by Prof. S. Bhatt
In the remote 14th century and in an obscure part of the
history of Kashmir there lived Lal Ded (Lalleshwari) during the
period 1320 to 1390. In her lifetime she came to be recognized as
a goddess, a seer, who had descended upon this earth with a divine
message for mankind. Lal Ded did not have a Boswell to record her
performance in life, nor was there a Swami Vivekananda to carry
forward her spiritual philosophy to the world at large. By sheer
force of her sayings (vaakhs), Lal Ded has survived in history and
is remembered in every home in Kashmir with all communities
claiming her blessings.
To the scholars of this volume, and to the participants of this
Seminar being held by Kashmir Education, Culture and Science
Society and N.S. Kashmir Research Institute, there is an
opportunity to indeed interpret to the world once again the range
of ideas that this goddess had come to convey in somewhat adverse
circumstances of her life. She had an uncomfortable family life
and her community x- being exterminated by the Muslim
fundamentalist rulers in Kashmir. Seldom has history produced such
a seer who has shone like a light in the troubled history of over
500 years in Kashmir from 14th century onwards when Pandits were
reduced to eleven families at one time, as is recorded in the
history of Kashmir. As Professor Jayalal Kaul, an outstanding
scholar, says in his perceptive volume on the saint poetess :
"Lal Ded is undoubtedly one of the greatest spiritual
geniuses of the world." 
New Cosmic Vision
The world today is in search of a new cosmic vision, universal
in scope, and based on modern philosophy of science and Eastern
mysticism. This is the opinion of many scholars including the
President of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel. In a widely acclaimed
address in USA sometime ago, Havel said that only such a new
cosmic vision can save this civilization from its present problems
of clash of civilizations.
A leading scholar, Samuel P. Huntington from USA, whose book,
"The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World
Order" has received worldwide attention says, for example,
that "The United States, Europe, Russia and India have thus
become engaged in a truly global struggle against China, Japan and
most of Islam." The book ends with the plea that mankind
should seek commonality of different civilizations of the world.
The author had said while on a visit to India that the proxy war
by Pakistan in Kashmir was an extension of the global extremist
Muslim fundamentalism which is clashing with the pluralistic and
composite culture of India.
I am a student of international law and global order. I am
involved extensively in the study of problems of environment and
ecological balance, in a sustainable world order, in peace and
harmony of mankind et al. My concern is also to promote the unity
of mankind as of religions. I have, also seen in recent years
widespread concern of man for mysticism and inner spiritual den
eloprrent arid the quest for harmony with nature.
I have briefly studied the vaakhs (sayings) of Lal Ded as also
the translation provided by eminent scholars like late Prof
Jayalal Kaul, Prof B.N. Parimoo and Mr. Nil Kmth Kotru. I shall
attempt to describe a few vaakhs and Lal Ded's philosophy
contained in the vaakhs for the unity of life, unit, of religions,
mysticism and inner spiritual development, arid harmony of world.
Indeed as a student of science, I see in the present world order
these principles being pursued by mankind for global progress and
peace. As the scientists dream of world law and global order, so
do the seers like Lal Ded. Even Albert Einstein says that ancient
seers could grasp reality because of their pure thought or what we
call pure consciousness.
Therefore, Lal Ded has explained some truths in her vaakhs as
if they are divine messages. Their freshness is perennial. Their
truth is eternal and more appropriate to the modern world. Let us
consider some such principles enunciated by her. She pronounced
her vaakhs because of her quest for understanding nature and the
cosmic process, and concern for a better world order.
Unity of Life and Non-Life
Lal Ded says in Vaakh 33, partly reproduced below with English
translation by Pandit J.L. Kaul:
when the sun of pure consciousness shines,
world of living and lifeless things,
universe and whatever exists,
in the Supreme, seen as one.
Here Lal Ded provides connection between the world of living
and lifeless things. Thus the parts of environment in the universe
are interdependent. Mankind has in 1972 in Stockholm made a
Declaration on the Human Environment wherein it is said that man
is part of nature and there is intrinsic. connection between life
and non-life parts of environment. The above Declaration has
brought forth what is called the Global Environment Movement.
Furthermore, it calls for the unity of life on this planet. The
anthropologists have called attention to mankind being one species
- homo sapien. Margaret Mead, among others, has said that the
variety in human species is a source of strength to the entire
species. Modem day planning of human societies is based on the
truth that Lal Ded said over six hundred years ago, that there is
a unity of all species and all forms of life and non-life. The
essential thing for us is to grasp this unity through pure
consciousness. The United Nations has taken further steps to seek
man's harmony with nature. In 1982, a "Charter for
Nature" has been drawn for all nations and people to follow.
