Kashmiri saint and mystic poet Lal Ded (Mother Lalla), also known as Lalla or Lalleshwari (1320–1392), was born in Pandrethan (ancient Puranadhisthana) some four and a half miles to the southeast of Srinagar in modern-day Kashmir.
She was married at the age of 12 into a family that reportedly mistreated her regularly. Her marriage having been unhappy, Lalla renounced her material life and marriage at age 24, becoming a disciple of the Shaivite Guru Siddha Srikantha (Sed Bayu) and devotee of the god Siva. As a mystic, she wandered naked, reciting her proverbs and quatrain-based poems, spreading her philosophy of love. She often used her poetry as a peaceful means of engagement with both Shaivism and Sufism.
Lalla continued the mystic tradition of Shaivism in Kashmir, which was known as Trika before 1900. She was a creator of the mystic poetry called vatsun or Vakhs, literally “speech”. Known as Lal Vakhs, her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language and are an important part in history of Kashmiri literature. She inspired some of the later Sufis of Kashmir.
Her poetry has been translated widely, including English translations by Jane Hirshfield in Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, Coleman Barks in Naked Song: Lalla, and Jayshree Kak in Mystical Verses of Lalla.
Osho speaking on five enlightened women – Gargi, Mallibai, Rabiya al-Adabiya, Lalla, and Meera – he says about Lalla:
The fourth is another Mohammedan woman from Kashmir. Her name is Lalla. She was one of the most beautiful women… Kashmir has the most beautiful women in the whole of India. Not only is the land beautiful, but the people are also very beautiful.
Lalla remained naked, disowned everything, renounced everything – still, no police commissioner came to her to say that this was obscene. On the contrary, in Kashmir they have a proverb: “We know only two words which are meaningful; one is Allah, and another is Lalla.” They have raised Lalla equal to God, Allah. When I was in Kashmir visiting many times, I heard from many Mohammedans: We don’t know anything comparable to these two words: Allah and Lalla. She was respected so immensely – her songs are so beautiful. I have asked one of my friends in Kashmir to translate them, because they are in Kashmiri. But even hearing them… they have such music. I don’t understand Kashmiri, but whenever I have gone to Kashmir I have found somebody who can sing Lalla’s songs. They have such depth that although I don’t understand the language, I understand the feeling, the vibe. And Lalla must have impressed the whole of Kashmir as nobody has ever impressed Kashmir. (1)
It happened once in Kashmir: there was a woman, her name was Lalla. And in Kashmir they have a proverb that Kashmir knows only two names, Allah and Lalla. She was a rare woman, but you cannot conceive… she was not a woman at all: she lived naked, her whole life she moved naked. A woman hides, a woman is shy, a woman is passive – she was very aggressive, she was just a male mind in a feminine body. She had disciples, but it has happened only rarely, very rarely.
Women masters are rare because it is impossible, but women disciples number four times more than men disciples, the ratio is four to one. Mahavira had fifty thousand monks; forty thousand were women, nuns, and ten thousand male monks. And you cannot compare with a feminine disciple, impossible; a man can never become so surrendering, because his whole mind, the type, is aggressive. The feminine mind can easily surrender, surrender comes easily – it is her very being. So you cannot find better disciples than feminine minds, you cannot find better masters than male minds. But this should be so, because on every level the polarity remains. (2)
In Kashmir there was another woman – her name was Lalla. She also lived naked her whole life, and she is thought to have been one of the most beautiful women. Kashmir produces very beautiful people, some of the most beautiful people in the world. And in Kashmir, because now it is ninety percent Mohammedan, it is said that Kashmir knows only two persons to worship: one is Allah and the other is Lalla.
Lalla was not a Mohammedan, but she impressed the Mohammedans, who won’t even allow their women to remove the curtain that they continue wearing on their face – the mask. You can see only the Mohammedan woman’s eyes, nothing else. Every Mohammedan woman looks beautiful.
I have heard that when Mulla Nasruddin got married…
This is a ritual – that the woman in Mohammedan families first asks her husband when she enters the husband’s house for the first time after marriage: “Before whom can I remove my veil?” It depends on the husband. He can say, “These are the people before whom you can reveal your face, otherwise you have to keep your face veiled.”
Mulla said, “I have not seen your face myself. First reveal to me, and then only can I decide.” He was a man of intelligence. The woman removed her veil; Mulla closed his eyes and he said, “Except me, you can open your veil to anybody. Just forgive me!” He had never seen such an ugly woman!
You cannot look before marriage, you can only see the eyes, and through the eyes it is very difficult to decide.
Mohammedans don’t allow even the faces of their women to be seen, but they worship Lalla equal to Allah. The woman must have impressed the whole of Kashmir tremendously. I have traveled all over Kashmir and I have heard it repeated again and again that Kashmir knows only two names: Allah and Lalla.
She was a great master with a great following. And she had one great quality that I appreciate: she never belonged to any organized religion, she was an independent master. Still, people from other religions worshipped her, had to worship her. (3)
Selected poems by Lalla: He Is Everything
Excerpts from the following discourses by Osho
(1) The Razor’s Edge, Ch 16, Q 2
(2) The Mustard Seed: My Most Loved Gospel on Jesus, Ch 16
(3) The Sword and the Lotus, Ch 16, Q 1