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Lal Ded (1320–1392), known as Laleshwari in other parts of the subcontinent, was a Kashmiri mystic of the Kashmir Shaivism school of philosophy.[1] She was the creator of the style of mystic poetry called vatsun or Vakhs, literally "speech" (Voice). Known as Lal Vakhs, her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language and are an important part in the history of modern Kashmiri literature.[2][3] She inspired and interacted with many Sufis of Kashmir.[4]

Lal Ded
paderthan, Kashmir
Other namesLalla, Lal Diddi, Laleshwari
Known forVatsun poetry

She is also known by various other names, including Lal Ded, Mother Lalla, Lalla Aarifa, Lal Diddi, Laleshwari, Lalla Yogishwari and Lalishri.[5][6][7]


Lalleshwari was born in Pandrethan (ancient Puranadhisthana) about 4.5 miles to the southeast of Srinagar, in a Kashmiri Hindu family during the time of Sultan Ala-ud-din.[8] There is evidence of the fact that in those times, liberal education was imparted to women. From her vakhs, it is thought that she was educated in the early part of her life at her father's house.[9] She left home at the age of 24 to take Sannyasa (renunciation) and become a disciple of the Shaivite guru, Siddha Srikantha (Sed Bayu), whom she ultimately surpassed in spiritual attainments.

She continued the mystic tradition of Shaivism in Kashmir, which was known as Trika before 1900.[10]

Literary worksEdit

Her poems (called vakhs) have been translated into English by Richard Temple, Jaylal Kaul, Coleman Barks,[11] Jaishree Odin, and Ranjit Hoskote.[12][13][14][15][16]

An example of Lal Vakh in Kashmiri:

yi yi karu'm suy artsun
yi rasini vichoarum thi mantar
yihay lagamo dhahas partsun
suy Parasivun tanthar −138

English translation:

Whatever work I did became worship of the Lord;
Whatever word I uttered became a prayer;
Whatever this body of mine experienced became
the sadhana of Saiva Tantra
illumining my path to Parmasiva. -138[17]

While the above translation uses the hindu terms in the translation that are actually there in the original, Lal Ded has since been appropriated by later day Islamic culture and analysed from Sufi prism.

Here is another translation of the same vakh, from a more poetic and islamic perspective:

Whatever work I've done,
whatever I have though,

was praise with my body
and praise hidden
inside my head.[18]


The leading Kashmiri Sufi figure Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali (also known as Nooruddin Rishi or Nunda Rishi) was highly influenced by Lal Ded. He ultimately led to the formation of the Rishi order of saints and later gave rise to many Rishi saints like Resh Mir Sàeb.[1] One Kashmiri folk story recounts that, as a baby, Nunda Rishi refused to be breast-fed by his mother. It was Lal Ded who breast-fed him.[19]

Lal Ded and her mystic musings continue to have a deep impact on the psyche of Kashmiris, and the 2000 National Seminar on her held at New Delhi led to the release of the book Remembering Lal Ded in Modern Times.[20] In his book "Triadic Mysticism", Paul E. Murphy calls her the "chief exponent of devotional or emotion-oriented Triadism".[citation needed] According to him, three significant representatives of devotionalism emerged in Kashmir in the five hundred years between the last half of the ninth and the end of the fourteenth centuries.[citation needed]

What this points to is the non-sectarian nature of Lal Ded's spiritual life and her song-poems. Yet, her life and work have been used for various religious and political agendas over time. As author and poet Ranjit Hoskote writes:

"To the outer world, Lal Ded is arguably Kashmir's best known spiritual and literary figure; within Kashmir, she has been venerated both by Hindus and Muslims for nearly seven centuries. For most of that period, she has successfully eluded the proprietorial claims of religious monopolists. Since the 1980s, however, Kashmir's confluential culture has frayed thin under the pressure of a prolonged conflict to which transnational terrorism, State repression and local militancy have all contributed. Religious identities in the region have become harder and more sharp-edged, following a substantial exodus of the Hindu minority during the early 1990s, and a gradual effort to replace Kashmir's unique and syncretically nuanced tradition of Islam with a more Arabocentric global template. It is true that Lal Ded was constructed differently by each community, but she was simultaneouslyLallesvari or Lalla Yogini to the Hindus and Lal'arifa to the Muslims; today unfortunately, these descriptions are increasingly being promoted at the expense of one another." [21]

Beyond several new translations of Lal Ded's vakh, there are other contemporary performative arts that are based on Lal Ded's life and poetry. For example, there are contemporary renditions of Lal Ded's poetry in song. In addition, a solo play in English, Hindi, and Kashmiri titled Lal Ded (based on her life) has been performed by actress Mita Vashisht across India since 2004.[22][23]

