Prof. M. L. Koul

R.N. Koul’s book on Lalla Ded has in no manner thrown any new light on the historical times that provided background setting for the emergence of a personality like Lalla who by and large shaped a response to the challenge posed by the forces of religious intolerance and obscurantism. A mere superficial reference to the religious and political turbulence, that ravaged the Happy Valley does not explain it. The learned author could have taken a cue from Sir Richard Temple, who, despite his distortions and misinterpretations, has surveyed the total political and religious scenario to ensure a thorough comprehension of the shaping processes of Lalla’s mind and thought. ‘Orthodex’ ‘Brahmanism’ and ‘aggressive Islam’ (due to some fanatics) fall into a pattern of cliches in absence of a relevant exposition objective in approach and premise. ‘A tradition or cult engendered by Hindu mystics and Muslim Sufis’ needs a thorough and dispassionate discussion which the author has given a short shrift.
There are evidences galore to establish that Kashmir enjoyed a tremendous reputation for being an abode of rishis (rishi vatika) harbouring a strong and coherent indigenous tradition of rishi-cult with its root systems embedded in the vedic age. In terms of history, Sufism in its essence was absolutely foreign to Kashmir. It was introduced in the religious ambience of Kashmir by the Muslim proselytizers. Most of them sought protection in Kashmir when they were under persecution in their native lands for their indulgence in politics and affairs mundane. A Sufi owing affiliation to the Kubrawe sect of sufism imposed twenty humiliating conditions on Hindus. The learned author does not seem to be sure which Sufi-cult he is alluding to. Does he refer to the same sufis that have authorized the chapter of inconoclasm and religious strife in Kashmir’ He is perhaps led-into the belief of the existence of a mis-labelled Sufi-cult in Kashmir by the native rishis, are perpetuators of the mainstream native tradition bequeathed to them by Lalla and her galaxy of cultural progenitors having no linkages with the Islamic Sufisim of Central Asian vintage.
In the sub-title of the book the learned author has perhaps more wittingly than unwittingly re-introduced an Islamised name for Lalla Ded. A similar campaign was spearheaded at the inaugural function of Lalla Ded Hospital, which was initially christened as Lalla Arifa Hospital by the powers that be. A person sitting in the audience challenged the far-fetched and unhistorical references to Lalla Ded. The function presided over by Sheikh Abdullah was literally disrupted by the vigorous intervention of an old man leaning against his scaff. The Sheikh dithered under a wave of protest by a number of genuine intellectuals including Pt Jaya Lal Koul and Pt PN Pusp (professors of classical vintage) and ordered formation of a committee to have a second look at the Lalla Arifa nomenclature. On the recommendations of the committee the Islamised nomenclature was dropped again to be picked up by the learned author for a new dress up a revival for wayward reasons, may, opportunist considerations.
Lack of thorough grounding in the basics of Kashmir Shaiva monism (paradvya) is the Achile’s heel of the whole work which in fact has impaired the critical evaluation and treatment of the pithy vakhs of Lalla. It is a misnomer to call Trika Shastra as Kashmir Shaivism. Trika is a strand of Kashmir Shaiva monism and understandably a part cannot represent the entire thought model. It is equally relevant to point out that Kashmir Shaivism is not an apt name for the system which has pristine non-dualism as its cardinal principle. The deceptive no-menclature gained currency with the publication of JC Chatterje’s first doctoral thesis on the subject. ‘The theory and practice of Kashmir Shaivism’ in which Lalla was initiated by her preceptor, Siddha Shri Kanth, was neither dualist nor