Pearls of Mystic Poetry in Kashmiri

Shehjar e-magazine LalDed
Pearls of Mystic Poetry in Kashmiri

*Upender Ambardar

ashmiri is the most prominent language of the J&K. state, which has a vast and a rich literature of its own. Mystic interpretation is quite evident in Kashmiri poetry, the main focus being on the realisation of the Absolute Self. The mystic poetry in Kashmiri has an indescribable spiritual charm of its own, which gives a wonderful feeling of joy and utmost exhilaration to a reader.

The book 'Mahanay Prakash' by Shatikanath is perhaps the earliest work in Kashmiri in the Sharda script. It comprises of ninety four stanzas and all of them are based on Shavite philosophy.

Chronologically speaking, after Shatikanth,
Lal Ded (1339-1400 A.D.) is the first saint poetess of Kashmir; who ushered in a rich literary period in Kashmiri poetry. Lalla was a saint philosopher, who had Sidh Boi, an eminent Sanskrit scholar of that time as her Guru.

Lalleshwari, commonly known as Lal Ded is credited to be the first and supreme exponent of the mystic experience in Kashmiri poetry.

She has left an everlasting impact on the spiritual, cultural and everyday life of Kashmir. Her poetry is an excellent treatise on the indigenous Trika philosophy, which is in the form of mystic verses called 'Vakhs' (a derivation from Sanskrit 'Vakhayan').

Her 'Vakhs', which are poetic compositions of four or sometimes more than four lines, are full of mystic excellence with a spiritual depth and clarity. Lal Ded's verses usually called as 'Lalla Vakhs' are an assertion of her personal spiritual experience and divine grandeur. The Vakhs speak of her communion with the absolute truth called 'Shiva' or God, which Lal Ded says can be realised not by penance but by leading a life, which is simple and free from desire and greed.

"Passionate, with longing in my eyes, Searching wide and seeking nights and days,

Lo! I behold the Truthful one, the wise." Her poetry is replete with her total identification and rapport with the ultimate Truth and Supreme Reality, that is Shiva.

"Ardous it is to seek the Truth and God, Artificial discipline or knowledge profound suffice not, Absorbed in scriptures, very hard one may A communion one can't have, a scholar if one be."

Lal Vakhs preach equality, tolerance, universal love, harmony and brotherhood irrespective of caste, colour and creed. The following mystic verses bear testimony to her spiritual experience.

"I, Lalla, entered through the garden of my soul,
Lo! I saw Shiva and Shakti rolled in one, Overwhelmed with joy, I got immersed there itself."

"If thou art wise, get inside,
Shiva is there, do not go anywhere. Friend, put thy trust in my word."

Lalla was a true Shaivite both in thought and practice. As for her, Shiva is the supreme reality beyond all conceived.

Says, she:

"What to offer you in worship, you are the sky, you ae the earth, you are the air, the day and the night" She makes a frequent reference to Shiva in her mystic verses and openly speaks of her emptiness, while towing the lifes' boat all alone.

"I, with a rope of loose-spun thread am towing, my boat upon the sea,
Would that God hear the
prayers that I have said?
Will He safely overcarry me. Like water in cups of unbaked clay,
I run to waste, Would God, I were to reach my home."

Lalla in her 'Vakhs' implores upon us to listen to the inner voice, which alone can guarantee the inner peace and tranquility, for she firmly believes that realization of the self is synonymous with the realization of Shiva.

"My Guru gave me but one percept, From without withdraw your gaze within,
And fix it on th inmost self, Taking to heart this one percept,
Naked I began to roam."

Further, Lalla says,

"Lord, I have not known myself other than myself,
Continually have I mortified this vile body,
That thou art I, that I am thou,
that these are joined in one, I know not."

The mystic verses of Lalleshwari full of Shavite philosophy are gems of Kashmiri poetry. The riddles, dazzling metaphors, finest similies and imagery are revealed in full splendour in her mystic verses.

While reading her mystic verses, even the most bruised heart gets comforted and succoured and for a while, the earthly worries and sorrows fade-away and cease to exist. There is also a perfect blending of thought and word in her verses, which touches the deepest chord of every heart.

Her 'Vakhs' speak of inner quest, inward control, self-purification, self-surrender and a sincere pursuit of spiritual perfection.

Inshort, the contribution of the illustrious saint poetess Lalleshwari to the spiritual literature and cultural heritage of Kashmir is unparalleled.