Further readingEdit

  • Lalla Yogishwari, Anand Kaul, reprint from the Indian Antiquary, Vols. L, LIX, LX, LXI, LXII.
  • Lalla-Vakyani, Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel D. Barnett Litt. D. (R. A. S. monograph, Vol. XVII, London 1920).ISBN 1846647010.
  • Vaakh Lalla Ishwari, Parts I and II (Urdu Edition by A. K. Wanchoo and English by Sarwanand Chaaragi, 1939).
  • Lal Ded by Jayalal Kaul, 1973, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
  • The Ascent of Self: A Reinterpretation of the Mystical Poetry of Lalla-Ded by B. N. Parimoo, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. ISBN 81-208-0305-1.
  • The Word of Lalla the Prophetess, by Sir Richard Carnac Temple, Cambridge 1924
  • Lal Ded: Her life and sayings by Nil Kanth Kotru, Utpal publications, Srinagar, ISBN 81-85217-02-5.
  • Lalleshwari : spiritual poems by a great Siddha yogini, by Swami Muktananda and Swami Laldyada. 1981, SYDA Foundation, ASIN: B000M1C7BC.
  • Lal Ded: Her life & sayings, by Swami Laldyada. Utpal Publications, 1989, ISBN 81-85217-02-5.
  • Naked Song, by Laldyada, Lalla, Coleman Barks (Translator), 1992, Maypop Books, ISBN 0-9618916-4-5. [1]
  • Mystical Verses of Lalla: A Journey of Self Realization, by Jaishree Kak. Motilal Banarsidass, 2007.
  • I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote with an Introduction and Notes, Penguin Classics, 2011, ISBN 978-0-670-08447-0. [2]
  • Siddha Yogini, A Kashmiri Secret of Divine Knowledge. by Ghauri, Laila Khalid. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2012. Section 0075, Part 0604 82 pages; [M.A dissertation].United States – District of Columbia: The George Washington University; 2012. Publication Number: AAT 1501080.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b M. G. Chitkara (1 January 2002). Kashmir Shaivism: Under Siege. APH Publishing. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-81-7648-360-5.
  2. ^ Lal Vakh online Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Lal Ded's Vakhs
  4. ^ Triloki Nath Dhar (1 January 2006). Kashmiri Pandit Community: A Profile. Mittal Publications. p. 7. ISBN 978-81-8324-177-9.
  5. ^ Richard Carnac Temple (1 August 2003). Word of Lalla the Prophetess. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-8119-9.
  6. ^ Lal Ded
  7. ^ Lal Ded Archived 19 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Lalleshwari: Forerunner of Medieval Mystics Kashmiri Herald, Volume 1, No. 1 – June 2001.
  9. ^ Toshkhani, Dr.S.S. (2002). Lal Ded: The great Kashmiri saint-poetess. New Delhi: A P H PUBLISHING CORPORATION. ISBN 9788176483810.
  10. ^ Toshkhani, S.S. (2002). Lal Ded : the great Kashmiri saint-poetess. New Delhi: A.P.H. Pub. Corp. ISBN 81-7648-381-8.
  11. ^ Barks, Coleman (1992). Naked Song. Maypop Books. ISBN 0-9618916-4-5.
  12. ^ Kashmir's wise old Grandmother Lal Aditi De's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in The Hindu/ Business Line
  13. ^ Mystic insights Abdullah Khan's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in The Hindu
  14. ^ Words are floating Jerry Pinto's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in Hindustan Times
  15. ^ Lalla and Kabir, resurrected Nilanjana S. Roy's article on Ranjit Hoskote's I, Lalla and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's Songs of Kabir
  16. ^ I, Lalla/ Songs of Kabir Archived 26 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Extracts from Ranjit Hoskote's I, Lalla and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's Songs of Kabir in The Caravan
  17. ^ "Lal Ded's Vakhs".
  18. ^ Barks, Coleman (1992). Naked Song. P. 18 Maypop Books. ISBN 0-9618916-4-5.
  19. ^ K. Warikoo (1 January 2009). Cultural Heritage of Jammu And Kashmir. Pentagon Press. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-81-8274-376-2.
  20. ^ Remembering Lal Ded in Modern Times National Seminar by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society, 2000.
  21. ^ I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote with an Introduction and Notes, Penguin Classics, 2011, p. x, ISBN 978-0-670-08447-0.
  22. ^ Songs of a mystic, The Hindu, 1 May 2005.
  23. ^ Bhumika K. All for theatre. The Hindu, 7 November 2011.

Shivyogini lalleshwari by Dr Yogeshwari Bhat , Srisri Publications , Banglore India

External linksEdit