The theme of this Charter is to seek unity and harmony with the
nature. Nature provides means for social, economic and spiritual
growth, says the Charter.
Unity of Religions
The United Nations held recently a world conference of
religions to seek inter-faith harmony among peoples of the world.
Theologians and spiritual leaders presented a document to the
Secretary General of the United Nations called "Commitment to
Global Peace". The General Assembly was crowded by religious
leaders for 96 hours. The leaders declared that they will seek
harmony for mankind and help solve problems of world.
Lal Ded as a seer has said in one of her Vaakhs that there is
one God and one should not distinguish between a Muslim and a
Hindu. She says:
Shiv chhuy thali-thali rozan...
abides in all that is, everywhere:
do not discriminate between
Hindu or a Musalman,
thou art wise, know thyself,
is true knowledge of the Lord.
Thus Lal Ded is accepted as a spiritual leader by all faiths.
As Prof. J.L. Kaul records:
"Indeed, she helped us, Kashmiris, to discover our mother
tongue and our soul as a people... That is why there is not a
Kashmiri, Hindu and Musalman, who has not some of her Vaakh on the
tip of his tongue, and who does not reverence her memory".
Prof. Jayalal Kaul goes on to describe that Lal Ded has
established a tradition of harmony and tolerance "which is
our priceless heritage". Indeed Kaul cites three
outstanding sages of Kashmir who being seers themselves accepted
Lal Ded as a divine being and a great spiritual force. These seep
belonged to both Hindu and Muslim religions. The foremost tribute
comes from Sheikh Nur-ud-din Rishi whose immortal stanza on Lal
Ded is recalled here:
Lalla of Padmanpore-
drank her fill of divine nectar;
was indeed an avtaar of ours
God, grant me the self-same boon!"
Other seers whom Kaul cites are Rupa Bhawani (1625-1721) who
regarded Lal Ded as her guru, Parmanand (1791-1879) and Shams
Faqir (1843-1914) who both acknowledged her great spiritual
Indeed one can say with historic insight that Lal Ded has
established a composite culture and a common spirituality of
mankind for over six hundred years. Her contribution to common
spiritual life is based upon her vaakhs and the philosophy of
living contained in her sayings. Hindus and Musalmans to this day
follow her dicta. Indeed a Western scholar, Walter R. Lawrence, in
his scholarly treatise, 'The Valley of Kashmir', first published
in 1895, records:
"I have shown in my chapter on customs how certain ideas
are common to the Hindus and Musalmans of Kashmir, but I attribute
much of the delightful tolerance which exists between the
followers of the two religions chiefly to the fact that the
Kashmiri Musalman never really gave up the old Hindu religion of
Lawrence refers to saint-worship in Kashmir which is common
among the two communities. Sometimes they both worship a saint of
either religion such as a Hindu saint, Rishi Pir, or Nund Rishi,
the latter a Muslim. Therefore Lal Ded has successfully
established an everlasting spiritual philosophy of tolerance of
religions which was followed and further elaborated by Muslim
saints. In my own childhood whenever I visited my mother's birth
place - matamal - in Tulamulla, Kashmir, my grandmother, Rajrani
Devi, would take me to a great Muslim saint, Akram Shazh Saheb,
who lived nearby, for his blessings. This was apart from my
intense prayers at Ragya Mandir at Khir Bhawani held in high
esteem by both Hindus and Muslims. In 1999, on my visit to
Kashmir, I did visit the site of my matamal in Tulamulla even
though Hindus in Tulamulla have been forced to leave by militant
forces, and an elderly Kashmiri Muslim lady offered for me prayers
in the name of Ragya Devi. Tolerance of religions is found in the
soil of Kashmir and in the gene and hearts of the people of
Kashmir. This common love of all religions cannot be wished away
by fundamentalist forces currently operating from outside the
valley of Kashmir. Religious tolerance is of course largely a
legacy of Lal Ded from tie, fourteenth century onwards.
So, cannot this group of scholars attending this seminal take
up this theme of inter-faith harmony of which Lal Ded speaks in
her vaakhs? Cannot we, in the context of the United Nations
conference on religious harmony, carry her message to the world at
large? Time will soon come, when the people of Kashmir, fed up by
militarism and narrow fundamentalism, will rekindle this
inter-religious faith that Lal Ded started and Nund Rishi and
others carried forward. It can be a worldwide spiritual movement
that mankind is awaiting. Indeed, it will once again open up
floodgates of harmony arid love in Kashmir and the rest of India
and the world.
Mysticism and Non-Renunciation
Until recently mysticism was despised for being some obscure
and unscientific discipline and not a part of human nature. Albert
Einstein after many centuries from Newton revived mysticism by his
many celebrated utterances. He said of mysticism:
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the
mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the
cradle of true art and true science."
