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Pandrethan (present-day Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India)
Other namesLalla, Lalleshwari, Lal Arifa
Known forVatsun poetry

Lalleshwari, also commonly known as Lal Ded (Kashmiri pronunciation: [laːl dʲad]; 1320–1392), was a Kashmiri mystic of the Kashmir Shaivism school of Hindu philosophy.[1][2] She was the creator of the style of mystic poetry called vatsun or Vakhs, meaning "speech" (from Sanskrit vāc). Known as Lal Vakhs, her verses are among the early compositions in the Kashmiri language and are a part in the history of modern Kashmiri literature.[3][4]

Lalleshwari ("Mother Lal" or "Mother Lalla") is also known by various other names, including Lal Dyad (Dyad means "Grandmother"), Lalla Aarifa, Lal Diddi, Lalleshwari, Lalla Yogishwari/Yogeshwari and Lalishri.[5][6][7][8]


Most modern scholars place Lalleshwari's birth between 1301 and 1320 C.E., near Sempore or Pandrenthan.[9][2] She is estimated to have died in 1373, and a grave near Bijbehara is attributed to her, although there is no confirmation. Lalleshwari is believed to have been born to a Brahmin family, and was married at the age of twelve in accordance with the local customs.[10] Following her marriage, she was renamed, as is custom, to Padmavati, but continued to be known as Lalla or Lalleshwari.[9] Some reports suggest her marriage was unhappy,[9] and that she left home, between the ages of twenty-four and twenty-six, to become a disciple of a spiritual leader, Siddha Srikanth or Sed Boyu, who was a Shaivite.[10] As part of her religious education, she travelled alone on foot, surviving on alms, before becoming a teacher and spiritual leader herself.[10]

Records of Lalleshwari's life are contained in oral tradition, and consequently there is variance on the details of her life and beliefs.[10] Numerous contemporary Kashmiri histories, such as those prepared by Jonaraja, Srivara, Prajyabhatta, and Haidar Malik Chadura, do not mention Lalleshwari.[10] The first written record of Lalleshwari's life is contained in the Tadhkirat-ul-Arifin (1587), a collection of biographies of saints and religious figures written by Mulla Ali Raina, and followed by an account of her life in Baba Daud Mishkati's Asrar ul-Akbar (1654). In these texts, Lalleshwari is described as a mystic saint, appearing in the forest to travellers.[10] In 1736, Khwaja Azam Diddamari's Tarikh-i-Azami contained a more detailed account of Lalleshwari's life.[10] She is also noted in a Persian chronicle, the Waqiati-e-Kashmir (1746) in which she is described as being known in the reign of Sultan Alau-ud-din (1343–54) and died in the reign of Sultan Shihab-ud-din (1354–73).[9]

Lalleshwari is also believed to be a contemporary of Mir Sayyid Ali-Hamdani, an Iranian Sufi scholar and poet, who recorded stories of her in his own verse during his travels to Kashmir.[11]

Literary works[edit]

Lalleshwari's poems represent some of the early works of Kashmiri literature, and were written as Kashmiri began to emerge as a distinct language from Apabhramsa-prakrit, which was spoken in North India.[12] A total of 285 poems, known as vakhs, are attributed to Lalleshwari.[10]

Lalleshwari's vakhs drawn from influences and languages that made contact with the Indian sub-continent in her life, drawing from Sanskritic, Islamic, Sufi, and Sikh cultures.[10]


Lalleshwari's work were first recorded in writing in the twentieth century, and have been republished since, in Kashmiri as well as in translation. In 1914, Sir George Grierson, a civil servant and the Superintendent of the Linguistic Survey of India, commissioned a copy of Lalleshwari's vakhs. A written record of the vakhs was unavailable at the time, and one was prepared by transcribing an oral narration of the vakhs performed by Dharma-dasa Darwesh, a story-teller residing in Gush, Kashmir. This manuscript was translated in English by Grierson and published as Lalla-Vakyani, or The Wise Sayings of Lal Ded.[13] Grierson consolidated and expanded on the partial translation prepared by the Hungarian-British archaeologist and scholar Sir Marc Aurel Stein, and incorporated some archived poems that were contained in the Dictionary of Kashmiri Proverbs and Sayings (1888).[10]