dual-cum-non-dualist, but essentially monist in assumptions. Sir Richard Temple has expressed an amazing grasp of the over-riding spirit of Lalla when he chracterised her as ‘Shaiva Yogini’. Had the learned author heeded his appraisal, he would not have digressed to recount all forms of yoga that have little relevance in Kashmir Shaiva monist thought. Patanjali Yoga stresses the regression of human senses and other natural proclivities. But the monist thought recognised their positive role in the processes of higher ascension through their sublimation and satiation. The yogic terms have been absorbed in the system but stand ruminated with new nuances of meaning and semantics. The word ‘Bindu’ originally known as ‘Vindu’ denotes unidifferentiated condition of infinite luminous consciousness supreme. ‘The mystic moon and the mystic sun’ carry three shades of meanings in sync with Shaiva Yoga methodologies of Shambava, Shakta and Anava. In Shambava methodology the mystic moon and the sun are representative combination of supreme luminosity (Prakash) and I-consciousness (Vimarsa). In Shakta methodology they imply Jnana and Kriya and in Anava methodology they denote prana and apana. The mystic sun also symbolises an inflamable energy that burns out meshes of duality. The mystic moon also refers to ‘apana breath’ deemed as cool and invigorating and the mystic sun alludes to ‘prana breath’ which is suffused with warmth. Sahasrasar is the repertoire of infinite consciousness in the being supreme. ‘Hamsa’ is derivable to ‘ham’ and ‘sah’, the former indicates the divine will of the Lord and the latter divine knowledge. In Swacchand Tantra ‘Hamsah’ is explained in the sense of ‘I am That’ symbolising’ undifferentiated and indivisible being. ‘Sushumna’ is known by other variants like brahma-nadi, madhya nadi or madhya-dham. Buit as per Shaiva-yoga in tersm transcendental it is known as all pervading Samvit-Shakti penetrating the sentient and insentient objects.In the classic work of Ishwarpratybijjna utpaldev has explicitly explained five forms of prana-shakti as prana, apana, saman, udana, and vyana (Ishwarpratybijjna, 3,2,19).
A systematic study of Lalla’s Vakhs as is deftly made by BN Parimu in his book ‘Ascent of self ‘ establishes that she had undergone all relevant processes of becoming to mature into the state of divine consciousness which in Shaivite parlance is known as ‘Shiva Samavesh’. When initiated she had to work out the practices recognised under Anava methodology like japa, vrata, niyam, dhyam, dharna for yoking the sensesinatured tendencies for entry into the Shakta grade for higher elevation. An initiate is certainly helped is under proper guidance he practises all the formulae which the learned author has huddled under, Hindu, ritealistic system’. After a seeker attains higher phases of consciousness, such methodologies become redundant and are of nouse. In sivastatravali, utpaldev has put:-
Na yoga nor tapo Nacharkrama koapi preniyate!
Amaye Shivamarge asmin bhakti eka prashyaste !!
Lalla was a witness to the turbulent times. She was honing up her thought and working out its actualisation by harnessing her body potentialities and inherent urges. She through her vakh “Shiva chuy thali thali rozan, mozan Heund ta musalman..” castigated the proselytisers not to differentiate between Hindus and Muslims and called upon them to take to the path of Trika (trial of para, parapara and apara) which would lead them to self-recognition (pratybijjna). As an initiated follower of Shiva monism she had learnt to rise above the distinctions of caste and religion and disseminated the message to proselytisors who advocated and practised conversions as cure to imaginary ills out of xenophobic considerations.
