All Roads Lead to Lal Ded
By Bilhan Kaul
Of all the literary greats of Kashmir, Lal Ded takes the cake as number one poet
not only among her peers but extends to six centuries down the line in our age
as well. Hence the question that is most important is her number one ranking in
Kashmiri literature justified? In doing so, we have not to resort to
sentimentality or romanticism which Bertand Russel describes as love for the
past but put her to the rigours of critical analysis and evaluation.
whether she was a saint poet and mystic is immaterial to present occupation and
need not detain us to explore her number one position among the poets of Kashmir
whether of past or of present.
Lal Ded, had
she lived in present times could easily have been existentialist scholar but
that she was saivite yogini as Richard Temple calls her reflects the mood of the
age in 14th Century. Kashmir Saivism was the fashion of 14th Century Kashmiri
Hindus and was followed by both classes and masses in equal measure. The fact
remains Lalla was a poet of high quality and that is to state the obvious. She
was definitely a Saivite Yogini and used it as an instrument to give way to her
poetic genius. In the end, she chose her own path with inspiration often
preceding the thought.
wrote her poetry with fury and passion and even with intellectual arrogance. Her
poetry came to her in a fit of emotion, seized her entire being inspired her to
vomit gems of Kashmiri literature. Lal Vaakhs are forceful enough to hit you on
the face before you realize what has hit you. Most importantly, you should not
read or hear them in English translation. In doing so, as in the case of all
poetry does not convey even the one fourth of original Idea or to put it
differently, does not convey in any manner the skills of Lalla. Therefore, read
them in Kashmiri language. Never mind if the alphabets are Roman or Devnagri.
more than a mere saivite Yogini. She was a philosopher, teacher, pacifist,
social reformer. But her genius lay in her poetic compositions. Incidentally,
her competitor as number one Kashmiri poet is another woman Habbakhatoon. Lal
Vaakhs are forceful while Habbakhatoon's composition are more down to earth. Lal
Vaakhs are philosphers's stone as against Habba Khatoon whose concerns are more
mundane. Lal Ded preaches as against Habba Khatoon's compositions which are born
in the backdrop of intense agitation and poetic sermons acts as a balm on that
agitation. Lalla walks alone confident of herself and her knowledge. Habba
Khatoon is not so sure of herself and creates poetry for her solace. Lalla
creates poetry to confirm her confident status.
She is a
mystic and her concerns are universal. Habba Khatoon is an out and out a
Kashmiri poet and uses Kashmiri beauty to create a top class imaginary. The
theme of her poetry is that she has just missed the bus. Lal Ded was already on
board surveying the scene as an outsider. Habba Khatoon wanted to swim with the
tide as against Lal Ded had no inclination to swim with current. She was forever
a rebel. A rebel with purpose. A rebel with cause. Her sympathies are not for
people or for even her own self. She searched for meaning in life and it was
life long mission for her. Habba Khatoon created poetry to create sympathy for
her and for her condition. Her poetry was created in isolation and yet was meant
for people. Habba Khatoon's Vatsun was meant to create awareness. As against Lal
Vaakhs, where, search was more essential.
In the end,
Lal Ded beats Habba Khatoon as premier poet of Kashmir because Lal Ded had more
skill and her Vaakhs viewed with cool head created more impact.
scholars notably PN Bazaz has suggested that she was influenced by Sufis and
that she brought about synthesis between Islam and Hinduism. I must say that
this is quite outrageous claim. We have no evidence that Lalla was influenced by
Sufism. In any case, Islam was just beginning to penetrate Kashmir during
Lalla's time and the interaction of Lal Ded with Hamdani is totally false. She
was out and out a Hindu who was impressed with Saivism. Her Guru Sedamol
initiated her in Saivite philosophy and in following Vaakh she conveys her
Dupnam Andar Achun
Sui Gau Lali
Vaakh Tu Vachun
was in the practice of Yogic penances can be seen in the following Vaakh which
is easily her best.
Kaurmas Daman Hale
Deef t Nanayum Zaath
Prakaash Nubar Chotum
Gati Rotum t
is simply mind blowing in its intensity. Watch out for skills and dexterous use
of Kashmiri language and watch out for metre in the above Vaakh. Marvellous is
least one can say. This Vaakh is also noticeable for the force with which it is
hint of rising above religious dogma in the following Vaakh.
Chai N Dharun Tu Parun.
Chai N Rachinai Kai
Chai N Deh Sandarum
Vuyachurn Chui Vapudesh.
In the last
two stanzas she is also contradicting herself what has been stated earlier. In
view of the difficulty in writing Kashmiri language in Roman script I limit
myself to following one Vaakh to convey to reader her poetic genius.
Drayus Kapsi Poshi
Dunyu Kadnam Lath
Kharnam Zauz Tuyi
Gayum Alunz Lath
Chavnas Bu Kani Pyathai
Saz Tu Sabun
Phirnam Hani Hani Kachai
Ad Lali Mai
mentioned Vaakh confirms why Lalla is premier poet of Kashmir. It also confirms
why she walks tallest among the many great poets of Kashmir. It is a show piece
poetry. It is a poetry of highest order. It has all the ingredients of greatest
poetry written by mankind. It has everything which poetry lover wants to find.
Skill, imagery, metaphor, philosophical outpourings and the determination to
Lal Ded as number one position keeping in view number of factors. And when we
consider those factors all roads lead to Lal Ded. She rules among the minds and
hearts of Kashmiris.
influence is also evident when a section of Kashmiri society tried to
communalize her name and give it Islamic connotation.
of effort was undertaken to appropriate her in Islamic ethos. All we can say is
that Lal Ded belonged to mankind and not just to Kashmiris.
Lalla was quite appalled by depredations carried by Muslim invaders. This is
evidenced by following Vaakh.
Thali Thali Rozan
Mu Zan Hind
Chuk Paan Praznaay
Shvi Sati Zam Zan
certainly not the Vaakh that makes non distinction between Hindus and Muslims.
It tells foreigners to maintain human dignity and not discriminate between man
and man. It tells them to look inwards and realize one's own self as God is
seeing in the heaven.
In the end,
it is a tribute to Lal Ded that she continues to occupy our minds and hearts
even after more than six centuries after he death. She defined Kashmiri poetry
and set standards for others to follow. And to tell the truth her standards are
still hard to climb. She was her own self and genre of poetry that she created
was unique. Lal Ded's poetry gives the impression that she was poet of
intellect. Yet, all her poetry rose from deep recesses of the heart.
translations of her compositions fail to do justice to her. Because translator
seeks to focus on wards and search for its equivalent. By doing so flavour and
unity of the poetry is lost. That is why translations by Prof. Jaya Lal Koul or
PN Bazaz in English fail to do justice to her compositious. Because poetry is
not all about meaning it should be captured by senses much before one seeks to
get the meaning.