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Lal Ded and Kashmiri Chroniclers

by P.N. Kachru

The Indian tradition in chronicle writing would have suffered from a great vacuum but for the genius of the lone ranger named Kalhan Pandit of the mid-twelfth century Kashmir. While honouring his lone leadership in the tradition of Indian historiography, Kalhana too has not been able to prove himself to be a dispassionate surveyor as behoven of an ideal chronicler and historiographer. Although he has thrown light on an assortment of clans and groups who wielded power, intrigued and conspired, but at the same time he has remained aloof and unobservant of the mainstream evolution of the society and its development of socio-intellectual thought. The luminaries and philosophers who founded, propagated, built and broadened the socio-cultural vision of the society, have remained obliterated from Kalhana's chronicleship. No doubt stray references to Kshemendra's Nripavali and mere passing mention of Anandavardhana and Ratnakara, it leaves an ocean of history in oblivion. The emergence of mighty movement of Kashmiri philosopher and thinkers who, not only founded the values of Sarvastivaad and Madhyamika movement, but also laid its foundations in Central Asian, Tibetan and West Chinese regions. As many as eighty philosophers and scholars have been identified who have founded the movements in these regions, while hundreds of them have revolutionized the Kashmirian society. Not to speak of only such scholars who enriched the Buddhist thought, but also those who led a thousand BC old Paashupata and Kaalamukha thought to the highest pinnacles of Shaivic philosophy. The great geniuses and seers like Vasugupta, and Utplacharya and the founder of Shaivic philosophy, Somanandanatha, have not found any place in Kalhana's chronicle. Even the world genius like Abhinauguptapaada, who created history in the neighbourhood times of the chronicler, does not find any place in Rajatarangini.However. Kalhana's to a greater extent his impartial approach towards the events of history is the chief ornament, which his followers have brazenfacedly done with and, instead have become the committed chroniclers of court intrigues, partisans and prejudicial commentators on palace intrigues.

Jona Raj (1459 AD), the neighbour-historian of Lal Ded, while surveying through the leaves of his Dvitiya Rajatarangini, does not even mention her name who had left her mortal frame only a few years before. On the other hand, for his obvious commitments, could spare his page to Nundarishi who was a mere toddler during the concluding years of Lal Ded's life. Jona Raj states 'Malls Noordeen yawanaanaam paramagurum'-the chiefest guru of Muslims, on whom impri­sonment was imposed by the King Sultan Ali Shah during 1413-16 AD. Shrivara, in his Zaina Rajatarangini (1459 - 86 AD), Prajyabhat in his Rajavalipataka (1486 - 1513 AD) and his pupil Shuka in his Rajatarangini, all of them have remained discriminatingly unobservant of this genius of the times. These historians cannot be left uncensored for their negligence towards the culture of the land.

The Persian chronicles like Tarikh-i-Rashidi (1546 AD) of Mirza Duglat, Baharistan-i-Shahi (1614 AD), Tarikh-i-Kashmir (1617-18 AD) of Haider Malik of Chadura, all these have followed the foot steps of their Sanskrit historians who preceded them by remaining discretely silent over the life of Lal Ded. Her personality became a direct victim of the mutilation through a prejudicial interpretation that originated from a factual incident quoted by Jona Raj in his Rajatarangini. He writes that dining a hunting programme in the forests, Prince Shihab-ud-Din was confronted by a group of three yoginis. The chief of them (nayika) came forward and offered the prince a cupful of wine. Almost all the subsequent chroniclers carry on with the tale through the pages of their histories, wherein a leading yogini offers a cupful to the Sultan; but these authors change the contents of the cup either into juice or milk, thus hiding the fact and saving the Sultan from the exposure of having committed an un-Islamic act. Mirza Duglat in his Tarikh-i-Rashidi (1546 AD), remains discretely silent on the issue while Baharistan-i-Shahi (1614 AD) turns the cup of wine into a cup of juice. Later on another historian, Hyder Malik of Chadura, in his Tarikh-i-Kashmir (1617-18 AD) changes the cup of juice into a cup of milk. Furthermore, these expressions of theirs exhibit their ignorance and blindness to the knowledge, not knowing that the wine being one of the prime accessories for consecration in the shakta practice and worship. It becomes glaringly obvious that these historians, while interfering with the history, projected their prejudices and fundamentalist feelings in belying, misshaping and mutilating the events.