The saint poet and founder of Reshi order of saints, Sheikh Noor-Ud-Din Noorani (1376-1438. A.D.), also known as Nund Rishi or Sahajanand and Alamdar of Kashmir was a close contemporary of the saint-poetess Lal-Ded.

His poetic compositions known as 'Shruk' (derived from Sanskrit Shloka), preach love, equality, non-violence, tolerance and respect for all beliefs.

A native of Kaimoh village near Kulgam in district Anantnag, Nund Rishi was an illustrious exponent of the mystic experience in Kashmiri poetry. He had a mystic rapport with the Shavite philosopher and saint poetess Lal-Ded. His shrukhs are full of proverbs, parables and wise sayings.

His mystic verses called as 'Sheikh Shrukhs' speak of catholicity of vision, righteousness and purity of mind and heart. All his mystic verses are in common man's language. Nund Rishi was a vociferous preacher of a simple living, a living free from desire and want.

"Desire is like the knotted wood of the forest,
It can not be made into planks, beams or into cradles.
He who cut and felled it
Will burn it into ashes."

His verses give a wonderful feeling of spiritual experience and mystic meaning of God.
"There is one God, But with a hundred names,
There is not a single blade of grass, Which does not worship Him."

In-short, his poetry confirms Nund Rishi as a great soul, saint philosopher and a mystic poet of a very high order.

Rupa Bhawani, another great mystic poetess of Kashmir was born in 1624 A.D. to a spiritual scholar Pandit Madhav Joo Dhar of Mohalla Khanaqahi Sokhta (Safakadal), Srinagar. He was also her spiritual guru. She also enriched Kashmiri literature with her rich mystic poetry. Though, well-versed with both Sanskrit and Persian languages, Rupa Bhawani chose Kashmiri the common man's language as the vehicle for expressing her spiritual thoughts, pursuits and experiences in the form of 'Vakhs.'
Her Vakhs display a great influence of Kashmiri Shaivism on her.
"Selflessness is the sign of selfless,
Bow down at the door of the selfless,
The selfless are of the highest authority,
The kings of the time and the wearers of the crest and the crown."

Rupa Bhawanis' Vakhs are assertive of the dissolution of the self, which alone does guarantee the spiritual realisation. Her mystic verses are also full of spiritual and yogic fragrance, providing spiritual comfort to the harried creature called man.

Parmanand (real name Nand Ram), born in a village Seer near mattan, presents a refreshing contrast in Kashmiri poetry with his devotional songs and hymns. Being a highly gifted poet of Kashmir, his poetry consisting of "bhajans" and 'leelas' are recited in the marriage and religious functions of Kashmiri Pandits.

His 'Radha Soyamver', 'Shiv-Lagan' and 'Sudhama Charitra' are regarded as masterpieces in Kashmiri poetry. 'Radha Soyamver' is a valuable contribution to the devotional literature of Kashmir.
One of the famous devotional poems of Parmanand, entitled 'Amarnath Yatra' symbolises the various stages through which a devotee has to pass during the attainment of his spiritual goal. His other devotional poems like 'Kul ta chay' (Tree and shadow) and 'Karam-bhumika' also merit a mention.

Parmanands' contemporary Laxman Bulbul also wrote devotional songs and "leelas". He also rendered a part of 'Radha Soyamver' in Kashmiri. His 'Ram Geeta' and a few of his leelas stand published in the book 'Gyan Prakash.'

Sahib Koul, a devotional poet of seventeenth century translated 'Ram Avtar' in Kashmiri. Apart from it, he has penned down 'Janma Chareth'; in which Sahib Koul eloquently dwells upon the inportance of 'Isht-Deev' and the spiritual guru.

Pandit Govind Koul has also contributed to a large extent to the devotional poetry of Kashmir. Hailing from the village Vanpoh in Anantnag district, his poetry exhibits rich spiritual and devotional depths.

Govind Koul's poetry speaks of a spiritual union of the human body with its soul and of a total and complete surrender to God.
The appreciation of the richness of nature and it's unspoilt beauty, the purity of mind and heart and omnipresence of God are the hallmark of Pt. Govind Koul's devotional poetry.
"Engulfed in turmoil; confusion prevailing, Thy mercy and thy love,
Only through these, din is gone.
The lone ambition now is, Thou ferry me across,
The turbulent waves, which took Massive threatening,
Govinda, thy mind, thy self, Grind these all,
...... Everything is thine, everything, I offer at thy feet,
I shall feel liberated and freed."

In another devotional poem, Govind Koul says,
"God it is, He alone, Who supervises the world,
Supreme Bliss comes to those, To whom, thee merciful are,
He is the guide, the master, in this darkness prevailing around.
He sustains all and guides in storms wild. Bliss shall come, concentrate on Him."

