By Dileep Kumar Kaul
The Kashmir we see today is the result of many political contestations. What is most tragic is that Kashmir is still visualized as a place in terms of these political contestations. The primary contestation is between Hindu and Muslim consciousnesses. Muslims are trying to put Kashmir as a Muslim place in which all good things happened after the Muslim rule. All death and destruction that was caused is conveniently brushed under the carpet. But there are such cultural icons who are the makers of a place. When an invader comes attempts are made to appropriate these icons. The Muslim rulers of Kashmir have never been without their religious interests and it is in this sphere of religion that they attempt to put these cultural icons. This shows the importance of cultural icons. They rise above all the invasions of caste creed and colour. The proselytizers always understand the importance of these cultural icons and the role of these icons in making of the identity of a community and a place. The attempts to appropriate a sage like Lalded are a scintillating example. Muslim proselytizers in Kashmir have been straining every nerve to establish that Lalded had converted to Islam because “Lalded Consciousness” forms the core of the place consciousness of Kashmir.
Lalded, the shaivite Yogini is such a consciousness, whose spiritual intensity has touched both Hindus and Muslims. I do not intend to establish her as a secular icon which many Kashmiri scholars have tried to establish. The problem is that when attempts have been made to establish somebody as secular it clearly means taking her out of the perspective of the place she belongs to and placing her in the perspective of politics. That has been done to Shiriyabhatt. He was a doctor who cured Badshah of the disease when every other doctor including the court doctors of the Sultan had failed. This unequivocally established the genius of Shiriyabhatt. But he is nowhere in the Kashmiriyat discourse where Badshah rules the roost. Shiriyabhatt belonged to a persecuted community that was being persecuted for religious reasons and he could have easily left Badshah, who till then was a persecutor, to die. But he acted in the true spirit of a doctor cut across religious barriers. Shiriyabhatt was compassionate even to his persecutor. This is because he belonged to Kashmir which made him like this. This is “Lalded Consciousness.” But in the political discourse of “Kashmiriyat” such a cultural icon has been taken away from the perspective of his place and forced into a subordinate position to the ruler Badshah who only after being cured by Shiriyabhatt, and on his request to get back those Kashmiri Pandits who had run away because of persecution, agreed to get those Pandits back into the valley. In the whole discourse Shiriyabhatt, the cultural icon stands above all. But everybody talks of the generosity of Badshah who till being cured by Shiriyabhatt was not generous. So after being placed in the political perspective Shiriyabhatt loses his essence as a cultural icon. When I say I do not intend to establish Lalded as a secular icon I do not want to establish her as a communal entity. She is the expression of the “placeness” of Kashmir and should be taken like that.
This legacy has been carried forward by other saints also who were born Muslims. But in their many poems they have resisted the attempts to erode the place consciousness and with vehemence used the language that reflected their intense consciousness of their place. They had rebelled against the dominant place eroding forces in their society even when the threat of sword loomed large on them. Same place eroding forces are ruling in Kashmir now and hardly anybody talks about these saints now. The spiritual intensity of Lalded is deeply felt especially by Kashmiri Muslim establishment who, understanding her grandeur, want to make her Muslim. They are trying their best to take her out of her place perspective, the perspective of Kashmir and put her in the perspective of Islamic Politics. In the perspective of this politics she has to be in a subordinate position because only then she will become a useful personality who for the whole of life was a Shaiva Yogini and eventually converted to Islam. If we examine the effect of Lalded on Kashmiri psyche we see that she flows down to our times as a consciousness which cuts across rival faiths and establishes Kashmir as a sacred geography. This “Lalded Consciousness” purifies Muslims in the sense that in spite of the efforts of the Muslim establishment with all the resources at their disposal, the Muslims in general and the Muslim mystics in particular, found inspiration enough in this “Lalded Consciousness” to resist conversion of Lalded into a Muslim communal symbol.
Kashmiri mystics like Ahad Zargar; too, like Lalded, used indigenous terminology to express his experience of the ultimate cosmic consciousness. His extensive use of this terminology which is rooted in the place shows that he felt that his feeling could be better expressed by this terminology. When spiritual experience is expressed in language it needs a terminology, which cannot be confined within the sphere of a particular creed. If non Islamic terminology means deviation from the faith, which it certainly means, then Ahad Zargar was an infidel and he was declared so more than once. The spiritual history of Kashmir is full of those poets of Lalded Consciousness, who were born Muslims. Nobody knows how much of their writings may have been destroyed.
