Lal Ded: The Cultural Heritage of Kashmir

Culture is important to us because it defines our evolutionary identity. It helps us to understand our ancestral values and gives us the very meaning of life. It is Culture that makes us unique from other parts of the world. Importance of preserving cultural heritage lies in the sense of belonging and unity that it offers. Cultural heritage serves to link us with our ancestors, which is valuable and shouldn’t be lost. Our culture helps us to gain valuable information about our ancestry. Cultural traditions are like pages in a history book which should be read with interest. Knowing our culture in depth gives us a sneak to peak into our evolution.

“Lal Ded” is our Cultural Heritage and Ancestry. Lal Ded is one of the most renowned Kashmiri Saints. It was her sheer dedication and passion that has established her as one of the greatest human beings.

The ‘Adikavaytri’ or the first poetess of Kashmiri language is considered to be ‘Lal Ded’, who was a great mystic and a ‘Shaiva Sadhika’ or ‘a Shiv Yogini’ or the seeker of divine through the path of Kashmir ‘Shaiva Darshan’. She left a corpus of her sayings, which are in the form of four liners called ‘VAKH’ (or Sanskrit Vakya).

Lalleshwari was born to a Kashmiri Pandit family in Pandrethan (ancient Puranadhisthan) in the suburbs of Srinagar. She was married at young age, but her marriage was unhappy and she left home to take Sannyasa (renunciation) and become a disciple of Shaivata Guru ‘Sidha Srikantha’ (Sed Mol) whom she ultimately excelled in spiritual attainments. She continued the mystic traditions of Shaivism in Kashmir also known as ‘Trika’. Lalleshwari, popularly known as ‘Lal Ded’, the Kashmiri Saint Poetess of the 14th century irradiated an influence, impalpable but deep, which had a transformative power of engendering purity and human brotherliness.

Lal Ded lived as a wandering ascetic absorbed in God Consciousness seeking and seeing God everywhere. She stood for eternal values of the spirit, of human goodness and purity, kindness and service to all. Lal Ded had at an early age shown signs of extraordinary spiritual sensibility. Her ‘Lal-Vakhs’ are like a doctrine explaining the relationship between the creator and the creation. Her sayings are full of wisdom. In her sayings, she dealt with everything from Life, Yoga, and God to Dharma and Soul. Her highly emotional Vakhs become famous among the devotees of Kashmiri Shaivism and are revered as being among the finest products of the poet-saints of the Hindu bhakti traditions. Her Vakhs (four liners/poem) are on the lips of every Kashmiri. Lal Ded is Kashmir’s best spiritual and literary figure. Her Vakhs form the foundation not only of the contemporary Kashmiri literature but also of Kashmir Culture as a whole. Lal Ded in real sense is a historical person, cultural ancestry and we can say she is our proud cultural heritage.

 

It was nothing less than an honor for me to get to know this ‘Saint-Mother’ through a medium which is the most pristine for me-Theatre Arts. It was a golden opportunity for me to work in play namely ‘Lal Ded’ (Assi Aess, Assi Aasav) with eminent artists in their respective domains and I would consider myself very lucky to be able to work in this project again and again. This was a sincere effort from our team to bring life to this very important personality and six hundred years old philosophy called ‘Kashmir Shaiva’ Philosophy, which had seeped into the very psyche and the way of life of the populace.

Lalleshwari Lal Ded is an integral part of Kashmiri heritage. Kashmiri Culture and Lal Ded are two inseparable twins. Her ‘Vakhs’ are so many decades old and yet every soul who comes in contact with them develops a new gorgeous meaning of life from them. The Vakhs have become an ambiguous cure for a lot of people’s problems and we have Lal Ded to thank for that.

The bottom line is that the emancipation lies in realising immorality of the soul in awareness of the self and in being an integral part of the Universal Consciousness. This is what Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) has absorbed and expressed in her ‘Vakhs’. Her Vakhs established a tradition of harmony and tolerance which is our priceless Heritage.

 

Assi Aess Tai Assi Aaasav, Assi Dore Kaer Patavath.
Shivous Soorie Ne Ziyun ti Marun, Ravous Soorie Ne Atigath.

    (In time past, We were; In time We shall be; Throughout the ages, We have been.
Forever the sun rises and sets; Forever Shiva Creates, Dissolves, and Creates again.)

(Rahul Kilam is an activist and Legal Advisor. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Chaupal)

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