History Optional Paper-1 Solution – 2013: Q.5 (e)

Q.5 (e) Bhakti and mysticism of Lal Ded emerged as a social force in Kashmir. Comment.


Kashmir has produced many saints, poets and mystics. Among them, Lal Ded is very prominent. She was a 14th century mystic woman saint of the Kashmiri Shaivite sect. She was a creator of the mystic poetry called Vakhs, popularly known as Lal Vakhs.

The Hindus called her Lalleshwari and the Muslims Lalla Arifa. But both endearingly called her Lal Ded (Grandmother). This continues as such to date.

Bhakti and mysicism of Lal Ded emerged as a social force in Kashmir by influencing people and enriching culture in the following ways:

(1) Lal Ded composed her poetry expressing her spiritual and mystic experiences in the language of the people, i.e. Kashmiri so that her teachings might reach the masses .

Lal Vakhs, her verses are the one of the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language and are an important part in history of Kashmiri literature. She thus laid the foundations of the rich Kashmiri literature and folklore.

(2) The Kashmiri language is full of her sayings. Every Kashmiri uses some sayings of Lalla. Her songs became popular which passed on from generation to generation.

(3) Lal Ded fills her teachings with many truths that are common to all religious philosophy. There are in it many touches of Vaishnavism, the great rival of Saivism as well as Sufism. She has established a composite culture and a common spirituality in Kashmir. In one of her Vakhs, she said that there is one God and one should not distinguish between a Muslim and a Hindu.

(4) Her mysticism has established a tradition of harmony and tolerance. she preached non-violence, simple living and high thinking. She disdained rituals in religion. At a time when the world was suffering from conflict – social, political and economic – her efforts in removing the differences between man and man was highly significant.

(5) Many Hindu as well as Muslim sages of Kashmir were influenced by Lal Ded. The foremost among them was the leading Kashmiri Sufi saint Sheikh Nur-ud-din Wali of Rishi order.


Lal Ded or Lalleshwari was born near Srinagar in a Kashmiri Pandit family. After being married and facing cruel treatment from her husband, she abandoned her home, and was said to have roamed about naked – like the famous Tamil bhakta, Mahadevi Akka, whose poems are given a beautiful translation by A. K. Ramanujan. Though she herself seems to have been a Shaivite for most of her life, according to Muslim accounts she finally became the disciple of a renowned Sufi and converted to Islam, travelling with him throughout Kashmir. In fact, she was mostly ignored by Hindu writers, including the Kashmiri Pandit accounts, but referred to as a great gnostic and ecstatic by medieval Kashmiri Muslim writers.


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