Poet, Saint, Heart of humanity, Divine Feminine, Yogeshwari.
Welcome in, to her reading nook.
Don’t think I did all this to get famous.
I never cared for the good things of life.
I always ate sensibly.
I knew hunger well,
and God.Lal Ded
The Poems of Lal Ded
Lalleshwarri, also known locally as “Lal Ded ” 1320–1392), was a Kashmiri mystic and liberated saint of the Kashmir Shaivism school of Hindu philosophy.
Lal Ded’s works were first recorded in writing in the twentieth century, and have been frequently republished since, in Kashmiri as well as in translation. In 1914, Sir George Grierson, commissioned a copy of Lal Ded’s vakhs. A written record of the vakhs was unavailable at the time, and one was prepared by transcribing an oral narration of the vakhs performed by Dharma-dasa Darwesh, a story-teller residing in Gush, Kashmir. This manuscript was translated into English by Grierson. Following his translation, a number of English translations have been produced, by Pandit Ananda Koul (1921), Sir Richard Carnac Temple (1924).
She was the creator of the style of mystic poetry called vatsun or Vakhs, literally “speech” (from Sanskrit vaak).
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.
Lal Ded (“Mother Lal” or “Mother Lalla”) is also known by various other names, including:
- Lal Dyad (Dyad means Grandmother)
- Lalla Aarifa
- Lal Diddi
- Lalla Yogishwari/Yogeshwari
- and Lalishri
The first written record of Lal Ded’s life is contained in the Tadhkirat-ul-Arifin (1587), a collection of biographies of saints and religious figures written by Mulla Ali Raina, and followed by an account of her life in Baba Daud Mishkati’s Asrar ul-Akbar (1654). In these texts, Lal Ded is described as a mystic saint, appearing in the forest to travelers
THE WORDS OF LALLA
All through my footsore verse
a single story has befallen me:
I, Lalla, am on a lake
on what bank shall I now run aground?
Three times I’ve seen a lake flood a lake
Once, a lake, taking the place of sky
A waste of water, once, that was a bridge
From Crescent Face to Footprint Lake
that was the flowing world
Seven times a lake being the swell and shape of empty
In the time it takes to take a breath, and more
breath by slow breath
I forced my still breath
down the bellows’ throat
An offering-light lit up for me
and what I was
came unrobed into view.
I winnowed the light inside, scattering it out
and in the darkness, laying hold of it, I held on.
Not for a minute did I hope, nor by a hair trust in it I, Lalla, drank from that wine, my own utterance.
I seized the inward dark indistinct; I hauled it down:
And hacked at it, tore through it, rend it to pieces.
I, Lalla, set out
wanting to flower
like the bloom of cotton:
that was I, tenuous,
whom the seed-picking cleaner
then the carder so abused
when the woman spinning
had lifted me off thread
by trembling thread that was I
so cruelly used,
set to hang in the weaver’s room.
When the washerman brought me down
again and again
against the washing stone
that was I, and that was me he pressed
and how long
working in clays of earth
and soap deep within me.
But when the tailor
plied me into pieces,
turning me around
beneath the long cloth scissors
I reached, at last,
the going way without measure.
I have seen a serious man hunger, and of hunger dying:
as a leaf being taken in winter
by the least wind,
ever so gentle.
I have seen a moron murderously beating
the man who feeds him,
and since then I, Lalla, am waiting
will it not be torn?
This love, ever so delightful.
Look at me:
towing a boat over vast waters with such slender sewing-thread
Where will my shining one hear me?
If only he would ferry
Stilled into quiet, as still-water lost
from unfired cups of clay.
Sick, my life wanders out, I want
to go home
The soul, like the moon,
is now, and always new again.
And I have seen the ocean
Since I scoured my mind
and my body, I too, Lalla,
am new, each moment new.
My teacher told me one thing,
live in the soul.
When that was so,
I began to go naked,
Countless times we come, and
Limitless times we should go
In movement we should remain,
Day after day and, night after night;
Whence we come, thence
We should return:
Something or the other
and, something or the other
And, something or what?
Day will be erased in night.
The ground’s surface will extend outward.
The new moon will be swallowed
in eclipse, and the mind in meditation
will be completely absorbed
by the Void inside it.
They who give up false hopes and don’t
put trust in the things of the world
Ascend, unafraid of Death’s terrors
by scriptures told;
For having lived contented lives,
they are not debtors of Desire
Shiva or Keshava
or the Enlightened One
or the Lotus-born
whatever He calls Himself
I just wish He’d cure this poor woman
be He He or He or He or He.
I’m towing my boat
across the ocean with a thread.
Will He hear me and help me across?
Or am I seeping away
like water from a half-baked cup?
Wander, my poor soul,
you’re not going home anytime soon.
Grierson, Sir George Abraham and Lionel D. Barnett, trans. and eds. 1920.
Sir Richard Carnac. 1924. The words of Lalla the prophetess. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Expired copyrights, public domain
Other assorted later translations in the public domain