Lalleshvari
(14th century)
   poet-saint
   Lalleshvari was a 14th-century poet-saint of the Kashmir region of India. Her songs are beloved among Kashmiris to this day. Her philosophical standpoint is in alignment with the tantric tradi-tions of Kashmiri SHAIVISM.
   Lalleshvari was born to the family of a Kash-miri BRAHMIN pandit in the village of Pandrenthan, four miles south of Srinagar. According to legend, she married the son she had borne in a previous life in the same village. In that life, when it was time for the 11-day purification ceremony after the son was born, Lalla (her given name) asked the priest, “What relation is this child to me?” The priest, amazed at the question, answered that the child was her son.
   The mother answered that this was not the case. She said that she would soon die and be born as a female horse with certain obvious markings that the priest would know. If he were to find this foal, he would learn who her son really was. That very moment the woman died.
   The priest hurried to the place where he was told the horse would be. He indeed found her, but when the foal told him she would soon be reborn as a puppy, the priest gave up the search. Lalla underwent six births in the animal world before she was finally reborn as a girl, who grew up to become the wife of the very son she had borne. When the same priest arrived to perform the wedding ceremony, Lalla confided in him the full story.
   Lalla thus became the daughter-in-law of her former husband, who had remarried, and she went to live with the family. She was badly mis-treated there, and after 12 years she left to become a disciple of the Shaivite SIDDHA Sri Kantha, the family priest she had known in her previous life. He lived in the village of Pampur and was a direct disciple of one of the founders of KASHMIRI SHAIVISM, Vasugupta.
   Lalleshvari became a wandering yogini, going about naked, despite the ridicule and criticism she received. As the yogic scriptures state, she took praise and blame equally, not being swayed by either. She went about the Kashmir countryside and towns singing and dancing in mystical ecstasy and died, it is said, at an advanced age in Brijbi-hara, some miles southeast of Srinagar.
   Her verses in the old Kashmiri language constitute a major contribution to the somewhat limited Kashmiri literature. They reveal a mystic perception that the notion of a god with character-istics and form, approaching a monistic absolute that comprehends infinity, both visible and invis-ible. She says:
   In that place not even Shiva reigns supreme
   Nor the Shakti that belongs to him
   Only is the Unknown, like a dream,
   There pursuing a hidden sway
   Further reading: R. N. Kaul, Kashmir’s Mystic Poetess, Lalla Ded, Alias, Lalla Arifa (New Delhi: S. Chand, 1999); Swami Muktananda, trans., Lalleshwari: Spiri-tual Poems by a Great Siddha Yogini (South Fallsburg, N.Y.: SYDA, 1981); Jaishree Kak Odin, The Other Shore: Lalla’s Life and Poetry (New Delhi: Vitasta, 1999); B. N. Parimoo, trans., The Ascent of Self: A Re-Interpretation of the Mystical Poetry of Lalla Ded (Delhi: Motilal Banar-sidass, 1978); B. N. Parimoo, Lalleshwari (New Delhi: National Book Trust, India, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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