This process of mishandling and mutilation proceeded further ravageously. The meeting of a yogini with the Sultan is turned, as late as in mid-seventeenth century, into the meeting in the forest with Lal Ded herself. Baba Dawood Mishakati in his Asrar-ul-abraar (1654 AD), narrates that Sultan Alla-ud-Din's elder son, Shihab-ud-Din, during his hunting tour into the forest, met with Lal Ded who, on occasions, would roam into the forest. She asked Shihab-ud­-Din and his three colleagues to rest a while, and offering him (the Sultan) a cupful of juice, which she got through nowhere. Further down the years another historian, Narayan Kaul Ajiz in his Muntakhib-ul-Tawareekh (1710 AD) remains discretely silent on this event. Rafi-ud-Din Gafil, in his Navadir-e-Akhbar (1723 AD), repeats the episodes of the forest but instead that of Lal Ded mentions the appearance of a saintly woman from nowhere.

This craft of manipulative chronicleship continued to slip down the mire and groped through the darkness for the stories like the meeting between Lal Ded and Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani. No doubt, Khwaja Azam Dedmari in his Waqiyat-e-Kashmir (1735-36) has referred to the story, but thanks to him and his investigative method, the Khwaja declared that after inquiry and investigation, the story could not be proved out to be correct.

Despite this authenticative declaration of Azam Dedmari in mid-18th century, it was as late as in mid-19th century that Birbal Kachroo in his Majmua-al-Tawaiikh described the meeting of Lal Ded and Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani in a bazaar, and also stated the former's plunge into the flaming oven of a nearby baker.

Although the statements of Birbal Kachroo are flimsy enough to stand the tests of inquiry established by his predecessor Azam Dedmari only hundred years before him, it becomes necessary on our part to put Kachroo's statements to proper analysis and to a thorough dissection in order to straighten the events. The historian's statement creates an additional alarm and curiosity, as it was for the first time after more than four hundred and fifty years that the event was revealed to the author, though bereft of any proof of historic investigation.

Firstly, almost all the earlier chronicles starting from Jona Rajatarangini down to mid-17th century, have remained

silent about Lal Ded, it was first of all in Asrar-ul Abrar in 1654 AD that Baba Dawood Mishkati replaces the name of the nayika of the forest with the name of Lal Ded. Again, later on, Narain Kaul Ajiz (1710 AD), Azam Dedmari (1736.AD) and Mohammad. Aslam, till late 18th century have remained silent on the issue of the meeting with Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani. Therefore Birbal Kachroo’s statement stands unrelated and untenable.

Secondly, the dating of contemporaneity also does not indicate any synchronization. Excepting the statement of Azam Dedmari, all the chroniclers have relied either o approximations or their surmises; and, therefore, cannot be relied upon. The only categoric and precise statement of her death is from Dedmari stating that Lal Ded passed away during the rule of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din that lasted from 1355 to 1373 AD. Even taking the concluding year of Sultan's rule as the year of Lal Ded's year of death, and corresponding to this very year (1373 AD) Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani was in the process of movement, along with his seven hundred associates, to enter Kashmir valley for taking refuge from Taimur's tyrannical tests of riding the blazing metal horse. So there could not be any possibility of his meeting with Lal Ded, she just then having left her mortal frame. This analysis of dating further lends strength to Dedmari's investigative statement.

Thirdly, probing further into the datings, the stay of Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani, as documented by late Professor Jaya Lal Kaul, was from 1380 to 1386 AD. This statement of Professor Kaul further widens the gap of time between Lal Ded and Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani.

My reliability on the two sources-Dedmari's Tarikh-I-Kashmir and late Professor Jaya Lal Kaul's book on Lal Ded-is based, in the first case, on author's decisive and categoric statement about precise period and, in second case, for late Professor's dispassionate observance and study of documents as an observer and an outsider to the happenings of history and its documentations. Not only this, the late Professor stands out, till today, the lone ranger who has stood firm to set right the record of fictitious chronicleship, of which Lal Ded became a direct victim.


1. Dvitiya Rajatarangini shloka 348.

2. Shidhu chashakam

3. They use the Persian word afifah, which means a spiritual lady.

4. He calls it kasir-e-sharbati.

5. Terming it as kasir-e-shir.

6. And not as originally stated by Jonaraja.

7. The author's actual statement runs thus: "…………Dar aan zamaan Saltanti opisari mehtar ki Shahaab-ud-din bood dar jangle azmurh daur-e- shikaar me raft, dar aan zamaan Lalla Arifa gah gah dar dashto bayaabaan megushata roz-e-dar aan shikaar gaah ba-Shahaab-ud-din mulaaqat shod ……."

8-9. "Zani az alam namudaar shud"

10. "Nazdi arbaabi tehqiq saabit na shud"

11. "Lal Ded", by Prof. Jaya Lal Kaul, Sahitya Akademi publication.




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