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ARTICLE : Mystic Trends in Kashmiri Poetry

Reproduced from Koshur Samachar
April 1996
Mystic Trends in Kashmiri Poetry
by Dr. Krishna Raina

    Ours is a great country. We have had for
    centuries a great history, the whole of the
    East reflects our culture. We have to present what
    India taught right from the Mohenjo-Darro and
    Harappa times. These are the precious words of
    Dr S. Radhakrishnan. Kashmir is the most important
    part of this great country with a rich geographical,
    historical, cultural and literary background. It is
    known as a famous seat of learning. Kalhana has
    given us the first chronological order of the kings of
    Kashmir and thus Rajtarangini is the first history of
    Kashmir written in the 12th Century.

   Kashmir is supposed to be the originating center
of human culture, and it is popularly known as the
Paradise on Earth. Kashmir is famous for its
Pratyabhijnya system of Kashmir Shaivism which
has given radical revisions of Indian Philosophy.
Pratyabhijnya Philosophy is the main contribution
of Kashmir to Indian philosophy. Shri Somananda
was the originator of this philosophy and Utpaldevak
Abhinav Gupta and others were main expounders of
this philosophy. Buddhism has also a long history in
Kashmir. The great Buddhist Council was held in
Kanishka's time near Harwan, known then as
Kundala-Vana-Vihara. Kashmiri scholars have written 
much about Buddhism and have translated many
works. Indian Literature without the contribution of
Kashmir would be hollow. Kashmir has produced
scholars of Sanskrit Kavya Shastra: Vamana, the
founder of the Riti School and Udbhatta, the teacher
of different theories of Riti; Rudratta, Ananda
Vardhana, Mamatta and Abhinavgupta, Kayyatta,
Ruyyaka and Mahima Batta-all were Kashmiris.
Anand Vardhana is the founder of Dhvani School
and Mammatta of Rasa School. Abhinavgupta's
doctrine is that Rasadhvani is the soul of Literature.
Patanjali was also a Kashmiri. Thus Kashmir has
given a lot to the Indian Poetics and Literature.
Kashmir has produced many Sanskrit scholars and
mystics. The cultural life of Kashmir has had the
impress of great mystics.

   The main language of Kashmir is Kashmiri. It is
said that it is a mixed language and the greater part of
its vocabulary is of Indian origin and it is allied to that
of Sanskritic-Indo-Aryan languages of Northern

   Kashmiri poetry begins with the works of great
mystic poetess Lalleshwari of 14th century. Her
Guru was Siddha Srikantha and she learnt yoga from
him. Lal Ded propounded the yoga philosophy and
high moral truths in Kashmiri verse. These are called
Lala Vakh or sayings of Lal Ded. These sayings are
the gems of Kashmiri poetry and true knowledge of
yoga.These are deep and sublime. She was influenced
by Kashmir Shaivism and Shankracharya's Advaita
Philosophy. Lal Ded's God is Nirguna. She wanted
to make Shaivism easy for common man. She says
that one who thinks himself not different from the
other; one who accepts sorrow as good as pleasure;
one who frees himself from duality; he and he alone
tells the beads of Lord of the Lords-Almighty and
this is the basic thinking of Shaivism. She held a key
to many mystic truths. The following stanza illustrates 
her deep mystic thought:

   "So my lamp of knowledge afar,
   Fanned by slow breath from the throat of me.
   They, my bright soul to my self revealed.
   Winnowed I abroad my inner light.
   And with darkness around me sealed,
   Did I garner truth and hold Him tight."
        (Translated by Sir Richard Temple)

   Lal Ded thinks dissolution of 'self' (Aham) essential 
for Realisation. According to her, Sadhaka
has to reach that mental attitude where there is no
difference between 'Him' and 'self'. She says one
who considers his own self and others alike ends the
distinction between 'I' and 'you', who treats days
and nights alike, who is above sorrows and pleasures, 
can only realize God in his ownself. According to her, 
differentiation between the human soul
and Divine-self was Zero. Lal Ded is the first woman
mystic to preach medieval mysticism in Kashmiri
poetry. She used metaphors, riddles and other mediums 
for her expression.

   Like Lal Ded, another mystic poet of Kashmiri
language is Nunda Rishi, who is known as Sheikh
Nur-ed-Din alias Sahajanand. His father, Salar Sanz
was influenced by Sufi Saint Yasman Rishi, who
arranged his marriage with Sadar Maji. The child of
this couple, Nunda Rishi is the great founder of Rishi
line of Kashmir. Jonaraja refers to him as Maha
Nurdin-the chief guru of Muslims-but the saint poet
always refers to himself only as Nunda. He preached
to subdue the five senses and control Kama, Krodha
etc. He has given much importance to yogic practice-
breath control for communion with God. Nunda
Rishi favoured good action which is the secret of
happiness in the world. He preached a disciplined
life like this:

   Desire is like the knotted wood of the forest
   It cannot be made into planks, beams or into cradles;
   He who cut and telled it,
   Will burn it into ashes.