In his curious explanation of the Vakh ‘temple is built of stone as the stone he worships’ the learned author establishes her as a ‘trend-setter’ as he has decried the ‘false pantheon of Hindu’s and ‘their blind faith’ in finding God by ‘singing hymns to the stone lingam’. As Lalla was thoroughly grounded in the fundamental precepts and tenets of Shaiva monism planked on tantric assumptions, she could not subscribe to external forms of worship signifying duality notwithstanding their efficacy at initatory stages. ‘Shaiva Bakhti’ rejects daulism and focuses on Shiva pervading the worshipper, the worshipped and instruments of worship as the focal point of worship. Tantras have not accepted any form of external and ritual worship and as Kashmir Shaiva monism has tantric asumptions as its substatum, Lalla as an initiated practitioner of it could not but reject it in ultimate analysis. She has in no way rejected or decried the pantheon of Buddhist and Hindu Gods who as per her thought considered them as various manifestations of Citi (supreme consciousness). Before coming to a far-fetched conclusions, the author should have considered the following vakh:-
Shiva of Keshava or Jina
or Brahma, the lotus born Lord
May be remove from me
the sickness of the world!
It may be He or He or He
(For He is one though variously called)
J.L. Koul’s rendering.
That Lalla danced naked as put in an emotion-packed vakh and moved about naked as per a legend has evoked various responses from scholars who have written upon Lalla’s life and her poetical outpourings. Shanker Pandit, a scholar and practitioner, suggested to replace the word ‘nangaya’ (naked) by the word ‘nonguy’, said to be a flower growing wild on mountain slopes. The learned author, Koul, finds a lot of incompatibility in Lalla ‘moving about naked’ and ‘her incarnation as the ‘Muse of knowledge’ and more prcisely ‘as the Muse of poesy’. In his attempt at reconciliation he attributes it to her ‘miraculous powers’.
The fact about Lalla remains that she was initiated by her preceptor, a perfect soul, through the laconic metaphor of ‘turn your gaze within’ which like an alchemy metamorphosed her whole being. She became one with the Shiva consciousness in a manner of absolute synthesis. As freedom (swatnatrya) is an inherent attribute, call it nature, of absolute consciousness, Lalla in the same condition of consciousness cognised her self and true cognition lies in the realisation that pure undifferentiated consciousness is infinite freedom itself. It is the same stateof infinite freedom that is symbolised by Lalla singing that she danced naked in joyecstactic.
What is said above is corroborated by the statement about Shambhava, Upaya in Malinivijaya Tantra. That is said to be Shambhava-Samavesha which happens to one whohas attained freedom from all ideation by an awakening imparted by the guru (preceptor) or by an intense awakening of one’s own.
There are other inaccuracies and mis-statements littering over the book. Kashmir Shaiva monism does not consider ‘flesh’ i.e. human body as ‘dross’. It has given the body an utmost importance as it serves as a vehicle for purposes spiritual. Five bhutas have been stated as five senses. ‘Moha’ is translated as illusory pleasures. It should have been translated as delusory pleasurers as Kashmir monism does not subscribe tothe thesis of world as an illusion or chimmera. World as per its tenets is a manifestatino of Shiva. It,therefore, cannot be termed as illusory. Delusory implies all that which is taken for self, but falls withinthe ambit of ‘not’self’. Desires and other natural urges are not to be crushed to powerdish non-existence’ nor are these to be ‘burnt’. Kashmir Shiava monism advocates the sublimation and gratification of senses and desires which paves the wa to the final state of self-cognition.
The book is a good reading especially in the portions where inner theme of the Vaakhs has been elucidated. Such an attempt pioneers a new trend in the exposition of Lalla Book: Kashmir’s Hermat Poetess Lalla Ded Alias Lalla Arifa by R.N. Koul Pages 101, Price 150.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



