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The Sufi saint who promoted the cultural blend of Shaivism and Islam

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Srinagar, March 28 (IANS): Lalleshwari, affectionately known as ‘Lal Ded’ (Mother Lalla), is among the most prominent Sufi saints in Kashmir who promoted a cultural blend of Shaivism and Islam, which teaches tolerance, coexistence and brotherhood between communities.

She was born in the early 1300s. Through her verses, those relating to daily life and life in the afterlife, Lal Ded became so popular among the people of Kashmir that at one point , the local Pandits considered her an incarnation.

She practiced Shaivism, but her message of brotherhood made her one of the most revered Sufis in her country. Local Muslims called it ‘Lal Arifa’.

His mystical poetry is called “Vakhs”, which literally means “word”. His verses are the first poetic compositions in the Kashmiri language and as such constitute an important part of the history of Kashmiri literature.

Lalleshwari’s mystical musings continue to have a profound impact on the psyche of the Kashmiri people.

Lal Ded got married when she was 12 years old. She left home at the age of 24 to take ‘Sanyas’ (renunciation).

His meeting with another great Kashmir Sufi saint, Sheikh Nooruddin Wali, called “Nund Rishi” by local pundits, is famous throughout Kashmir.

It is said that after his birth, Nund Rishi refused to be breastfed by his mother.

Lal Ded came and said to the child, “If you are not ashamed of being born, why are you ashamed of being breastfed?

The Rishi is then believed to have been nursed by Lalleshwari as an adoptive mother.

One of his famous “Vakhs” reads in translation as follows:

“The soul like the moon, is now, and always new again

And I saw the ocean, continually creating

The day will fade into night

The ground surface will extend outward

The new moon will be swallowed

In eclipse, and the mind in meditation”

Lal Ded’s influence on Nund Rishi’s life and teachings was so profound that many Kashmiris believe that the Rishis absorbed Sufism and renunciation through Lal Ded’s milk.

Local Muslims and Pandits have never in their history distinguished between the Sufi saints of Kashmir on the basis of religion.

For Kashmiris, the true message of the Sufi saints has been their love for God’s creation and the preservation of peace, tolerance and brotherhood among communities.

The enemies of this traditional brotherhood have momentarily shaken its structure.

It is hoped that these enemies of Kashmir’s eclectic culture called “Kashmiriyat” will not succeed in demolishing the centuries-old mutual faith that the two communities have coextensively.