Revisting Lal Ded

Avtar Mota

Name of Book : Mein Lal-Ded
Author : Agnishekhar
Published by : Pralek Prakashan
Pvt. Ltd. —- ISNBN ..978-93-55003591
Price : Rs249/–
Available on Amazon , Flipkart and
E-book format .
Agnishekhar is a prolific writer . His prolificacy has never been a compromise either with the aesthetic standards or with the profoundness of the content .The period of Covid-19 pandemic has been creatively utilized by Agishekhar for producing some amazing books that are bound to set newer landmarks in Hindi literature . The one that appeared very recently is a poetic master piece or what can be called an epic or a “Mahakavya” titled “MEIN LAL- DED” ( I am Lal Ded).
Dedicated to towering women Bhakti poets like Andal (Godadevi ) of Tamilnadu ,Akka Mahadevi of Karnataka , Gangasati of Gujrat , Janabai of Maharashtra ,Meerabai of Rajasthan ,Chandrabati of Bengal,Atukuri Molla of Andhra Pradesh ,Bahinabai of Maharashtra and many more of the same clan, the book has eight Spandas ( divine vibrations ) spread over 175 pages .The author has named the eight Spandas as Sahan (endurance), Deshatan (travel), Teerthatan (pilgrimages), Kaayakalp (rejuvenation), samvedana ( empathy ), Sutra ( thread ), Vilaya ( merger ) and Shila-lekh ( stone or rock inscription).
Though deeply rooted in Kashmir’s Trika Shaivite creed , Lal Ded had risen much above the world of creeds or labels. One can safely call her a torch bearer of ‘Mediaeval Mysticism’ and ‘Bhakti Movement’ of the country . Ramanand ( 1400-1470 ), Kabir (1440-1518 ), Guru Nanak Dev ( 1489-1538 ) and Sant Tukaram ( 1577-1650 ) followed her . Like Kabir , she also makes symbolic use of swan ( Raaazhans ), grinding mill ( Gratta ), washerman ( Dhob) , weaver ( Vovur), lotus flower ( Pamposh ) to put forth her spiritual thought . Her frequent use of Prakaash Dhaam or Prakash Sthaan is synonymous with Kabir’s Anahad Naad or ” Baaje Anhad dol ” or the musical chimes that are created when the seeker gets the glimpse of the reality transcending all worldly experiences. Through this epic , Agnishekhar makes a reader believe that Lal-Ded has not been engrossed in her spiritual pursuits alone . She has been a prime witness to the changes that were sweeping her native land apart from being intensely connected with pilgrimage centres , lakes , mountains , flora and fauna of her Kashmir .
The ‘Mahakavya’ is the story of the 14th century Kashmiri saint poetess Lal-Ded ( the protagonist) who is narrating it to her own Deva ( God ) with magical intertwining of the events of Kashmir. This poetic narration of “Mein Lal-Ded” is apt , gripping and evocative . In this ‘Mahakavya’ we come face to face with Lal Ded , the first progressive poet of Kashmiri language . We learn much about Lal Ded the originator of ‘Shunyata’ or ‘Emptiness’ in Kashmiri poetic thought and we know the Lal Ded for whom Shiva is not only the destroyer from the trinity of Brahma , Vishnu and Mahesha but the essential supreme ruler of “Shunya” or emptiness . This Shunya is similar to the vast “Emptiness ” of the primordial ocean mentioned in the Rig Vedic hymns of Nasadiya Sukta . Once an Individual realizes that the final truth or reality is “Emptiness ” , he carries a different outlook on qualms of mundane existence . This enlightenment also enables him to rise above the painful concerns of routine life . And accordingly , this concept of “Emptiness ” comes up with a positive transformative power.
