Lal Ded again visited

Autar Krishan Mota
Lalleshuri, the fourteenth century mystic of Kashmir, popularly known as Lal-Ded has again been visited, visited otherwise by many thinkers from across the globe till now, visited not only through books or write-ups but also through other modes of visual and performing art.
I have seen Rama Vaidyanathan, noted Bhartanatyam dancer mesmerizing audience with ecstatic dance on Lal-Vaakh. I have seen various painters paint her message and many singers begin their melody (Sufiana Qalaam or Leela) with her Vaakh (Four line poetic compositions meaning Vaakyaas in Sanskrit), a knowledge, a message and a thought so profound that it has survived safely though memory lane for many centuries and carried forward from generation to generation without any obvious distortion.
Bhaskar Razdan is reported to be the first person who collected 60 Vaakhs of Lalleshuri and translated them into Sanskrit verse. Thereafter Pt Lakshman Koul is reported to have collected 47 more raising the number to 107. Seeking help from one Pandit Mukand Ram Shastri, George Grierson, a British official in Kashmir set to add more and published his first monumental book, Lalla Vaakhini in 1920. The number of Vaakhs so collected kept on increasing. This quantitative increase also brought some dilution in her core message as some Vaakhs which did not belong to her got unintentionally added by word of mouth in her stock and being attributed to her. I personally tend to go with the opinion of Late Shri Moti Lal Saqi that many poems of Lalla which patently do not belong to her are being attributed to her. My personal observation, based on a careful study of her core message, is that the spoken language of her time and many other vital factors may some time in future bring out some authentic manuscript that would put more light on the subject. Nonetheless, a conscientious student of her philosophy and her poems does not fail in identifying and separating the real from the chaff from the grain.
The contribution of Rajanka Bhaskara, Barnett and Grierson, Richard Temple, Nila Cram Cook, Prof Jayalal Koul, Prof BN Parimoo, PNK Bamzai, PN Bazaz, SS Toshkhani and Ranjit Hoskote and some others is truly invaluable in immortalizing these celestial poems but the present review is about a distinguished addition to this list. Let me talk about Shri Jawahar Lal Bhat’s recently published and released book “Lal-Ded revisited”.
I understand that more than a decade’s work has seen the light of the day in the shape of this book. The earnest aim of the author as told by him was to ensure that the language remains as simple as possible so that a vast section of people of Kashmir among other admirers of Lalleshuri outside across various age groups could easily go through otherwise terse and deeply philosophical poems of Lalleshuri.
Shri Jawahar Lal Bhat, has created history by writing “Lal-Ded revisited”, a voluminous book analyzing afresh and in detail the famous Lalla-Vaakh of Lalleshuri (Lal-Ded). Coming to the formatting of the book — it is very well thought out and planned.  Out of 560 pages — 7 pages are for contents, about 25 pages for exhaustive preface, introduction and historical perspective of Lalla-Vaakh. The most exemplary feat performed by the author is the first section of the book titled “Lalla-Vaakh” wherein one poem on one page is written in three scripts, Roman, Devnagri and Nastaliq followed by a brief but crisp translation in English. This helps the reader to read clearly the truest version of the poem in the absence of an authentic and foolproof script for which Kashmiri language has always suffered and Mr Bhat has tried successfully to tide over this handicap. The roman script of the Vaakh is followed by a reference line depicting the sources wherefrom the poem has been traced and can be further tracked.  This is followed by about 260 pages “Notes section” wherein detailed notes and commentary on each poem is given. This detailed exercise is a unique and brilliant job undertaken by the author that makes each poem adequately clear to the reader.
Lal Ded has an indelible impact on Kashmiri psyche. It has remained unabated in spite of a time lapse of about seven hundred years .This could possibly be due to the poet inside her envisioning mysticism and the saint within her writing poems. She remains an unparalleled spiritual giant and a poetic wizard of Kashmir. Her poetic presentation of the universal message of Kashmir’s Shaiva Darshan and Dynamic Humanism remains beyond comparison. And through her poems, she is capable for shaping contours of Kashmiri language and literature so as to grant it a wide recognition.
Coming to the book again — the imperative need to simplify her thought in simple English language and free it from weighty poetic diction has been superbly fulfilled by the author in this book. From exclusively elite readership it has now arrived for a mass readership. The author has avoided appreciably using unnecessary metaphors, symbols and idioms that have been brought in anywhere in his English rendering. The message of each Vaakh is available in a simple but profound spiritual elixir and pointed Joyous English rendering .This quality may create a mass reader base and may attract younger generations more than before to this work who may have some issues with strict poetic translation of these poems. I feel, for this work, posterity is bound to feel indebted to the author. I quote the English rendering of some poems from the Book:–
Shuniiyukk Mae’daan Kodumm Paanus
Mey Lallie Roozum Boadh Na Hosh
Wai’Zey Sap’nuss Paanie Paanus
Adhaaa Kammie Hilli Phoall Lalli Pamposh.
(I crossed alone the wide fields of Shunya, The sights and scenes dropped my reason and senses. Soon I was awakened to the mysteries of my inner self! Thus, I Lalla with a humble background, flowered like a lotus from the marsh.)
Shiv’va keshv’va Zin’va
Kamalaz Naath  Naam Daarien Yuh
Mey Abhlii Kaaeis’tein Bhav Roz
Su’va Su’va Su’va Suh.
(You may call him Shiva, Keshva or Buddha or even lotus Born Narayana, makes no difference, whoever it may be, I wish this poor woman released from the sickness of life, weak and helpless she is, unable to meet its truest purpose!)
I can quote so many poems that have been done to crystal clear rendering by   the author  and the book is definitely going to live long and prove useful to Kashmiris in general admirers of Lalleshuri’s Philosophy in particular. It is surely going to attract too many encouraging reviews too.
Those of us who read Lal Ded in proper perspective and context, I am sure may find a real Master in her. She is a Spiritual Guru who guides by her Vaakhs alone. And for that purpose alone ,I recommend  study of this Great work -“Lal-Ded revisited”.
I conclude with a Shrukh ( Shloka ) of Sheikh Noor ud Din or Nund Ryosh that goes as under (English translation by Prof. J L Koul) ..
Aarbalan Naagraada rovukh
Saada rovukh Tchooran munz
Moodagaran gwor pandita rovukh
Raaz Hans Rovukh Kaawaun Munz
(Amid the rocks, the found was lost, among the thieves was lost the saint, among the ignorant, the wise teacher was lost, and the royal swan was lost among the crows)


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