Lal Ded/ Lalleshwari/ Lalla Arifa
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
The spiritual world has known so many great mystics. Meerabai was one such woman mystic. Two centuries before her, there had been another wonderful woman mystic in Kashmir in the middle of the 14th century; she came to be known as Lalleshwari or Lalla and was revered as Lal Ded by people of all faiths.
Lalla went through many domestic hardships in an unfriendly family and this perhaps prompted her to turn to spirituality. She became a disciple of Sidh Srikanth and later, became a wandering saint. She expressed her insights in the form of vaakhs, sayings in quatrains, which have had great impact on the people of the Kashmir Valley. Her songs and hymns have been passed on from generation to generation, thus weaving a rich legacy of Kashmiri literature and wisdom.
Meerabai was totally devoted to Krishna. Her love for Krishna was unconditional. Lalla was a yogin, an advaita seer and a devotee of Shiva. The journey of Lalla was arduous as she did all kinds of sadhana with total sincerity and authenticity.
We see her talking to herself in her vaakhs which echo her central teaching of turning towards Self to reach life’s ultimate truth. So she quotes her guru saying just one thing: ‘Turn within, turn within!’ Her goal was to learn to plunge within and this is reflected in one of her vaakhs that the universal truth flows from within: “My guru whispered into my ear but one Guru Shabad. He asked me to seek myself within myself, not without. The magic worked, I became free and began dancing in blissful bloom.”
This reminds one of Kabir’s song, ‘Kasturi kundal base, mrig dhoondhe ban mahi’ – The musk deer wanders through the forest and tries to look for the source of musk fragrance but he does not know that it is inside him. Like Lalla, Kabir also did not believe in superficial divisions of caste and creed.
Though Lalla was initiated in the Shaiva tradition, the influence of Sufi thought can be seen in her outpourings. The Sufi influence in the Valley was growing, with Sufi masters coming in from Central Asia and Persia in the beginning of 14th century.
As a reformer, she conveyed the message of peace and harmony among all communities and did the ground work to promote a composite culture despite the turmoil due to social and political conflicts. She advocated non-violence, simple living, tolerance and kindness, thus becoming the bridge between Hindu mysticism and Sufism.
This endeared her to the Muslims as Lalla Arifa and to the Hindus as Lalleshwari. In Kashmir, they say that we know only two meaningful words; one is ‘Allah’ and another is ‘Lalla’. This exhibits the respect she commanded from both sides due to being able to spread universal truths, equality, mutual respect and love among people. We may trace in her vaakhs the seeds of the bhakti movement that soon began to gain momentum in other parts of India.
The communal rift that deepened over a period of time in the Kashmir Valley in more recent years is very painful to those who seek nothing but peace and harmony in the Valley. The thoughts of Lalla gain relevance and importance in the present situation, as a revival of her philosophy could help to restore the peace, harmony and mutual trust that prevailed in the Kashmir Valley before its troubles began.