CHAPTER 3: Lal Ded - Her Spiritualism and Present Scientific World Order

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.[1] 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." [2]

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.[3]

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."[4] 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:

So when the sun of pure consciousness shines,

The world of living and lifeless things,

The universe and whatever exists,

Are, 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.[5] 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.[6]

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...

Shiva abides in all that is, everywhere:

Then do not discriminate between

A Hindu or a Musalman,

If thou art wise, know thyself,

That is true knowledge of the Lord.[7]

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".[8]

Prof. Jayalal Kaul goes on to describe that Lal Ded has established a tradition of harmony and tolerance "which is our priceless heritage".[9] 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:

That Lalla of Padmanpore-

She drank her fill of divine nectar;

She was indeed an avtaar of ours

O God, grant me the self-same boon!"[10]

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 status.[11]

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 the country".[12]

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."[13]

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".[14]

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 physics."[15]

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 observer".[16]

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.[18] 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 of 111.

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.


1. See Anand Kaul, The Kashmiri Pandits, 1991, ed., p. 49.

2. See Prof Jayalal Kaul, Lal Ded, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1973, p. 88.

3. 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.

4. See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New Delhi, 1996, p. 315.

5. See Margaret Mead, "Anthropology Today" in S., Bhatt, Environment Protection and International Law, Radiant Publishers, 1985, p. 20.

6. See Ramesh Chandran, "Religious Heads Commitment to Global Peace", Times of India, September 2, 2000.

7. See J.L. Kaul, n. 2, p. 107.

8. Ibid., p. 85.

9. Ibid., p. 85.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., p. 89.

12. Walter R Lawrence, The Valley of Kashmir, first published 1895 -1996 ed. Jammu p. 289.

13. See Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, ed. Car Seeling, 1995, p. 11.

14. See Ilya Prigogine, Order Out of Chaos - Man's Dialogue with Nature 1984, p. 27.

15. Ibid., p. 34.

16. Ibid., p. 293.

17. See M.K. Kaw, The Science of Spirituality, 2000, 156 pp.

18. See T.N. Madan, Non-Renunciation: Themes and Interpretations of Hindu Culture, Oxford University Press. 1987.

Lal Ded: The Great Kashmiri Saint-Poetess