Grierson's translation was the first printed and published volume of Lalleshwari's works. Following his translation, a number of English translations have been produced, those by Pandit Ananda Koul (1921), Sir Richard Carnac Temple (1924)[14] and Jaylal Kaul (1973). Recent translations include those by Coleman Barks,[15] Jaishree Odin Kak,[16] and Ranjit Hoskote.[10]

Her poems, (vakhs) have been translated into English by Richard Temple, Jaylal Kaul, Coleman Barks,[17] Jaishree Odin, and Ranjit Hoskote.[18][19][20][21]


The leading Kashmiri Sufi figure Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali (also known as Nooruddin Rishi or Nunda Rishi) was influenced by Lalleshwari. He led to the formation of the Rishi order of saints and later gave rise to many Rishi saints like Resh Mir Sàeb.[1] One Kashmiri folk story recounts that, as a baby, Nunda Rishi refused to be breast-fed by his mother. It was Lalleshwari who breast-fed him.[22]

Lalleshwari and her mystic musings continue to have a deep impact on the psyche of Kashmiris, and the 2000 National Seminar on her held at New Delhi led to the release of the book Remembering Lal Ded in Modern Times.[23] In his book "Triadic Mysticism", Paul E. Murphy calls her the "chief exponent of devotional or emotion-oriented Triadism".[citation needed][24] According to him, three representatives of devotionalism emerged in Kashmir in the five hundred years between the last half of the ninth and the end of the fourteenth centuries.[24]

What this points to is the non-sectarian nature of Lalleshwari's spiritual life and her song-poems. Yet, her life and work have been used for various religious and political agendas over time. As author and poet Ranjit Hoskote writes:[10]

To the outer world, Lal Ded is arguably Kashmir's best known spiritual and literary figure; within Kashmir, she has been venerated both by Hindus and Muslims for nearly seven centuries. For most of that period, she has successfully eluded the proprietorial claims of religious monopolists. Since the 1980s, however, Kashmir's confluential culture has frayed thin under the pressure of a prolonged conflict to which transnational terrorism, State repression and local militancy have all contributed. Religious identities in the region have become harder and more sharp-edged, following a substantial exodus of the Hindu minority during the early 1990s, and a gradual effort to replace Kashmir's unique and syncretically nuanced tradition of Islam with a more Arabocentric global template. It is true that Lal Ded was constructed differently by each community, but she was simultaneously Lallesvari or Lalla Yogini to the Hindus and Lal'arifa to the Muslims; today unfortunately, these descriptions are increasingly being promoted at the expense of one another.

Beyond several new translations of Lalleshwari's vakh, there are other contemporary performative arts that are based on Lalleshwari's life and poetry. For example, there are contemporary renderings of Lalleshwari's poetry in song. In addition, a solo play in English, Hindi, and Kashmiri titled Lal Ded (based on her life) has been performed by actress Mita Vashisht across India since 2004.[25][26]

Further reading[edit]