  1. Suhail
    Posted November 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    the word la makan is a tyipcal Islamic Word and no poet could use it without proper understanding, belief in La Makan and without being muslim.

    Kindly Explain.

  2. M L Koul
    Posted December 13, 2010 at 6:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It is true that La –Makan is a typical Islamic conception. As per the concept the creator and the created are the two separate polarities and the twain do not meet. God is at the highest pedestal and after creation leaves the world alone to its own fate. In sharp contrast to this Kashmir Shaivism holds the view that shiva as the absolute reality is both transcendental and immanent. La Ded has never used the word La Makan. Instead she uses the word prakashasthan which conveys transcendence of Shiva who has the essential attribute of immanence which in lexical terms means Shakti
    It is true that La –Makan is a typical Islamic conception. As per the concept the creator and the created are the two separate polarities and the twain do not meet. God is at the highest pedestal and after creation leaves the world alone to its own fate. In sharp contrast to this Kashmir Shaivism holds the view that shiva as the absolute reality is both transcendental and immanent. La Ded has never used the word La Makan. Instead she uses the word prakashasthan which conveys transcendence of Shiva who has the essential attribute of immanence which in lexical terms means Shakti
    It is not very important to be a Muslim when somebody uses a word like La Makan. Monotheistic conception of Reality was borrowed by Muslims from Judaism itself. All the real Sufis as a tribe sponsored by Mansoor were drunk at the fount of Indian thought and yelled that they were Gods. Muslims butchered them but the world held them as martyrs at the altar of free thought and expression. It is a cliché that ideas know no barriers of time and space continuum and flout each and every obstacle coming in their way.

  3. Gulzar Khan
    Posted November 6, 2013 at 4:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    what about famous kashmiri folk story about Nunda Rishi refused to be breast-fed by his mother then Lal Ded breast-fed him……is there any fact in it or not Historically

    • Prof. M.L Koul
      Posted January 30, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Prior to Nund Reshis ascendance to the status of a true Reshi in the local parlance, Lal Ded was already supervening the cultural and spiritual ethos of Kashmir. Nund Reshi has frankly confessed to the total allegiance of Lal Ded with respect to her thought credo and world-episteme. He wants to be at the same pedestal that Lal Ded had attained through the praxis of indigenous yog procedures. He seeks for the same boon that Lala was blessed with. The oral tradition is a part of history unless it is distorted for sectarian purposes. Where ever Muslims have gone they have rejected the past of that country and past includes folk-lore, folk-tradition and oral history. Look to Egypt, Syria and most of the central Asian countries, Egypt with its ancient civilization is extinct and motifs and symbols of Egyptian civilization are buried in Egyptian archives. People don’t live that past. As against that Indian civilization is a continuum and it has no pagan past which has to be rejected as the Christians and Muslims do.
      Try to understand the verse by Nund Reshi
      Tas Padman Pore Chi Lalle
      Yame Amrit kor Peeva Mati tuthuye var ditha Deev——–

  4. Ali
    Posted July 25, 2014 at 11:02 pm | Permalink | Reply

    //All the real Sufis as a tribe sponsored by Mansoor were drunk at the fount of Indian thought and yelled that they were Gods. Muslims butchered them but the world held them as martyrs at the altar of free thought and expression.//

    Well……. Sufism derives from Islam & not the other way around. Mansoor as well as other SUFIS who uttered words in ecstasy are subject to the laws of the land. Blaming muslims for it is sheer stupidity…….. coz Mansoor as well as other SUFIS were muslims as well.

    I might not kno so much abt Lal ded…… but regarding the SUFISM in general……. Its the soul of Islam……. and Sheikh Noor-ud-din (ra) is a true muslim as well………. Sufi terminology is very deep & it needs a proper guide (murshid) for the interpretation of those terms.

    Its my suggestion to stop dividing the already polarized community and try working on building bridges in between.

    • Prof. M . L Koul
      Posted August 8, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

      What is special about Sufism? It is a collection of some practices borrowed either from Indian thought or Greek ideas on metaphysics. Sufism as such has no philosophy. When it was institutionalized with Sharia as the first pedestal, it became acceptable to the dogmatics of Islam. The Sufi practices of course can be learned from a Murshid but the practices are very common in countries where Sufism was developed as a softer face of political Islam. It is well known that Dr. Iqbal was castigated by the Muslims in the east when he presented a thesis antithetical to Islam. He was on the verge of being declared as a non-Muslim because he had taken away the non-dogmatic positions of Sufism from them. Dr. Iqbal was forced to bow. The learned writer must illuminate me and the world with the philosophical aspect of Sufism, if it has any. When mansoor yelled that he was God, he had ceased to be a Muslim. So Mansoor, Abu Sayed, Bestami and the whole tribe of Sufis were butchered because they had deviated from the positions of Islam.

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