In his another master-piece poetic composition entitled 'Hosh Thav Herdum' (Be ever vigilant), Govind Koul says,
"Be virtuous, be kind, love all and this path be,
With love and with faith, remember Him, Him
Govinda, He alone shall take you across."

Prakash Kurgami is another outstanding devotional poet of Kashmir, who outshines as a translator of 'Ramayana' in Kashmiri verse. In it, he has enacted the entire life history of Lord Ram in poetry, taking help of local landscape of the Kashmir valley. The use of familiar places of Kashmir like Wangat, Vicharnag, Ramradhan, Narannag, Nunar, Brahmsar and Harmukh etc. invoke lofty feelings and sentiments while reading his translation.
In addition to Prakash Kurgami, Veshin Koul, Anand Ram and Neelkanth have also rendered the Kashmiri translation of Ramayana, though they did't attain the popularity as commanded by Prakash Kurgami.

Vasudevji was a close contemporary of Prakash Kurgami. He has written some devotional poems in 'Ram Avtar Charitar.'

Pandit Mirzakak of eighteenth century was also a great mystic poet of Kashmir, who also contributed a lot for the continuation of 'Vakh' tradition in Kashmiri poetry. He was born at the village Hangulgund, which is adjacent to the tourist resort of Kokernag in Anantnag district.

Pt. Mirzakak regards the ultimate truth as synanymous with Ram, Shyam and Brahma.

"Tas nav Shyam Sunder, Ghara chus Zagi under, .... Bhajan kar Ram Ramay."
Pandit Krishan Joo Razdan
has also contributed mystic pearls to Kashmiri poetry. His 'Shiv Purana' is a superb poetic transcreation of Shiv Mahapuran in Kashmiri. "Achhe Posh Gav Lachhi Nouv Heth.", which highlights the union of Lord Shiva and Shakti, is an outstanding addition to the devotional literature of Kashmir.

Shiva is characterised as Chanderchood in it, making appearance in the dark fortnight and also as 'Lachhinov' and Godess Uma as Pranshakti and 'Achhe-posh.'

Master Zinda Koul, popularly known as Masterji is another noted mystic poet of Kashmir, who has an illustrious place in the mystic poetry of Kashmir. His poetry establisnes him as a firm believer in Karma theory. The collection of his thirty-five poems in Kashmiri entitled 'Sumran' exhibit a deep influence of Kashmir Shaivism, Vedanta and Upanishads in his poetry.

"He is unknown, unseen Quietly listens, sitting by."

Master Zinda Koul's poem, entitled 'Helplessness' is a master-piece, which highlights the depths of feeling and search for the absolute truth.

The 'Sumran' won him the prestigeous Sahitya Academy Award for Kashmiri in 1956.

In addition to it, Thakur Manwati, who was influenced by Krishn Joo Razdan, has also contributed some 'leelas', which were published in 'Amrit Sagar'.
Manjoo, who was a Krishna devotee, has also written a few devotional poems mostly in praise of Lord Krishna. The tradition of 'Vakhs' in Kashmiri poetry has also been kept alive by Pandit Tika Kak, Pt. Bonakak and Pt. Lachi Kak etc through their devotional poetry.

Many Muslim poets have also contributed to the mystic poetry of Kashmir. Sufi mysticism is quite evident in their poems. The said trend was set-in by Rahim Sahib, which was carried forward by Shah Ibrahim, Nyam Sahib, Rehman Dar, and Shams Faqeer. Shams Faqeer, the noted saint-poet initiated a new era in the Muslim mystic poetry; his poems have a synthesis of Sufism and Shavite monism. Two more mystic poets, Wahabkhar of Khrew and Asad Paray of Hajin also echo the mystic vision in their poetry. Ahmed Batwari also stands-out as a prominent poet in the realm of mystic poetry. His allergorical 'Nai' and 'Indrazun Darbar' mystic songs are also an addition to this glorious tradition.

Besides them, Shah Qalandhar, Shah Gafoor, Lassa Baba, Samad Mir, Soch Kral and Mirza Akmal-ud-Din have also reaffirmed their belief in this priceless legacy.

Inshort, the mystic poetry is a glorious heritage of Kashmiri literature.

*The author an M.A. in Kashmiri Literature from Kashmir University is presently the Programme Executor in All India Radio, Jammu.
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Very informative write up....
Added By Chander M. Bhat
An excellent work. Please publish more of Upenderji's work.
Added By Raj Pandita