Mysticism is, therefore, a search for the unknown. It involves
dreaming about nature's mysteries. The scientist dreams, the seer
also dreams. Indeed in the post-Einstein period, mysticism has
acquired a new dimension and the philosophy of science has moved
on towards a non-mechanist view of the world by the scientists.
Prof. Ilya Prigogine, who won a Noble Prize in Physics in 1977 on
thermodynamics of natural systems has done ample work on
describing this change in the philosophy of science. His book,
"Order Out of Chaos", is worth reading. Here Alvin
Toffler in his foreword says that "we are becoming more and
more conscious of the fact that on all levels, from elementary
particles to cosmology, randomness and irreversibility play an
ever-increasing role. Science is rediscovering time".
Prigogine himself speaks of mysticism:
"Today the balance is strongly shifting towards a revival
of mysticism, be it in the press media or even in science itself,
especially among cosmologists. It has even been suggested that
certain physicists and popularizers of science that mysterious
relationships exist between parapsychology and quantum
Prigogine talks of profound change in the scientific concept of
nature. Indeed he seems to endorse the view of Tagore who during
his discourse with Einstein on the meaning of Reality said that
"even if absolute truth could exist, it would be inaccessible
to the human mind". Einstein had emphasized that
"science had to be independent of the existence of any
Thus we find new and very perceptive books being well-received
by the scientific community which provide a thematic approach to
science, a theme to provide a bridge for human understanding.
Gerald Holton's book "Thematic Origin of Scientific Thought
From Kepler to Einstein" is a profound contribution in this
direction. With a new emphasis on mysticism, and a thematic
approach to science, the world is witnessing a new dialogue
between mysticism practiced by seers like Lal Ded that produces
pure consciousness in human beings and the new science of
philosophy. Lal Ded's vaakhs are replete with mysticism of nature.
Human being is a part of nature. Thus by practicing Omkar, Lal Ded
says, one can bridge the gap between self and cosmic
consciousness. Some writers like Mr. M.K. Kaw, the President of
Kashmir Education, Culture and Science Society, have called
attention to the dynamic equilibrium of Vedanta that provides pure
consciousness. He calls it the science of spiritualism." Lal
Ded also calls for achieving pure consciousness by the practice of
yoga. After all she feels that yoga is the realization of God from
within. The kingdom of God is within you, says Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus Lal Ded has shown close nexus between mysticism and observing
reality in the universe. She has spurred scientists to combine
scientific search with search for spirituality and pure
consciousness. Science and spiritualism of Vedanta are seen as one
and inter-dependent entities.
Lal Ded provides in her vaakhs an inspiration to be a
householder. She is not in favour of renunciation. However, while
being a householder, one has to live with certain precepts. Most
important for a householder, she says, is to do good to keep away
from anger and greed, to be humble, to dedicate all works to God,
to constantly practice the mantras of God. She gives a call to
arise, ascend to higher levels of spirituality, to develop pure
consciousness, and to live in the present.
In retrospect, to the Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in particular, Lal
Ded, provides the anthropology, a way of life and growth and the
values that we the KPs have imbibed in history to this day. We the
KPs tend to be spiritual while living a house-holder's life.
Indeed one of our foremost sociologist, Prof. T.N. Madan, has
written a book on the subject of nonrenunciation and elaborated in
detail the practices of Kashmiri
Pandits in their social and cultural life. No wonder that
Lal Ded occupies a pre-eminent place out of all saints of Kashmir
among the KPs.
Tributes to Lal Ded
A large number of writers in Kashmir have written about Lal Ded,
her vaakhs, and her philosophy. Of these, a good number of authors
are Muslim scholars. Prof. Jayalal Kaul who carried out extensive
research on the topic has cited in the bibliography of his book,
"Lal Ded", a large number of authors, some of them
foreign scholars. Among prominent scholars and books on Lal Ded,
mention may be made of Anand Kaul who wrote in 1924 in the journal
"Antiquary", Avtar Krishan Rahbar, Premnath Bazaz in his
book "Daughters of Vitasta", Gopi Nath Raina, J.L. Kaul
jalali, "Kalam-i-Lalla Arifa" edited by Qazi
Nizam-ud-din, Lal Ded Number of "Koshur Samachar", 1971,
published by Kashmiri Samiti, Delhi, "Lal Ded" by J.L.
Kaul and N.L. Kaul Talib, "Lalla Vakyani" by Sir George
Grierson and Lionel D. Barnett in 1920, "Nurnama" edited
by Amin Kamil in 1966. "The Word of Lalla" by Sir
Richard Temple, 1924, P.N.K. Bamezai in his book "History of
Kashmir" 1962, Shankar Lal Kaul, "Mother Lal of
Kashmir", Sir Aurel Stein in Rajatarangni, Vol. I, et al.