He considered rosary as a snake and favoured true

   Do not go to Sheikh and Priest and Mullah;
   Do not feed the cattle or Arkh or leaves;
   Do not shut thyself up in mosques or forests;
   Enter thine own body with breath controlled in communion with God.

   Rupa Bhawani was the second great mystic poet
of 15th century. She had a great and deep experience
of ups and downs of life. The worldly sufferings
showed her the path of spiritual life. Her spiritual
'Guru' was her father Pandit Madhav Joo Dhar who
initiated her into the mysteries and practices of yoga.
She gave rich mystic poetry to Kashmiri language. In
her poetry, we can find the influence of both Kashmir
Shaivism and Islamic Sufism.

   'Selflessness is the sign of the 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 crown.

   These lines show her spiritual understanding.
According to her dissolution of self is essential for
Realisation. Rupabhawani was a great preacher of
yoga. She describes her yogic practice. The different
stages of 'yoga' and awakening of Kundalini has
been described in the simple language of common

   I dashed down into the nether regions and brought
thc vital breath up;
   I got its clue out of earth and stones;
   Then my kundalini woke up with nada;
   I drank wine by the mouth,
   I got the vital breath gathered it within myself;

   This great mystic poetess had experienced the
truth and then explained the same. Such mystics had
real experience and not a bookish one. That is the
reason why this mystic poetry in every language is
considered great after so many centuries.

   Pt. Mirzakak of eighteenth century was a great
mystic poet of Kashmir. I have seen three manuscripts 
of this poet at Hangalgund which is 13 miles
away from tourist resort, Kokarnag. There are some
supernatural stories also related to this great poet.
According to Mirzakak, 'Brahma' is one and invisible. 
He is the aim of 'Prani'. According to him 'He'
is 'Ram', 'Shyam' and everything. 'His' abode is

   Tas naav Shyama Sunder
   Gharu Chhus zagi andar,
   Nebar naav voochhi zi andar
   Bhajan kar Ram Ramay.

   'Self' and 'Praan' are both Brahma. He creates,
nourishes and then becomes Rudra -

   Praan Brahma laagith paida chhum su karan
   Praan Vishnu laagith rachan dam ba dam Ram Ram
   Praanay Rodur laagith soruy chhum galan
   Pran hastoneste pran bood nabood dam ba da Ramay

   We can find our goal with 'Omkar' . Mirzakak has
   given a fine metaphor that Omkar is arrow, worldly
   man is bow and our target is Brahma.

   Om gav kamanay
   Jeev zaan teeray
   Nishana Brahma

   Om is real man, Om is the light. It is past, present
and future. It is the God of Gods -

   Om gav aadi purush

   Mysticism is in broader sense as old as man hut it
is with man in this scientific century also. Pandit
Zinda Koul is known as 'MasterJi' in Kashmir. His
school is that of Lal Ded, Rupabhawani and Mirzakak.
According to Shri B.B. Kachru, he is a mystic by
temperament and naturally he could not stand the
'material fret' of his own generations. He sharpened
his intellect to reflect the knowledge of truth and
dialectical doctrine of Vedanta. Although mysticism
was out of tune in the age of 'Master Ji ' but the mystic
approach is present in his poem. He believes in
'Karma' theory and yearns for salvation. Human
salvation is more in the hands of man than in the
hands of God. According to MasterJi, God is besides

   He unknown and unseen
   Quietly listens, sitting by.

   This is the basic idea of a mystic who believes in
oneness. The poet wants to search 'Him' in another
spiritual world-

   Where all have a living faith in God-
   One loving Father, Lord of all-
   Where ghosts, given and spirits dark
   Hold no sway over men's mind.

   For Master Ji God is Love and he wants to
understand the world through the lover's eye. In
'Hymn to Love' poem, he describes-

   O Remover of world's darkness.
   Thou art the source of light and withal my own true self.
   Let me see thee shine in all these modes
   Initiate me into the philosophy of atonement.
   Remove from me this duality.

   For the poet like Sumitranandan Pant, change is
the process of life. Sorrows and happiness are the
two sides of this life coin. End is the beginning of the
new. In this poem, 'Ah this world ' Master Ji says that
one thing alone makes life monotorous, therefore,
darkness and light are natural and important-

   If the Lord had not made Death,
   If the hell of life were to continue,
   Providence would not deserve our thanks
   We should overwhelm it with complaint.

   For Master Ji the the power in man is nothing but
 'His' Shakti. One can only face the ups and downs of
 this world with the grace of God. We get inspiration
 from that eternal truth which is Supreme. Man is
always longing for something unknown but that
noble self is manifest in man's own self. Longing for
unknown creates mystic attitude for ages.

[Courtesy: Glimpses of Kashmiri Culture, issued
by Parmanand Research Centre, Srinagar]

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