Wednesday, September 7, 2022






MEIN  LAL-DED   ( I am Lal Ded )

 by Agnishekhar

Published by … Pralek Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. ---- ISNBN ..978-93-55003591

Price Rs249/--- Available on Amazon , Flipkart and E-book format .


 Agnishekhar is a prolific writer . His prolificacy has never been a compromise either with the aesthetic standards or with the profoundness of  the content .The period of Covid-19 pandemic has been creatively utilized by Agishekhar  for  producing  some  amazing books that are bound to set newer  landmarks in Hindi  literature . The one that appeared very recently is a poetic master piece or what can be called an epic or a  “Mahakavya”  titled “MEIN  LAL- DED” ( I am Lal Ded ).

Dedicated to towering women Bhakti poets  like  Andal (Godadevi  ) of Tamilnadu ,Akka Mahadevi  of Karnataka , Gangasati  of Gujrat  , Janabai of Maharashtra ,Meerabai of Rajasthan ,Chandrabati of Bengal,Atukuri Molla  of  Andhra Pradesh ,Bahinabai of  Maharashtra  and many more of the same clan, the book  has eight Spandas ( divine vibrations ) spread over 175 pages .The author has named the eight Spandas as Sahan (endurance),Deshatan(travel),Teerthatan(pilgrimages),Kaayakalp(rejuvenation),samvedana  ( empathy ), Sutra (  thread ), Vilaya ( merger )and Shila-lekh ( stone  or rock inscription ).


Though deeply rooted in Kashmir’s Trika Shaivite creed , Lal Ded had risen much above the world of creeds or labels. One can safely call her  a torch bearer  of  ‘Mediaeval Mysticism’ and ‘Bhakti Movement’ of the country . Ramanand ( 1400-1470 ), Kabir (1440-1518 ),Guru Nanak  Dev ( 1489-1538 )and Sant Tukaram ( 1577-1650 ) followed her . Like Kabir , she also makes symbolic use of swan ( Raaazhans ), grinding mill ( Gratta ), washerman ( Dhob) , weaver ( Vovur ) , lotus flower ( Pamposh ) to put forth her spiritual thought . Her frequent use of Prakaash Dhaam or Prakash Sthaan is synonymous with Kabir’s Anahad Naad or “ Baaje Anhad dol “ or the musical chimes that are created when the seeker gets the glimpse of  the reality  transcending all worldly experiences. Through this epic , Agnishekhar makes a reader believe that Lal-Ded has not been engrossed in her spiritual pursuits alone . She has been a prime  witness to  the changes that were sweeping her native land apart from being  intensely connected with  pilgrimage centres   , lakes , mountains , flora and fauna of her Kashmir .


The ‘Mahakavya’  is the story of  the 14th century  Kashmiri saint poetess Lal-Ded  ( the protagonist) who is narrating it  to her own  Deva ( God  ) with magical intertwining of  the events of Kashmir.  This poetic narration of “Mein Lal-Ded”  is apt , gripping and  evocative . In this ‘Mahakavya’ we come face to face with Lal Ded , the first progressive poet of  Kashmiri language . We learn much about Lal Ded the originator of ‘Shunyata’ or  ‘Emptiness’ in Kashmiri poetic thought  and we know the  Lal Ded for whom    Shiva is not only the destroyer from the trinity of Brahma , Vishnu and Mahesha  but the essential supreme ruler of “Shunya” or emptiness  . This Shunya is similar to the vast “Emptiness “ of the  primordial ocean mentioned in the  Rig Vedic hymns of Nasadiya Sukta . Once an Individual realizes that the final truth or reality is “Emptiness “ , he carries a different outlook on qualms of mundane existence . This enlightenment also enables him to rise above the painful concerns of routine life . And accordingly , this concept of “Emptiness “ comes up with a positive transformative power.