In eighteenth century mystic Momin sahib said,
Ogunuy sapun tu dognyar Traav
Paanu Maenzi Paan praznavo lo.
In this verse he advocates non-dualism and makes an assertion to shun dualism (dognyar) and attain absolute oneness (ogunuy). His use of Indigenous terminology is notable . In 18-19th century mystic Shah Gafoor says,
Yor Yith Zanmas Kenh Chhunu Laarun
Dhaarnaayi Dhaarun Soo Hum Soo
Bramah,Vishnu, Maheshwar Gaarun
Dhaarnaayi Daarun Soo Hum Soo
Note the use of indigenous terms like ‘dhaarnaa’ and ‘soo hum soo.’ These terms are from a specific method of meditation and Bramah,Vishnu, Maheshwar clearly signify polytheistic attitude which is a serious deviation from Semitic monotheism. This cannot be put under the parrot cry of secularism in which many writers have included it. This is pure rebellion. Shah Gafoor belonged to the spiritual methodology to which all the mystics of Kashmir subscribed, but the so called ‘Kashmiriyat’ does not take this spiritual culture of Kashmir into consideration. It, in essence, denies the spiritual culture and politicizes the whole thing. This is the tragedy of Kashmir. They have to deny the spiritual culture of Kashmir which decisively undermines the rationale of proselytization. They tried to usurp the symbols but failed repeatedly. In short this spiritual culture cannot be muslimized. After all, it is impossible to deny the existence of numerous poets of “Lalded Consciousness” who were born Muslims.
In 19th century mystic Shah Qalandar says,
Shiv Shah Qalandaru Chhunu Kaensi Hyuvuye
He says that “Shiva” is not like anybody else. Here Shiva means the ultimate cosmic consciousness. For Lalded too, Shiva is the ultimate cosmic consciousness. Shah Qalandar’s voice, too, is considered very near to Kashmir Shaivism. The significance of the word “Shiva” for the place identity and legend of Kashmir is well known. This “Lalded Consciousness” is expressed by the noted mystic Shams Faqir in another poem,
Zaanvuni Zaan kar Pranas Tu Gyaanas
Zaan Milunaav Bagwaanas Sutyi
Pooza Karuni Gayi Manz Karmuvaanas
Dharma Shaasturunis Butkhaanas
Kor Lali Yikuwatu Aakash Pranas
Zaan Milunaav Bagwaans sutyi.
(O knowledgeable one, Know gyana and prana, merge this knowledge with Bhagwaana, the god consciousness . He who is involved in the act of worshiping should worship the temple of idols which is this world of activity in which we humans dwell——this is what is actually meant by the worship of form shown in dharma shastras; but lalded merged her prana with the ultimate cosmic consciousness, so merge yourself with god consciousness; that is the ultimate goal).
In the above verse Shams Faqir admires the oneness of Lalded with the ultimate cosmic consciousness. Note the use of terminology that connects Shams Faqir with the polytheistic spiritual tradition of Kashmir. But idol worship has a different meaning for him. One who worships the form visualizes god in his own way. In this world of karma everybody does his karma in his own way. So visualization of God is also in one’s own way. Shams Faqir is talking of a democratic theism which accepts all the forms of god that everybody visualizes. That way idol worship is the real worship which is not monological, does not bind you and allows you to respect every form. Sham Faqir says that idol worship is okay but the ultimate aim is achieving that state of consciousness which Lalded had attained. This whole poem is important from the point of view of Lalded Consciousness. In another verse he sums up the spiritual grandeur of Lalded:
Wopdeesh Karni Gayi Nund Reshaanas
Rindav dophas aeni Irfaan
Tsepi tspiras gindun shahi hamdaanas
Zaan milnaav bagwaans sutyi.
(Lalded went to teach Nund rishi her spiritual path
The path which mystics call awareness or gnosis
She played hide and seek with Shahi Hamdaan so merge yourself with God consciousness).
Nundarishi, too has acknowledged the spiritual grandeur of Lalded in his famous verse:
Tas Padmaanporichi lale,
Tami gale amreth piva
Swa saani awtaar lwalye
Tyuthuy var me tito diva.
(That lalla of Padmaanpore, i.e. Pampore, who drank the divine nectar to her fullest, she was undoubtedly an awataar whom we hold in our heart; O God! grant me the same boon as to attain that spiritual state).