  • Lalla Yogishwari, Anand Kaul, reprint from the Indian Antiquary, Vols. L, LIX, LX, LXI, LXII.
  • Lalla-Vakyani, Sir George Grierson and Dr. Lionel D. Barnett Litt. D. (R. A. S. monograph, Vol. XVII, London 1920).ISBN 1846647010.
  • Vaakh Lalla Ishwari, Parts I and II (Urdu Edition by A. K. Wanchoo and English by Sarwanand Chaaragi, 1939).
  • Lal Ded by Jayalal Kaul, 1973, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
  • The Ascent of Self: A Reinterpretation of the Mystical Poetry of Lalla-Ded by B. N. Parimoo, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. ISBN 81-208-0305-1.
  • The Word of Lalla the Prophetess, by Sir Richard Carnac Temple, Cambridge 1924
  • Lal Ded: Her life and sayings by Nil Kanth Kotru, Utpal publications, Srinagar, ISBN 81-85217-02-5.
  • Lalleshwari : spiritual poems by a great Siddha yogini, by Swami Muktananda and Swami Laldyada. 1981, SYDA Foundation, ASIN: B000M1C7BC.
  • Lal Ded: Her life & sayings, by Swami Laldyada. Utpal Publications, 1989, ISBN 81-85217-02-5.
  • Naked Song, by Laldyada, Lalla, Coleman Barks (Translator), 1992, Maypop Books, ISBN 0-9618916-4-5. [1]
  • Mystical Verses of Lalla: A Journey of Self Realization, by Jaishree Kak. Motilal Banarsidass, 2007.
  • I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote with an Introduction and Notes, Penguin Classics, 2011, ISBN 978-0-670-08447-0. [2]
  • Siddha Yogini, A Kashmiri Secret of Divine Knowledge. by Ghauri, Laila Khalid. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2012. Section 0075, Part 0604 82 pages; [M.A dissertation].United States – District of Columbia: The George Washington University; 2012. Publication Number: AAT 1501080.
  • Lalla, Unveiled: The Naked Voice of the Feminine Translations by Jennifer Sundeen. 2nd Tier Publishing, July 3, 2020.' ISBN 978-0578542577.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b M. G. Chitkara (1 January 2002). Kashmir Shaivism: Under Siege. APH Publishing. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-81-7648-360-5.
  2. ^ a b Kaul, Shonaleeka (16 October 2020). "Remembering Lal Ded, the Kashmiri Yogini". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  3. ^ Lal Vakh online Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Lal Ded's Vakhs
  5. ^ Paniker, K. Ayyappa (1997). Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and selections. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5.
  6. ^ Richard Carnac Temple (1 August 2003). Word of Lalla the Prophetess. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7661-8119-9.
  7. ^ Lal Ded
  8. ^ Lal Ded Archived 19 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c d Laldyada (2007). Mystical Verses of Lallā: A Journey of Self Realization. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 4. ISBN 978-81-208-3255-8.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote with an Introduction and Notes, Penguin Classics, 2011, p. xiv ISBN 978-0-670-08447-0.
  11. ^ Grierson, Sir George; Barnett, Lionel D. (18 April 2013). Lalla-Vakyani or the Wise Sayings of Lal-Ded - A Mystic Poetess of Ancient Kashmir. Read Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4474-9436-2.
  12. ^ Ded, Lal; Laldyada (2013). I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded. Penguin. pp. x. ISBN 978-0-14-342078-1.
  13. ^ Grierson, Sir George; Barnett, Lionel D. (18 April 2013). Lalla-Vakyani or the Wise Sayings of Lal-Ded - A Mystic Poetess of Ancient Kashmir. Read Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4474-9436-2.
  14. ^ Temple, Richard Carnac (1924). The Word of Lalla the Prophetess, Being the Sayings of Lal Ded, Or Lal Diddi of Kashmir ... Between 1300 and 1400 A.D., Done Into English Verse from the Lalla-Vakyani Or Lal-Wakhi and Annotated by Sir Richard Carnac Temple, ... The University Press.
  15. ^ Laldyada; Barks, Coleman (1992). Naked Song. Maypop. ISBN 978-0-9618916-4-0.
  16. ^ Laldyada (2007). Mystical Verses of Lallā: A Journey of Self Realization. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-81-208-3255-8.
  17. ^ Barks, Coleman (1992). Naked Song. Maypop Books. ISBN 0-9618916-4-5.
  18. ^ Kashmir's wise old Grandmother Lal Aditi De's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in The Hindu/ Business Line
  19. ^ Mystic insights Abdullah Khan's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in The Hindu
  20. ^ Words are floating Jerry Pinto's review of I, Lalla by Ranjit Hoskote in Hindustan Times
  21. ^ Lalla and Kabir, resurrected Nilanjana S. Roy's article on Ranjit Hoskote's I, Lalla and Arvind Krishna Mehrotra's Songs of Kabir
  22. ^ K. Warikoo (1 January 2009). Cultural Heritage of Jammu And Kashmir. Pentagon Press. pp. 140–. ISBN 978-81-8274-376-2.
  23. ^ Remembering Lal Ded in Modern Times National Seminar by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society, 2000.
  24. ^ a b Murphy, Paul E. (1986). Triadic Mysticism. Motilal Banarsidass Publishing House.
  25. ^ Songs of a mystic, The Hindu, 1 May 2005.
  26. ^ Bhumika K. All for theatre. The Hindu, 7 November 2011.

External links[edit]