 The first Spanda of Agnishekhar’s  Mahakavya begins with Lal Ded’s marriage ceremony under the delightful ambience of   Vanvun  singing or the Samaveda chimes as  Agnishekhar  rightly calls it  .  Lal Ded  is dumb like a Kamdhenu ( cow )  while her friends and relations are happy .She asks her Deva “Why this separation ?”  The first Spanda has twenty seven poems that describe Lalded’s marriage ,  the conduct of her heartless inlaws ,her renunciation of Grihista and the beginning of her spiritual  journey . Agnishekhar makes  delightful use of phrases , idioms and metaphors associated with Lal Ded in most of the poems in this Spanda . The usage demonstrates his knowledge , poetic skill and profound  conceptual clarity not only about ancient Kashmir but also about the rich tradition of Kashmir’s Shaiv Darshana. We are reminded of  Chhatra Booen ( grand shady Chinar tree ), Sidha Srikantha  ( Lal-Ded’s Guru), ancient Shiva temple of Pandrethan , river Vitasta ,the stone hidden in Lal Ded’s rice plate by her heartless inlaws, Lal Ded’s visits to  Nat Keshv Bhairva temple ,wild crows of Pir Panchal mountain range , invasion of  Dulcha  (Zulqadar Khan, a mongol invader  ) and many more incidents and happenings of historical importance .

The second Spanda has twelve poems that convey Lal Ded’s relentless search  for the ultimate reality  and spiritual practices( Sadhana ). She is on her journey path leaving aside even the memories associated with her Grihista( family life )  , friends and relations . She arrives in the lap of nature and keeps moving towards her Prakassh Dhaam ( the house of illuminations ). In the third Spanda , she is on a pilgrimage . This Spanda has seventeen poems . She travels to the Mahadeva mountain and listens to the soulful sounds of  Rishi Vasugupta’s Shivsutras all around . She goes to Dachhigaam to see the hide and seek of Hanguls  around her .She goes to Harwan and listens to the chant “ Dhamam  Sharnam Gatchhaami “ . At this place  the lesson of Shunyata or Emptiness  was revealed to  the followers of  Buddha  by  illustrious Nagarjuna . She visits  the sacred Shila of Sharika temple . She is also reminded of the untold  sufferings heaped on residents of Shrinagari  ( Srinagar ) by the alien invaders and the sacrifice of  Queen Kotrani . She visits the ancient  Kulvageshwari Teertha of Kulgam and in search of her Shiva , she moves to  Harmukh peak and Gangabal lake . Rowing her boat in Mahapadmasar or Wular lake , she keeps moving  and arrives to see the  Ice Lingam inside the  Amarnath cave . In the meantime the Sufis start  trickling  in her Shrinagari and the noise of conversion to new faith begins .

 The fourth Spanda has nine poems reflecting  Lal-Ded’s transformation to Lalleshwari after her spiritual journey . The fifth Spanda has thirteen poems that  convey the Tejaswini and Tapaswini  Swroopa (personality)  of Lalleshawari  .The Sixth Spanda contains sixteen  small poetic  threads that give peep into her Vaakhs or poetic compositions  .The seventh Spanda  has one poem that conveys the merger of her entity with the  limitless Shiva  with  and  the consequent emancipation of Lalleshwari . The protagonist or Lalleshwari ends her submissions and story that she has been conveying to her Deva at the seventh Spanda . The last and the eighth Spanda is the Shila- Lekh or the  stone  or rock inscription in the shape of a single  mini poem .The poem is a  timeless  message for the posterity  .The message  reads this :-

“ So passed   many  centuries ,

neither Lal Ded ,

   nor her story

or her Vaakhs

ever turned old .

She keeps laughing on us ,

we who deserve  pity ,

can’t  see face to face with her


since ages ,

 like a compassionate mother ,

She keeps  her hand of care  

upon our heads ‘

Lal-Ded has indelible impact on Kashmiri psyche . It has remained unabated inspite of a time lapse of about seven hundred years.This is a fact that we have failed to place Lal Ded on ground  geographically . She belongs to Pampore yet there is no visible  spot either  in Sempur or Pampore  or Laltraagh ( that had more than 60 Kanals of land)  to place her geographically. The Lal-traag  spring where the great saint poetess used to visit frequently stands completely encroached   upon.   She is yet to find a place in her own land . Does she also face exile ?


I recommend the book to every person who is  a lover of Kashmir and believes in the message of Lal-Ded. Agnishekhar has surely revisited Lal-Ded with a study that is profound  , exceptional and amazing.

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