Nund Rishi too carried Lalded Consciousness within her. And see what Shams Faqir says! She played hide and seek with Shahi Hamdaan, one who is known for spread of Islam in Kashmir. Lalded did not have any discourse with him but played hide and seek in mystic sense captured by Shams Faqir. Mention of a folk fable is relevant here. It is said that in a state of ecstasy Lalded roamed in streets without any clothes. Once when she was walking through a market she saw Shahi Hamdaan coming. It is important to note that Shahi Hamdaan and Lalded were not contemporaries. Anyway the fable is there. Lalded who was without clothes ran away and jumped into the Tandoor (oven) of a baker ( Kandur in Kashmiri). After some time she came out of the tandoor in a golden costume. This fable is a typical example of Lalded Consciousness. The main point is that Lalded is walking through the market without any clothes and people are looking at her. This clearly implies that the people around her are emancipated and recognize her spiritual stature. But she runs away on seeing Shahi Hamdaan. This clearly establishes him as a person who is not aware of her spiritual stature and is just looking at a woman without clothes. This shows how spiritually emancipated he was! Kashmiri people walking in the streets were more emancipated. But more important is the fact that this fable is owned by Kashmiri Muslims who knew very well that Shahi Hamdaan was a Sayyed who had run away to escape the anger of Taimur. Taimur had asked Sayyeds to prove their purity and genuineness by walking on fire. The folk consciousness of Kashmir made Lalded to jump into fire and come out wearing golden clothes. This makes the meaning of the fable profound and shows how deeply the Lalded Consciousness is rooted in the folk psyche of Kashmir and how the out of place consciousness which Shahi Hamdaan represented is rejected.
Shams Faqir’s Lalded Consciousness becomes more intense in his later poems:
Shareer Trovum, Nermal Chhovum, Provum Brahman Kaeliye.
( I gave up my body, embraced the experience of nirmal the purest one, and attained the brahman)
Note the use of attainment of Brahman the ultimate cosmic reality. In the same poem he talks about the highest state of consciousness which is Turya Awastha—
Sopun, Zagrath, Turya, Sushupth
Zagtas Phyoorus Iqbaliye.
(realizing different states of consciousness swapana, the dream state, jagriti the awakened state, sushupti the state of semi consciousness and turya the absolute awakening I accept that I roamed the universe)
He has written poems in Islamic terminology as well. When these poems are compared with the poems of “Lalded Consciousness” the difference in intensity becomes evident. It appears that Shams Faqir had experienced Turya Awastha and attained Brahman.
There have been mystic Poets who directly opposed the tyranny of religious laws and resisted attempts to curb their spiritual freedom. One who opposes ‘Shariat’ deserves death. But mystics like Waza Mahmud have no fear of death. The ‘Fatwas of Killing” do not mean anything to them. The following verse is addressed to such fatwa givers, but the mystic who is one with God makes a mockery of these fatwas—
Heetu Chaney vonyi Bu anal haq paray
Ditu Fatwa Maarnuk Yakbaar me.
(You gave me the excuse to say now that I am god; give me a fatwa of killing if you can)
If somebody says he is one with God he deserves the fatwa of death. Waz Mahmud’s poetry reflects the religious environment of his times which still persists. After this verse he expresses his aversion for curbs in clearer terms,
Haali mansoor Chhum Banyomut yeth tane.
Tali Pyeth Chhem Sharuhuchi Talwaar may.
(My being has suffered like Mansoor who said I am God. The sword of Shariat is hanging over my head)
Note the usage “Sharuhuchi Talwaar” i.e. the sword of Islamic Law. Waz Mahmud associates the Islamic Law with sword, i.e. the violence one has to face if accused of blasphemy. Lalded had said, “Pooz Kas karakh Hootu Batta.” She had warned Kashmiri Hindus against stagnation. Waz Mahmud is doing the same thing with respect to his community and times. His courage can only be compared with Ahad Zargar. Needless to say that Waz Mahmud is among the truest exponents of “Lalded Consciousness.”
These examples of “Lalded Consciousness” are overt expressions. In many other poets this consciousness may be present in covert forms which can be explored after research. This consciousness brings Kashmiris to a state of mind, when during the times spiritual curbs are imposed; the soul of people gets stirred and gives them the power to go forward. This consciousness is the key element of the place identity of Kashmir. It reflects the inner urge of a human being to break away from spiritual stagnation. This urge has got the most intense expression in recent times in Ahad Zargar. By calling Ahad Zargar an infidel and making a Muslim of Lalded will in no way suppress “Lalded Consciousness.”