The first Spanda of Agnishekhar’s Mahakavya begins with Lal Ded’s marriage ceremony under the delightful ambience of Vanvun singing or the Samaveda chimes as Agnishekhar rightly calls it . Lal Ded is dumb like a Kamdhenu ( cow ) while her friends and relations are happy .She asks her Deva “Why this separation ?” The first Spanda has twenty seven poems that describe Lalded’s marriage , the conduct of her heartless inlaws ,her renunciation of Grihista and the beginning of her spiritual journey . Agnishekhar makes delightful use of phrases , idioms and metaphors associated with Lal Ded in most of the poems in this Spanda . The usage demonstrates his knowledge , poetic skill and profound conceptual clarity not only about ancient Kashmir but also about the rich tradition of Kashmir’s Shaiv Darshana. We are reminded Chhatra Booen ( grand shady Chinar tree ), Sidha Srikantha ( Lal-Ded’s Guru), ancient Shiva temple of Pandrethan , river Vitasta ,the stone hidden in Lal Ded’s rice plate by her heartless inlaws, Lal Ded’s visits to Nat Keshv Bhairva temple ,wild crows of Pir Panchal mountain range , invasion of Dulcha (Zulqadar Khan, a mongol invader ) and many more incidents and happenings of historical importance .
The second Spanda has twelve poems that convey Lal Ded’s relentless search for the ultimate reality and spiritual practices( Sadhana ). She is on her journey path leaving aside even the memories associated with her Grihista( family life ) , friends and relations . She arrives in the lap of nature and keeps moving towards her Prakassh Dhaam ( the house of illuminations ). In the third Spanda , she is on a pilgrimage . This Spanda has seventeen poems . She travels to the Mahadeva mountain and listens to the soulful sounds of Rishi Vasugupta’s Shivsutras all around . She goes to Dachhigaam to see the hide and seek of Hanguls around her .She goes to Harwan and listens to the chant ” Dhamam Sharnam Gatchhaami ” . At this place the lessons of Shunyata or Emptiness was revealed to the followers of Buddha by illustrious Nagarjuna . She visits the sacred Shila of Sharika temple . She is also reminded of the untold sufferings heaped on residents of Shrinagari ( Srinagar ) by the alien invaders and the sacrifice of Queen Kotrani . She visits the ancient Kulvageshwari Teertha of Kulgam and in search of her Shiva , she moves to Harmukh peak and Gangabal lake . Rowing her boat in Mahapadmasar or Wular lake , she keeps moving and arrives to see the Ice Lingam inside the Amarnath cave . In the meantime the Sufis start trickling in her Shrinagari and the noise of conversion to new faith begins .
The fourth Spanda has nine poems reflecting Lal-Ded’s transformation to Lalleshwari after her spiritual journey . The fifth Spanda has thirteen poems that convey the Tejaswini and Tapaswini Swroopa (personality) of Lalleshawari .The Sixth Spanda contains sixteen small poetic threads that give peep into her Vaakhs or poetic compositions .The seventh Spanda has one poem that conveys the merger of her entity with the limitless Shiva with and the consequent emancipation of Lalleshwari . The protagonist or Lalleshwari ends her submissions and story that she has been conveying to her Deva at the seventh Spanda . The last and the eighth Spanda is the Shila- Lekh or the stone or rock inscription in the shape of a single mini poem .The poem is a timeless message for the posterity .The message reads this :-
” So passed many centuries ,
neither Lal Ded ,
nor her story
or her Vaakhs
ever turned old .
She keeps laughing on us ,
we who deserve pity ,
can’t see face to face with her
since ages ,
like a compassionate mother ,
She keeps her hand of care
upon our heads ‘
Lal-Ded has indelible impact on Kashmiri psyche . It has remained unabated inspite of a time lapse of about seven hundred years.This is a fact that we have failed to place Lal Ded on ground geographically . She belongs to Pampore yet there is no visible spot either in Sempur or Pampore or Laltraagh ( that had more than 60 Kanals of land) to place her geographically. The Lal-traag spring where the great saint poetess used to visit frequently stands completely encroached upon. She is yet to find a place in her own land . Does she also face exile ?
I recommend the book to every person who is a lover of Kashmir and believes in the message of Lal-Ded. Agnishekhar has surely revisited Lal-Ded with a study that is profound , exceptional and amazing.