Mystic Trends in Kashmiri Poetry

by Dr. Krishna Raina

Koshur Samachar

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 India.

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 worship:
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 17th 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 men:
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 universe.

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
(Manuscript)
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 oneself.
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]

Kashmiri Overseas Association
 Kashmiri Saints & Sages