stone for her dinner” as her mother in law used to put a flat stone on her plate and cover it with rice so it would look as a bigger heap of food. It can be assumed that she did not want to complain as she gradually turned to ascetic exercise which required deeply rooted self-imposed discipline. Being unable and unwilling to withstand constant control and limitations resulting from rigid rules of family life, Lal Ded abandoned her marriage and material life and became a shelterless mystic without any possession, wandering in rags and reciting poetry. When Lal Ded left her in-laws, she was 24 years old and took to Sanyas (renunciation).
Lal Ded is a towering personality in the history of Kashmiri literature. She has become a household name as a symbol of patience. She greatly influenced Sheikh Noor-u-Din Wali (RA), the famous Kashmiri poet and saint, known for his great poetry.
Lal Ded spoke and spread her message in Kashmiri language, which was easily understood by the man in the street, accessible to everyone, even illiterate people, irrespective of creed, caste or sex.Due to her exceptional talent it was vernacular, full of idioms, poetic expressions and at the same time flawless and simple.
Her vaakhs have been translated into English by Richard Temple, Jayalal Kaul, Coleman Barks, Jaishree Odin and Neeraja Mattoo.
“The vaakhs of Laleshwari have become part of day to day conversation in Kashmiri households. Her religion is not bookish. Her religion is a mix of people, hopes and miseries”
Lad Ded passed away around 1376. It is debatable whether she was cremated in accordance with Hindu/Pandit tradition, or buried accordingly to Muslim tradition. She would probably respond in her own way:
“Alike for me is life and death,
Happy to live happy to die,
I mourn for none, none mourns for me”.
Questions and Answers
Q. 1. What are the titles given to Lal Ded?
Ans. Lal Ded is called by a number of titles. She is Lalla-Arifa (Lalla, the Realised One) for Muslim scholars, Lalla Yogishwari (Lalla, the adept in Yogic practices), Lalleshwari or Lalla Yogini for Hindus (Kashmiri Pandits) or simply Lalla or Mother Lalla – as lay Kashmiri people of all faiths like to call her.
The titles given to Lal Ded are Lalla Lalleshwari, Lallayogeshwari, Lal Arifa, and Laleed.
Q. 2. Why did she leave her in-laws?
Ans. Lal Ded’s married life was unhappy because her husband and mother-in-law mistreated her. Her husband had no sensitivity to appreciate her deeper expectations from life. Besides, the mother-in-law was oppressive and unable to understand her even though she was performing all the duties of a traditional daughter-in-law. Finally Lal Ded was unable to withstand constant control and limitations resulting from the rigid rules of family life, she abandoned her marriage and left her in-laws.
Lal Ded was unhappy at the bridegroom’s house because her husband and mother-in-law mistreated her. It is said that she never protested even though she was humiliated and did not receive the proper food that made her constantly half-fed. There is even a Kashmiri saying, “Whether they killed a goat, Lalla had always a stone for her dinner,” as her mother-in-law used to place a flat stone on her plate and cover it with rice to make it appear like a larger heap of food. It can be concluded that she did not want to complain as she gradually turned to ascetic exercise which required deeply rooted self-imposed discipline. Being unable and unwilling to withstand constant control and limitations resulting from rigid rules of family life, Lal Ded abandoned her marriage and material life and became a shelterless mystic without any possession, wandering in rags and reciting poetry.
Q. 3. Where did she go and what did she do?
Ans. She took Sanyas (renunciation) and went to Shaivite and Sufi School. She gave up the pursuits and pleasures of the world to know God.
Q. 4. What is the Vaakh?
Ans. The devotional poetic verse-sayings or outpouring of Lal Ded usually written in quatrains are called vaakhs. They are also called vatsuns or Lalla-vaakhs, literally meaning Lalla’s speeches. Lal Ded has expressed her mystical experience and her accomplishment through Vaakhs. Her Vaakhs are by and large the spiritual sayings or mystical musings of a God-centred soul. These vaakhs reveal the supreme truth about the man in relation to God.
Q. 5. What are the features of Lal Ded’s poetry?
Ans. Lal Ded has expressed her mystical experience and her accomplishment through quatrains known as Vaakh. Her Vaakhs reveal the supreme truth about the man in relation to God. She has conveyed the message of love, tolerance and higher exaltation of Self to Kashmiris in her mother tongue. They inspire to seek unity and harmony among the people of all races and regions. Her poetry is the emblem of humanism and a treasure of the wisdom, love and truth.
Q.6. Who came under the influence of Lal Ded?
Ans. Nund Rishi (Sheikh Nur-ud-Din), who is considered to be another important pillar of Kashmiri identity, came under the influence of Lal Ded.
Q. 7. Who translated her poetry into English?
Ans. Lal Ded’s poetry has been translated into English by Richard Temple, Jaylal Kaul, Coleman Barks, Jaishree Odin and Neerja Mattoo.
Match the following to form compound words. Write the new words in the space provided.
1. Omni + Present = Omnipresent
2. What + Ever = Whatever
3. Every + Where = Everywhere
4. Your + Self = Yourself
5. Under + Neath = Underneath
A. Add suffixes to the words in the brackets and fill in the blanks with the new words:
1. Polythene is a silent (kill) killer for the human race.
2. Smoking is (danger) dangerous to health.
3. It is very (dread) dreadful to use polythene.
4. The cat is (love) lovely pet.
5. Pahalgam has a good (scene) scenic beauty.
6. Some people spend a very (joy) joyous life.
7. Junaid is a very (admire) admirable guy.
8. Polythene is (slow) slowly destroying the earth.
9. That was a (wonder) wonderful scene.
10. There are many (rhyme) rhyming words in the poem.
B. Add prefixes to the words in the brackets and fill in the blanks with the new words:
1. I am happy and I enjoy (joy) life.
2. Rashid can read and write. He is not an illiterate (literate) person.
3. Can we control polythene? Yes, nothing is impossible (possible).
4. Aabid is never irregular (regular).
5. Two and two make five. This is incorrect (correct).
6. Keep your luggage aside (side) and sit down.
7. We should exchange (change) our views with each other.