From the stories of its origin as mentioned in Neelmata Purana to our times Kashmir has got a mystic feeling associated with it. In Neelmata Purana the land of Kashmir is itself the body of Mother Goddess and the lifeline of this land the sacred river “Vitasta” too is Mother Goddess herself. With such a mystic lore associated with this land the people who inhabit it have a natural affinity towards mysticism and they readily enter into discussions about the comparison of the powers of various mystics. And when we talk of mystics Lalded is held in the highest esteem by the common folk of Kashmir and almost all mystics most of whom were poets as well have held her as worth emulating through their recorded word and thus placed themselves in her tradition. This reverence for mystics is a very important aspect of the place consciousness of Kashmir which makes Kashmiri People what they are. Lalded is considered the pinnacle of mystic tradition of Kashmir. Attempts to appropriate her by the Islamists of Kashmir bears testimony to the fact that her inclusion in any faith will glorify that faith. This also shows that even these Islamists could not escape the effect of Lalded consciousness.
All the mystics and those who have the awareness of the mystic practice of Lalded consider her an unparalleled Shaiva yogini. Mystics of Kashmir give an example to explain her extraordinary yoga marga. Lalded would keep an inverted earthen saucer (Toke in Kashmiri) on her head and then stand on another earthen saucer. She had got such control on the energies of her body that in some moments her body would slowly dissolve away and the earthen saucer on her head would sit on the earthen saucer on which was under her feet. Then she would reappear from within these saucers again with the saucer on her head, standing on another saucer. The mystics of Kashmir agree that she was the only one who had achieved this state. She had the power to change the matter constituting her body into energy and the energy back into matter. We have heard of the practices of transforming the vital energy or the soul into other bodies but Lalded had attained that state of shivahood where she could play this game of transformation with every cell of her body. This practice is known among mystics as ‘Chandrakala’. Such states are not achieved all of a sudden. She had worked on a tradition of mystic practices which existed in her times which was nurtured by great sages like Acharya Abhinavagupta and Acharya Utpladeva and achieved the extraordinary state of her yoga. She was the living epitome of this tradition. This practice attained heights with her and after her we do not know anybody who had achieved this state. Before her also nobody had achieved this state. That is why every mystic of Kashmir finds her worth emulating. Lalded represented the pinnacle of the mystic tradition of Kashmir.
Her poetry also marks the beginning of the literary history of Kashmiri language. It must be kept in mind that her poetry is not a treatise on shaivite philosophy of Kashmir. It is an extraordinary expression of her experiences which are predominantly associated with her shaiva yoga. Every one of her vaakhs is an intense experience in which every particle of her being seems to be involved. She has given such heights to every aspect of poetry that no Kashmiri poet has ever after her been able to fall near her. Before her there were poets and mystics who wrote their experiences in form of poetry but all of them wrote in Sanskrit, Lalded was the first who made Kashmiri as her medium of expression. But here also a big question arises. The sort of poetry she wrote, the powerful matured language that carries the extraordinary intensity of her experiences could not be achieved at one blow. Such a kind of language-Desh Bhasha could not come without a powerful tradition of doing literature init. But such works in the the Kashmiri desh Bhasha before Lalded are not available. Lalded’s language and poetry is not the origin, it is the peak, the pinnacle of a literary and linguistic tradition but without any trace of the predecessors. Lalded’s poetry carries within her the labour of those predecessors who transmitted to her the legacy which she carried to the topmost heights. Thus Lalded consciousness stimulates within us an obligation to remain grateful for ever to those forgotten poets whose toil and sweat made our language what it is in Lalded’s poetry and gave us the tongue to say that we exist and belong to the land of Lalded. Thus Lalded consciousness adds a new dimension to the place consciousness of Kashmir and becomes synonymous with it.
Lalded was a Shaiva Yogini and thus could not take this world as an illusion. She had a strong awareness of the objective world and exhibits a deep consciousness of the place she dwelled in, that is Kashmir. One of her vaakhs which is easier to understand but complex in its structure is important from this point of view:-
Gagan tsuy bootal tsuy
Tsuy then pawan tu raath
Arag tsandan posh ponya tsuy
Soruy tsay tu laegizi kyah.
(you are the sky and the earth, you are the day, the breeze and the night, you are the grain offered in oblation, you are the sandal paste and the flowers, you are all these and everything , so what should I offer you in worship?)
In the structure of this vaakh, every word is meaningfully placed. It is like a camera which focuses on the sky then moves to earth, it happens in the day light then a breeze of air blows and there is night, then there is grain of oblation, the sandal paste, flowers and water then there is Lalded thinking that shiva is everything and if he is everything what should be offered to him!
