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From various sources, we have three dates for her birth: 1300-01, 1334-35 and 1346-47 A.D., and two for her place of birth: Sempore (near Pampore) and Pandrethan.

“A tapasvin into the world came I

And bodha illumined my path to the self”

lalleshwariLalleshwari was a great poet-saint of Kashmir. Her life is shrouded in mystery, miracle and legend - and much of what we know of her is through the oral tradition. ‘Lalla Vakyani’ (1920) by Sir George Abraham Grierson and Lionel D. Barnett Litt. D., is the only scholarly work on the subject to date. The earliest recorded mention of Lalleshwari is in ‘Asrar-ul-Abrar’ by Baba Dawud Mishtaki written in 1654. Sanskrit documents dated earlier do not mention her at all, neither is there any mention of her in Kalhan’s Rajtaringini, or in any other chronicle till 1746 - may be because these were records of political events and not of social history. Or may be her teachings and fame took time to spread and she became a legend much later. It is only as late as the middle of the 18th century that Khwaja Muhammad Azam Dedamari writes in ‘Waqi ‘ati Kashmir’ : “Lalla Arifa, a saintly mystic of the highest order, devoted to God, flourished during the reign of Sultan Alau-ud-Din ( 1344-55). In the early period of her life, she was bound in wedlock; a prisoner of family life and household chores; but at the same time she became God-intoxicated and having given herself up to a life of detachment and retirement, she passed sometime in seclusion away from people……….She passed away during the reign of Sultan Shihab-ud-Din (1355-73).

Some though asleep, are yet awakesome though awake, are yet asleep despite ablutions, some are uncleandespite householder’s active life, some by their actions are untouched

Recent writers follow one or other of the earlier chroniclers, but none mentions the authority or source material for what they believe to be the date or place of her birth. Or indeed, of the events they narrate or of the legends current about her which they mention.

From various sources, we have three dates for her birth: 1300-01, 1334-35 and 1346-47 A.D., and two for her place of birth: Sempore (near Pampore) and Pandrethan. However, all agree that she was born in a brahmin family and was pious from childhood. There is evidence of the fact that in those times ‘liberal education’ was imparted to women. From a study of her ‘vaakh’ too, it is clear that she was educated during her early life in her father’s house.

“In time past, we were in time future, we shall be throughout ages we have been forever the sun rises and sets forever Siva creates dissolves and creates again.”

At the age of twelve Lalleshwari was married to Nica Bhatt. At her in-laws house she came under the influence of their family priest, Siddha Shrikantha, who was fondly called Siddha Mol or venerable father. Her husband’s step-mother treated her very cruelly. She was reproached, scolded and reprimanded at the slightest pretext. Padmavati - the name given to her after marriage - bore all quietly and never complained or protested. Several of her vaakhs are about the situation in her life. Her mother-in-law used to serve her food placing a stone on the plate and then covering it with rice so that other family members did not realize her cruelty.

“They may kill a big sheep or a tender lamb, Lalla will have her lump of stone alright.”

Early morning before dawn, Lalla would leave the house and go to the river to fill water. Her mother-in-law questioned this action and slyly accused her of infidelity. But the truth was soon out. Lalla used to go to the shrine of Nata Keshava Bhairava at the ghat of Zinypor and meditate quietly over there. One day when she returned home, her husband, instigated by his mother, struck the pitcher of water on her head with a stick. Legend has it that the pitcher broke but the water remained in place!


Lalla filled all the pots in the kitchen and then threw the remaining water outside. The water collected into a pond and came to be known as ‘Lalla Trag’ or ‘Lalla’s Pond’. According to Pir Ghulam Hassan - the Persian chronicler - the pond continued to be filled with water till 1925-26 and then went dry. Unfortunately, this incident revealed her truth to the public. Her fame spread far and wide and crowds started coming for her darshan. But Lalla was not interested in public adoration; the fall-out of this was that she was released from the bondage of a householder’s life. Now, in total disregard of appearances, she shed her clothes, let loose her long hair and walked away from home and all earthly constraints. She roamed the streets, singing and dancing in divine ecstasy - unaware of her nakedness or of people’s reaction to her state.

“My guru gave me but one precept, from without withdraw your gaze within, fix it on the innermost self, I, Lalla, took to heart this one precept and therefore naked I began to dance.”


As time passed, anecdotes and legends grew around Lalla. Once, she demonstrated to her guru Siddha Shrikantha, what true penance should be. She stood on an earthen pot and her body began to shrink with the waning of the moon, till, on the 15th day of amavas, there was nothing left in the pot but a small quantity of quicksilver - shaking and trembling. Then, with the waxing moon, her body started growing and on the full moon night, she was herself again. Lalla, her guru realized, had progressed far beyond him. When he asked why the quicksilver in the pot was trembling, she said that it was her - shorn of all senses, desires, mind and ego - yet she (the quicksilver) was trembling in fear that she ( her penance) may not be accepted. “Penance”, said Lalla, “does not bring mukti.” It comes with God’s grace.

“Knowing the truth, O soul, be not misled it is distance that makes the turf look green.”

Lal Ded - or granny Lalla - as Lalleshwari now came to be called - had outgrown the need for pilgrimage, appearances, rites, rituals, ceremonies, fasts and the worship of icons. Sometimes, indeed, she denigrated all these, as is apparent from the following verses:

“O fool! right action does not lie in fasting and in ceremonial rites

The idol is but stone the temple is also stone from top to bottom all is stone O fool! with your eyes shut which stone do you worship?

The pilgrim sanyasi goes from shrine to shrine, seeking to meet the one who abides within his own self.”

One day, her father-in-law saw her in a public gathering. Embarrassed by her nakedness in public, he asked her to put on some clothes. She replied that she did not feel the need to dress for animals. Lo & behold! everywhere her father-in-law looked, he saw sheep!

man To Lal Ded, all those engrossed in material pursuits were no better than animals. The only time she felt compelled to hide her nakedness was when she saw Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani approaching. Shouting, “here comes a man, I should cover myself”, she ran and hid in an oven in a baker’s shop. Legend says that when she emerged, she was ‘attired in cloths of gold’.

“Can you understand what oneness is?

it has turned me into


Though he is one,

Alone and All

yet I am caught in the war of duality

though he has neither colour nor form

yet I am caught in his

wondrous forms.

”Lalla, who come to be fondly called Lalla-Arifa, Lalla-Ded and even Lall and Lalla-yogini, lived for long - roaming the streets of Kashmir - her vaakh or sayings spread by word of mouth and there is not a Kashmiri today who does not have atleast one on the tip of his tongue.

The date, time and place of her death are not known. She seems to have disappeared into the great void - only her ‘vaakh’ or ’speech’ remains, surviving to date.

There is no monument to Lal-Ded. But she lives on in her vaakh - her true legacy.

Some leave their home, some the hermitage but the restless mind knows no rest so watch your breath, day and night and stay where you are.

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