CHAPTER 13: Some Vaakhs of Lal Ded and Their English Translation

by Prof. Neerja Mattoo

l. tsalun chhu vuzmalu tu tratay,
tsalun chhu mandinyan gat akar
tsalun chhu pan panun kadun gratay
hetu mail santush vatiy panay.

(Be ready to endure lightning and cloudbursts
Or a sudden pall of darkness at noon
Or the body crushed between two grindstones!
Accept it all with patience and contentment will come.)

2. abyaasi savikaasi layi vathu,
gaganas sagun myul sami tsrata
shunya gol tay anamay motu,
yohoy vopudish chhuy bata.

(Practice constantly to absorb the manifested,
The world of form merges into the void
The void dissolves, the One ineffable remains-
This is the truth to learn, O Batta!)

3. tseth torug gagana bramavon,
nimishi aki thsandi yuzan lachh,
tsetani vagi bwodi ratith zon,
pran apan phut arith pakhachi

(The mind-horse gallops over the skies,
Momently traverses a million miles.
Consciousness-bridle will hold it in check,
Control the wings of the airs that go up and down.)

4. shiv gur tay keshav palns,
brahma paydan voisvas
yugi yuga kali parza nyas
kus div ashvavar peth chadyas

(Shiva is the horse, Keshava the saddle,
And Brahma becomes the stirrup.
The yogi through his yoga will come to know,
Which God will dare to mount this horse)

5. anahat kha so'ruph shunyalay,
yas nav na varan na guthur na ruph,
aham vimarshi nad binduy yas vo'n,
suy div ashvavarpeth chadyas.

(The unimpaired sound, the void of the sky,
The One with no name nor family nor caste,
Just the Self-aware Sound and the Dot eternal
That God alone will mount this horse.)

6. tseh torug vagi heth rot um
tselith milivith dash nadi vav
tavay shashikal vyagalith vatshum,
shunyas shunyah milith gav.

(The mind-horse I reined in and put on course,
Holding him still with the ten air-channels.
The mystic moon melted and downwards flowed.
And the void was absorbed into the void!)

7. asi aasy tu asi asav.
asidor kar patuvath,
shivas sori na
zyon tu marun,
ravas sori na atugath.

(We existed in the past, we shall in future,
It's we who came and went through the aeons.
Shiva must create and destroy perpetually,
Forever the sun must rise and set.)

8. yimah she tse timay she me,
shyamagala tse byan tothus.

yohoy benabed tse tu me,
tsu shyan saami, bo sheyi mushis.

('The six You have, I have too.
Blue-throated One, estranged from you I suffer!
The only difference between You and me
You are master of the six, while I enslaved!)

9. deshi ayas dash dishi tsalith.
tsalith tsotum shunya adu vav,
shivuy dyunthum shayi shayi milith.
she tu tre tropimas tu shivuy drav

('Through the ten directions I raced and came home
Fleeing, I pierced the void and the wind,
And I found Shiva present everywhere,
Closed the there and six and He appeared, Immanent!)

10. treyi nengi sarah sari saras
aki nengi saras arshas
harmokhu kaunsar akh sum saras
sati nengi saras shunvakar.

(Thrice the lake overflowed its banks, I remember
And once the lake did rise to the sky
One lake it was from the Harmukh to the Kaunsar
And seven times the void swallowed the lake.)

11. div vata divar vata
pethu bon chhuy ikvath
puz kas karakh huta bata
kar manas tu pavanas sangath

(Your idol is stone, the temple a stone too.
All a stone bound together from top to toe!
What is it you worship, you dense Brahmin ?
True worship must bind the vital air of the heart to the mind.)

12. lal bo drayas kapas poshi satsuy
kaatsi tu duny karnam yatsuy lath
tuy yeli kharnas zaaviji tuye
vana gayam alaanz lath,
doby yeli chhaavnas doby kani pethay
sz tu saban matshnam yatsuy
sutsi yeli phirnam hani hani katsuy
adu lali me praavum param gath.

(I, Lal, set out, hoping to bloom like a cotton flower,
But was beaten and trampled by ginner and carder,
Shredded and spun into so fine a yarn,
And hung and hit by the weaver on his loom;
Thrashed and kneaded on the washerman's stone,
Pasted and plastered with soap and clayey earth,
Till the tailor's skilful scissors worked on my limbs,
And I found my place in the Highest Abode!)

13. karum zu karan tre kombith
yavu labakh parlukas ankh
wvath khas siriy mandalas tsombith
taay tsali maranyin shankh.

(Give up the karmas two and causes three,
And you will find an insight into the higher world,
Arise and ascend and tear through the sun's orb,
Thus will you overcome the fear of death).

14. dachhinis obras zayun zahahaa
sodras zanahaa kadithath
mandis rogiyas vaidyut zanahaa
muda.s zaanim na pranith kath.

(I could learn to disperse the southern clouds.
I could learn to drain out the sea,
I could learn to heal the sores of a leper,
But I could never learn the art to convince a fool!)

15. tsa mar chhatur rath simhasan,
hiad natya ras tula prakh
kyah maanith
yeti sthir asvun
kava zan kasiy marununi shankh.

(A royal fly whisk, sunshade, chariot and throne,
Gaiety, joys of theatre, a bed of softest down,
Which of these do you think will last for ever?
How then will you overcome the fear of death?)

16. dami ainthum nad vahvani
dami dyunthum sum na tu nar
dami dnthum thar pholuvuni
dami dyunthum gul na tu khar

(It was but now I saw a river in spate,
And now there's no bridge nor ferry.
It was but now that I saw a bush in bloom
And now there's no flower nor thorn!)

17. dami dinthum gaj dazvuni
dami dyunthum duh na tu nar
dami dinthum Pandavan hunz maaji
dami dinthum kraaji mas.

( It was but now I saw a hearth ablaze
And now there is no smoke nor fire
It was but now I saw her as the Pandavas' mother
And now she is merely a potter's aunt!)

18. charman tsatith ditith pany panas
tyuth kyah vavyoth phalihi sav?
mudas vopdish gayi rinz dumatas,
kani dandas gor aprith rov

(All you did was stretch your own skin taut and peg it down
What had you sown to expect a bumper harvest?
Preaching to a fool is like pelting a rock with marbles,
A colossal waste, fruitless as feeding a bull with a jaggery.

19. hachivi haarinji petsyuv kan gom
abakh chhan pyom yath razdane
manzbag bazras kuluphu ros van gom
tirthu ros pan gom, kus mali zane.

(For my wooden bow, a rush for an arrow !
An unskilled carpenter for a royal mansion!
In the marketplace, a shop unguarded!
A body uncleansed by waters holy am I,
Oh who can tell my plight!)

20. lal bo drayas lolare
thsandan lusum dyan kyoho rath
vuchhum pandith panuni gare,
suy me rotmas nechhuthar tu sath.

(Driven by love, I Lal, rushed out
And searched till the end of night and day,
But the Pandit I found esconced within,
And that for me was the perfect moment, propitious my stars!)
(From the forthcoming book on women poets of Kashmir).

Lal Ded: The Great Kashmiri Saint-Poetess