Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lal Ded's Shaitan Shiva

A wall art I came across in Kochi, Kerala.
Artist(right): Jameel
February, 2013

March, 2013

Chitralekha Zutshi in her book 'Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir' (2004) tried to approach the question of Kashmiri identity by interpreting its language. An interesting approach for which she used some hitherto unavailable poem manuscripts.


A particular passage made me curious:

The reason Lal Ded's poetry is so essential for votaries of Kashmiriyat is self-evident from an examination of her verses. These are suffused with a sense of the fluidity of religious boundaries, and this has been interpreted as a manifestation of the Kashmiri ethos of tolerance. In the following verse, for instance, she seems unable to decide between being a follower of Allah or of Shiva:  
I said la illah il Allah
I destroyed my Self in it
I left my own entity and caught him who is all-encompassing
Lalla then found God
I went to look for Shiva
I saw Shiva and Shaitan (devil) together
Then I saw the devil on the stage
I was surprised at that moment
I adore Shiva and Shiva's house
When I die, what then?

The book gives the source of the poem as: Hafiz Mohammad Inayatullah, Lalla Arifa barzabane Kashmiri [Lalla Arifa in Kashmiri] (Lahore: Din Mohammad Electric Press, undated), 14-15.

Although the author presents those intriguing lines (albeit without original ) and its alluring imagery as a product of Lal Ded's inner dilemma at choosing one among Allah or Shiva, the text in fact begs another line of enquiry.

Romila Thapar in her classic work 'Early India: From the Origins to Ad 1300'  makes a piquant observation: "A fundamental sanity in Indian civilization has been due to an absence of Satan." Keeping that obvious and basic theological fact in mind, the question is: How could Lal Ded even imagine Shaitan/ Devil/Satan in 14 century A.D. when Islam was only arriving in Kashmir? When its language was still incomprehensible to most people. If she imagined Devil, what did she see? What could be the iconography of Kashmiri Devil? Borrowed from Islamic iconography? Remembering that Kashmiri, as it is now spoken, only bloomed with Lal Ded's utterings, what word could she have originally used for Shaitan? Somehow, it is all difficult to imagine. Can these be lines be even be attributed to Lal Ded?

There is another way to look at Lal Ded or rather looking at words of Lal Ded: looking at how its listeners consumed them. The saying of Lal Ded come from a oral tradition, they reached to us in written form much later. They were written in an age when the iconography and vocabulary of Shaitan was totally comprehensible for the writer and for the reader. In that age, a lot of oral bits got attributed to either Lal Ded or to Nund Rishi. A lot was appended and a lot deducted based on who was documenting. A time when Ded became Arifa for some readers. And in these evolving texts the reader can now looks for manifestation of the evolving Kashmiri ethos. The reader can observe a synthesis of texts, theologies and cultures, a synthesis spread over centuries and not beginning at a particular icon.

[update: June 2016. As suspected. The lines are of later date.]

The lines "Lal be drayas Shavas garaan, shav ti shiatan wuchum ek hi shay" in fact come from poet Samad Mir (1894-1959) singing "Praraan Praraan Tarawati" which starts with a dialogue from Lal Ded.

Listen the rendition of Tarawati by Ghulam Ahmed Sofi here [1:30]

Lines occur as:

Lal bo draaya Shiv gaar.ney,
Shiv te Shaitan wuchum aksey shai
[subsequent lines vary from Inayatullah lines]
balki shaitain pyeth me yem baras
tan lal chas haeraan


I went to look for Shiva
I saw Shiva and Devil together
I believed in devil
I am still surprised.


Update: 5th Feb 2017

Samad Mir's grandson clarified using the manuscript of the song that the lines are not by Samad Mir. It's just that the singer is starting the song, as usual is the case in Kashmir, with a few lines from Lal Ded.


Update: 15th Feb 2017

The lines "Lal be drayas Shavas garaan" are remembered by pandits by too. In the pandit rendition the first two lines are:

Lal bo draaya Shiv gaar.ney,
wuchum Shiv te Shakti akey shai,
Shakti wuchum paeth sahas'raras,
Maa'raan ga'yas ta'mey gra'ye;
Bo paer Shivas te tasen dis garas,
Bo lall ma'ras mye karyam kyah

I went to look for Shiva
I saw Shiva and Shakti together
Shakti seated in matted crown of Shiva's head
I was surprised at that moment
I adore Shiva and Shiva's house
If I die, so what?
The lines are given "Voice of Experience: Lall Vaakh of Lal Ded" (1999) by B.N. Sopory. Quoted in "Lal Ded: revisited" (2014) by J. L. Bhat. These lines are closest to the lines quoted in "Lalla Arifa barzabane Kashmiri"

So, it seems there are three variation of this Kashmiri saying.

-0-

Unrelated post: Kashmiriyat in Codex


6 comments:

  1. The lines actually belong to Samad Mir (1894-1959) from the work "Praraan Praraan Tarawati"...it starts with a dialogue from Lal Ded saying "Lal be drayas Shavas garaan, shav ti shiatan wuchum ek hi shay"


    hear hear

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lines lal bo drayas... are not a part of Samad Mir,s poem Tarawati.I can send you Tarawati poem published in kulyat Samad Mir.You can contact me on drshakeelahmadmir@gmail.com.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear sir.please send a blank email to drshakeelahmadmir@gmail.com and i will send you original script of TARAWATI.you can even consult kulyat samad mir compiled by sh moti lal saqi or monograph on samad mir published by sahitya academy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear sir
    Please cross check the youtube links.They dont play tarawati.It is traditional among Kashmiri singers to sing a few verses from kalam e Lal Ded or Shiek ul alam,before stating any song.this may have caused confusion. Please refer to original text version to clear any doubts.God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shakeel Sahib for clearing that. The song renditions was the cause of confusion. Would you happen to know the manuscript source of "Lal be drayas Shavas garaan".

      Delete

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