Lalleswari or Lalded has dominated the linguistic, cultural and spiritual landscape of Kashmir since the last 700 years. Born in early 14th CE, she cultivated the moral and ethical tapestry in the minds and hearts of people. Her out pouring in the form of vaakhs, are part and parcel of Kashmiri day to day life. She can be called the pioneer of Kashmiri language, whose contribution to Kashmiri cultural and literary field remains unmatched and unparalleled. While reassessing the life and times of Lalded, it is important to go through the journey of her life, which is arduous and uplifting at the same time. Her vaakhs are based on her own self experience; at one place she says;
*yim pad lali vany tim hridi ank
Brand on your heart what Lalla spoke in verse!*
Lalded was born to a learned Brahmin family and after receiving her early education she was married off quite early as per the practice in those times. Her married life was short-lived and painful. This tragedy turned her towards spirituality. She found her Guru in Siddha Srikantha, from whom she learned Kashmiri Shaivism, also known as Trika and took upon herself the goal of self-realisation. Under her preceptor she mastered the ‘Oneness with Supreme Consciousness’, i.e, the union of Jiva with Siva. Once she got fully realised, she embarked on her mission to educate her fellow countrymen on the essential nature of Reality which she had duly understood. Her Guru gave her the Trika upaya, that was the mantra to focus within; a mantra that enabled her to master herself. She says;
andryum prakash nyabar tshot um gati rot um tu karmas thaph!
I diffused outside the light that lit-up within me And in that darkness I seized Him and held Him tight!
Coming of Lalded as Yogini
Lalded followed the same path which was earlier followed by Bhatta Narayana and Utpaldeva who lived in 8 CE. Their outpourings resonate and reverberate with the experience of divine presence in their personal lives. Lalded’s verses are original and authentic which gives us an idea of her pain, vairagya, struggles and the power of mystical wonders. It seems that Lalla had an intimate desire for divine servitude which was the goal of her earthly existence. Lalded must have followed the Shakta School of Kashmir Shaivism where the female ascetics, also known as Yoginis, were easily initiated. Her vaakhs give us an insight into Sthan Kalpana, i.e., to meditate on breath and awaken the latent kundalini shakti, that she practiced. This method of realisation in Trika is known as Shaktopaya, where external objects are not worshipped but one is withdrawn inside.
*Om-kar yeli laye onum
Wuhi korum panun pan
Shwot trovith ts sath rotum
Teli Lal bah wotchut prakash sthan.*
When by concentration of my thought I brought the Pranava (Omkar) under my control, I made my body blazing coal, The six paths I traversed and gained the seventh, and then did I, Lalla, reach the place of illumination.
In this verse Lalla is explaining about the practice of awakening of kundalini and activating of the seven chakras which ultimately merge in Sahasrara Chakra which is the final beatitude. As per Trika praxis, yogis offer themselves to the blazing fire of consciousness to terminate the devouring gross and subtle forms of differentiation’s and seek the undifferentiated nectar of oneness with Siva. On her self-realisation, She says,
Suh yeli dyuthum nishe panas , Soruy suy ta boh no keh
When I beheld him, that He was near me, I saw that all was He, and that I am nothing.
Appropriation of Lalded
There is a well-orchestrated attempt to appropriate Lalded into Islam. Fictitious claims are made that Lalded was influenced by Sayyid Mir Ali Hamdani and she accepted Islam. This ill-conceived view is presented by Muslim scholars who cannot accept that someone like Lalded who, even today, dominates the cultural and spiritual landscape of Kashmir, can be a non-muslim. Imaginary references are attributed to Lalded meeting Sayyid Hamdani which is deliberately floated to hurt the Hindus. According to Mohammad Azam Dedamari’s work, “Waqiyat-e-Kashmir”, Lalded died during the rule of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din that ruled Kashmir between 1355 to 1373 CE. By then Sayid Hamdani was nowhere near Kashmir. On similar lines, Prof Jiyalal Kaul in his seminal work has mentioned the visit of Sayyid Hamdani in 1380 to 1386 CE. Therefore, in these investigative works, both the scholars have refuted the so-called meeting between Lalded and Sayyid Hamdani. However, some self-proclaimed scholars made another attempt to convince people that she was influenced by Sayyid Hussain Samanani. False and misleading constructs are being made to show that Lalded accepted Islam so as to change the whole narrative. The false agenda does not stop here, but goes to another level when the vaakhs are twisted and distorted and then attributed to Lalded with the aim of appropriating her legacy. One is piqued at the fallacious claims but we have a task to keep Lalded alive as it is our duty not only to resist this subversion but also counter this malafide design.
Lalded as Liberator
The political and social landscape of Kashmir was in doldrums during the lifetime of Lalded. She, being a mystic, could see the moral degradation of society and the compassionate soul in her forced her to convey her anguish in whatever possible way she could. Hence her vaakhs are reflection of the society of her times. Therefore, Lalded acted as a moral compass to awaken the society around her and warned the people about the temporary nature of human life. Her vaakhs at the same time are terse and prophetic. These challenged the orthodoxy and the way of life. She gave a voice to women and deprived sections and that is why her legacy is still alive in the collective conscience of the people. Her teachings represent the precepts of Trika philosophy as enunciated by predecessors of Trika theology. She conveyed the same so that people revert to their roots and revive their spiritual inheritance bequeathed to them by mystics, saints and scholars of Trika. Her whole emphasis was on Self-Recognition or what we call as Pratyabhijina in Trika.
Lalleshwari-the greatest jewel of Kashmir who is not only a historical figure and a mystic but a Patron Saint of Kashmir, even Nund Rishi accepts her glory when he says,
*Tas padmanporci lale, Tami gale amret chehyo
Soa saen’ avatar lov lale, Tyuthuy me var ditto dayo*
That lalla of Padmanpora (Pampore), She drank, her fill of divine nectar
She was indeed an avatar of ours (dearly loved), Oh! God grant me the same boon.