LAL DED: The Mystic Poetess

A still from ‘Laila Aur Satt Geet’, where the protagonist is inspired by 14th century Kashmiri mystic poet Lal Ded.
A still from ‘Laila Aur Satt Geet’, where the protagonist is inspired by 14th century Kashmiri mystic poet Lal Ded.

Lal Ded is one of the mysterious as well as one of the most controversial personalities in Jammu and Kashmir. There are many views about her being and the stories that were and are weaved around her. Some are of the opinion that she doesn’t exist at all while some believe that she was the foremost poetess in the Kashmiri literature.

According to the NCERT English textbook of Class 7th, Lal-Ded (1320-1392), a 14th-century poet, was born in Padmanpore near Pampore, Pulwama. Known by various appellations like Lalla, Lal Arifa, Lalleshwari and Laleed, she is the most respected and renowned woman saint-poet of Kashmir.

Lalla was married at the age of 12, but her married life proved unhappy and she left her in-laws at the age of 24 to take renunciation.

She was greatly influenced by the Shaivite and Sufi schools of thought and gave up worldly pleasures and pursuits to know God.

Lal Ded not only became a mystic of the Kashmiri Shaivite sect but also a Sufi saint. She created the mystic poetry called Vaakhs (literally, sayings or speech). Each Vaakh, containing four lines, is a short poem structured around a theme, popularly known as Lal Vaakhs.

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Her poetry is considered the earliest composition in the Kashmiri language and plays an important role in the history of Kashmiri literature. Her Vaakhs represent the best teachings for mankind in the modern world. They inspire us to seek unity and harmony among the people of all religions and races. These Vaakhs describe the relationship between man and God and the deepest urge of the human soul, that is, 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 is rooted in humanism and is a treasure of wisdom, love, truth, peace and eternal joy. It reveals the real essence of religion.

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Lal Ded even greatly influenced Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din-Wali, the famous Kashmiri poet-saint, known for his great poetry. She is a towering personality in the history of Kashmiri literature.

Lalla has become a household name as a symbol of patience and continues to be popular even now for the great ideals of life she cherished.

Her Vaakhs have been translated into English by Richard Temple, Jaylal Kaul, Coleman Barks, Jaishree Odin and Neerja Mattoo. A solo play in English, Hindi and Kashmiri, titled, “Lal-Ded” based on her life, has been performed by the actress Meeta Vasisht all over India.

In short, Lal Ded is a person who needs a proper investigation or it needs a historical professionalism to come across the reality. There is a lot to be done in case of history to acquaint every Kashmiri, particularly the students, with the household name of Lal Ded in original sense.

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