LAL DED – The Mystical Yogini who Gave Voice to Other Women
In the 14th century Lal Ded, a poetess, was best known for her wisdom all over Kashmir. She was considered to be a yogini, a saint, holy woman, poet, Sufi, a devotee of Lord Shiva, avatar, wise woman, mystic, sage, and so forth by the people. Most of the words used in the Kashmiri language were derived from her sayings.
Kashmir is famous not only for its heavenly beauty but also for its poets, mystics and saints, which would be the pride of any land. One among those was the great poetess, Lal Ded. She was known by many different names like Lalleshwari, Lalla Yogeshwari, Mother Lalla, etc. She was born in the year 1355 in Pandrethan of a Kashmiri Pandit family.
She had clear recollection of her past birth. As a child, she was devout and pious. She was married off at the age of 12 into an orthodox Kashmiri family who lived in Pampur. Her in-laws were stern and throttled all her desires. They changed her name to Padmavati. She was badly treated by her mother in law. She remained calm and composed even while living in that hostile environment. Her mother-in-law would fill her plate with stones and cover them with rice so that people would think that she was eating a plateful of rice. Lalla was often half fed, yet accepted everything quietly. She would tell tales about Lalla to her husband. Lalla suffered a lot at the hands of her husband and mother in law.
* Bhakti and Worship in Scriptures in Kashmir Shaivism and Lal Ded Vakh by Prof. M.L. Koul – Poetry Chaikhana. Image courtesy: koausa.org
She would complete her household chores and then meditate for as long as she could. She often spent time on the river bank for happiness and peace. She loved loneliness. Once she fetched water from a nearby river and carried the water pot on her head. Because she arrived home late, her husband broke the pot in anger. It is said that the water turned into ice and remained there. After some time the water flowed as a stream and gathered in a tank which was named as Lalla’s tank. From then on she was referred to as Siddha by people and they would visit her for Darshan.
At the age of 26, she renounced the world and her married life and devoted herself to Lord Shiva. She roamed naked, meditated and lived on fruits. She was trained by Swami Paramananda and Siddha Srikanth. The first lesson she learned was internalizing her consciousness using a variety of techniques. She achieved her goal with her spiritual strength. She did not want to cover her consciousness with a cloth, so she gave up wearing clothes and attained the highest stature among all ascetics as an Avadhut. Avadhuts are followers of God’s will and follow God’s instructions. They believe this is the only way to please God. Lalla preached by singing songs on wisdom and on Lord Shiva.
When she had transformed herself into an Avadhut, her husband visited her and wanted to take her back home. She replied, “There is no light like the Light of God, no pilgrimage like attunement with Him, no relative or source of happiness like the Lord. Cling to Him, love Him. He is your real benefactor. Your and my physical connection ends here.” She also narrated to him his past life and his relationship with her in that birth. With her divine touch, her husband was also transformed and became a better man.
Her teachings are termed as Vakyas or Lal Vakhs. Her Vakyas are mystical, yet transparent and understandable. Lal Vakhs have the power to move an aspirant to the world of spiritual heights and experience the insights which this pious sage taught. Lalla Yogeshwari’s collection of poems have been adapted and translated into several languages and are referred to as “Lalla Vakyani”. The hearts of readers are moved by her mystical teachings that can be interpreted at different levels, difficult and yet simple, as one chooses to receive them.
Lalla Yogeshwari was also known as the “Supreme Mistress of Yoga” and “Sky clad” as a Shiva devotee. One of her disciples asked why she practiced nudity. Lalla quickly replied “Why not? I see no men about.” According to her teaching, he who lacks self-realization does not deserve to be called a “Man”. She followed Kriya Yoga and composed a large number of quatrains with abandon.
She recited a large number of quatrain poems, and left behind many quotations and sayings. These forced people to think critically. Her poetry was a rich medium to captivate both Shaivas and Sufis. Unlike mere mortals, she never waited for her death. One day she walked into the fire and faded away. She later appeared to her townspeople and disciples as a live form wrapped in a golden robe — dressed again!