Now if the camera moves from sky to earth all the things in between will be visible. When a day passes and night comes there is generally a cool breeze in between in the evening. Between all these natural processes the cultural act of worship is there which again is done with natural things like grain, sandal paste, flowers and water. And all these natural things are not assets granted to us by the God as semitic religions tell us. They are themselves shiva the ultimate lord, not his manifestations but he himself as is evident from the vaakh. This is the ultimate non-dualistic thinking. And when this consciousness comes to a person the traditional form of worship undergoes a crisis. If everything is Shiva, flowers, grains, water etc. what is there to offer. Every natural happening is shiva. Every object is shiva and thus has inherent value. Here we see no difference in sakaar-the manifest and nirakaar-the unmanifest. Shiva is everything and everything is Shiva. Everything that has shape is shiva and every other thing that doesn’t have a shpae is shiva as well. This understanding is not rejecting the idol worship but transcending it through awareness that everything is Shiva and there is nothing to offer because that awareness makes everyone of your acts, your interaction with anything between sky and earth, your every experience the worship of lord. This is human interaction with the world around in its totality through which any difference between the deity and devotee is erased. Even worship is not needed because whatever you do is the doing of God. This verse exhibits the ecological thought of the highest order, which leaves even the concept of ‘Deep Ecology’ far behind. The concept of Deep Ecology has inspired many international environmental groups like Friends of Earth, Earth First and Sea Shepherd. This concept was given by Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess in 1972. With other thinkers he put forth eight basic principals of deep ecology the first two of which are:-
1. Every living being has an inherent value.
2. The prosperity and diversity of life has an inherent value.
These two principals can be seen in this vaakh of Lalded , which was written centuries before Arne Naess. But nobody understands this in Kashmir these days. They are busy proving whether she had converted to Islam or not and their ecology is taking a beating.
It should be noted in this vaakh that the sky and the earth Lalded is talking about is the sky and the earth of Kashmir because she had not been outside Kashmir. All her experiences were in and of Kashmir. So the earth and sky and all things between them are in Kashmir and all are shiva. She expresses Kashmir as sacred geography and gets connected with the tradition of Neelmata Purana where mother Goddess herself says that Kashmir is her body. Same is said here in terms of Shiva. This is the miracle of Lalded and her consciousness. Lalded is the most profound expression in Kashmiri language where the geography of Kashmir becomes the sacred geography. When you are associated with her consciousness you are automatically associated with Kashmir, history, geography and culture of it and all the meanings Kashmir has as a place. In the Vaakh given above the earth and sky of Kashmir are Shiva and thus attain a universal significance. This shows that the deep consciousness of your place only can give you universal significance and proves that Lalded Consciousness, is not a reduction but a totality in itself. That is why all meaningful mystics and poets and the commom folks after her show their association with Lalded consciousness.
Lalded legion amply reflects that the Lalded consciousness is so deeply rooted even in the ecological entities of Kashmir. Lotus stem (nadur) is cooked by all Kashmiris and is relished as a delicacy. It grows in many lakes of Kashmir. When we cut a lotus stem into two and pull the two pieces apart we see extremely fine hair between the two pieces. There is a Legend associated with it. Once Lalded was working on a spinning wheel. She had spun extremely fine thread. But her mother-in-law, criticized her for not spinning fine enough. She threw the thread in a pond which grew into lotus stem. The mystic lore of Kashmir holds that the thread we see in the lotus stem is the same thread which was spun by Lalded. This legend grasped the imagination of Kashmiri women who through this have offered resistance to all torturing mothers-in-law. All daughters-in-law in Kashmir, who have borne the torture of their mothers-in-law, are referred to as Lalded’s. Kashmiris have offered resistance to Sayyeds through the fable of Lalded jumping into the tandoor of a baker on seeing Shahi Hamadan and coming out clad in a divine costume to show that Sayyeds ran away because they feared they would die if they passed through fire. But in Kashmir a woman could do it. This shows that Lalded has been an empowering consciousness for Kashmiris and has made them to assert their spiritual, intellectual and emotional strength and specificity from time to time. No other personality in Kashmir has attained such significance or dwelled in the consciousness of people in the matters ranging from mundane to spiritual to this extent.
Lalded Consciousness is synonymous with the consciousness of our being as Kashmiris and underlines specific meanings carried by Kashmir as a place. It incorporates the grandeur of our traditions, the depth and universality of our thought, our spiritual intensity, evolution of our linguistic heritage and ecological thinking which respects the inherent value of every being. It is the consciousness which will make us live till eternity.
*(The author is a prolific writer and a poet)