In recent period, we have three books written on Lal Ded, the
first by Prof. Jayalal Kaul for Sahitya Akademi in 1973. "The
Ascent of Self" by Dr. B.N. Parimoo in 1978, and "Lal
Ded : Her Life and Sayings" by Nil Kanth Kotru in 1989.
Prof. Jayalal Kaul
It is recognized in academic world that Prof. Jayalal Kaul
produced a comprehensive book after a lot of research work on Lal
Ded in 1973. The book published by Sahitya Akademi has various
chapters on the life and legend of Lal Ded, the text of Lal vaakhs,
on Lal Ded's role as the maker of Kashmiri language, on Lal Ded
and her times and an appraisal by Prof. Jayalal Kaul himself.
Prof. Jayalal Kaul's work on Lal Ded is most outstanding. It
provides all aspects of Lal Ded's life and her contribution to the
development of soul and culture of Kashmir. It includes her role
in the making of Kashmiri language and literature, her poetry, her
higher spiritual attainments, and her role in promoting harmony
and tolerance of religions.
I personally pay my highest and humble tribute to Prof'.
Jayalal Kaul on this occasion. He was a genius of our society who
has in the highest scholarly traditions dealt with the subject in
deep historical perspective. He has collected some of the vaakhs
from various sources, including the word of the mouth, and
analyzed them for us. He was himself endowed with great spiritual
insight, and was a poet himself. I was fortunate to be in contact
with him while I edited a book entitled "Kashmiri Pandits: A
Cultural Heritage". Prof. Kaul was requested by me to send an
article for the book. And he was kind to provide one on Lal Ded.
He wrote his last letter to me in December, 1986 on the subject
and expired shortly thereafter.
His article on Lal Ded was received after his death. It was
published in the above mentioned book, being the first chapter out
All the participants of this Seminar would like to pay their
humble tributes to Prof. Kaul who represented all the virtues of
this great Kashmiri Pandit community.
I wish to offer my respectful comments to the other two learned
authors, Dr. B.N. Parimoo, and Pt. Nil Kanth Kotru, who have
brought out very scholarly volumes on Lal Ded. I am sure other
scholars in this Seminar will further analyze their views and
reflections on the life and times of Lal Ded.
In a period when Lal Ded's spiritual philosophy is bound to
create a new cosmic vision for mankind, when her role for Kashmir!
language, literature and poetry is bound to strengthen Kashmiri
ethos and culture (Kashmiriat), the writings of Prof. J.L. Kaul,
Dr. B.N. Parimoo and Nil Kanth Kotru will be read with fresh
intellectual curiosity. Indeed, the participants of this Seminar
and the Convener Dr. S.S. Toshkhani, himself an erudite scholar on
Lal Ded and Kashmiri literature, have an important duty to convey
to the world Lal Ded's message of harmony, religious tolerance and
creative progress based on her life and her vaakhs - her verse
sayings. Seldom has the world seen in flesh and blood a divine
being in the form of a human being merged with the cosmic pure
consciousness and conveying to the mankind the finer points on
spiritualism and on householders' daily life. The present world
order will greatly benefit by her philosophy. Let us try to convey
this to the world community.
See Anand Kaul, The Kashmiri Pandits, 1991, ed., p. 49.
See Prof Jayalal Kaul, Lal Ded, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1973,
See Vaclav Havel in Newsweek, July 18, 1994. See also S. Bhatt,
Kashmiri Pandits: A Cultural Heritage, Lancers Book, 1995, p. 631,
at p. 14.
See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the
Remaking of World Order, New Delhi, 1996, p. 315.
See Margaret Mead, "Anthropology Today" in S., Bhatt,
Environment Protection and International Law, Radiant Publishers,
1985, p. 20.
See Ramesh Chandran, "Religious Heads Commitment to Global
Peace", Times of India, September 2, 2000.
See J.L. Kaul, n. 2, p. 107.
Ibid., p. 85.
Ibid., p. 85.
Ibid., p. 89.
Walter R Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir, first published 1895
-1996 ed. Jammu p. 289.
See Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, ed. Car Seeling, 1995, p.
See Ilya Prigogine, Order Out of Chaos - Man's Dialogue with
Nature 1984, p. 27.
Ibid., p. 34.
Ibid., p. 293.
See M.K. Kaw, The Science of Spirituality, 2000, 156 pp.
See T.N. Madan, Non-Renunciation: Themes and Interpretations of
Hindu Culture, Oxford University Press. 1987.