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Lal Diddiji - notes on a naked yogini and avadhut

Lalleshwari was a sadhvini or naked female wandering devotee of Shiva who was hailed as a great Siddha or enlightend master of her time. As a poet her poetry is still influential, especially in Kashmir. She spent life wandering throughout northern India and renounced the householder life while still very young.

"I lost you out of ignorant attachment to my body. Then I wasted my time searching high and low. Finally I found you within, O Shiva, then we united in Bliss. Only though the grace and compassion of Siddhanath could this have happened."
"When the mirror of my mind became clear, I realised the fundamental principle that resides in my relatives and others dear to me. And this non-dual knowledge completely destroyed all thoughts of 'you' and 'I'. I came to know that the entire world is not different from the divine".

Lalleshwari was born into a Brahmin family in Kashmir in the medieval period. Independent by nature she married early to young man of the same caste. Her husband was apparently was very much under the influence of his mother and according to legend the mother hated her daughter-in-law intensely. Not content with acting maliciously towards Lalli, the mother poisened her son's mind against her and it has been suggested that this may have been because Lalli never became pregnant. Finally her mother-in-law turned her out of her house.

Instead of returning to her family home, Lalli took up the life of a tantric naked sadhvini or Yogini and completely rejected the Brahminic way of life. She was indifferent to social and religious laws and norms and following 'left-handed' practices ate meat and drank wine. Her solitary and unorthodox life may at first have brought her criticism, and in some of her poems she refers to this but there is no record of her being molested as a woman wandering alone. In her sadhana or daily practice Lalli seems to have depended largely on her own judgement and her poems never mention any person as her initiating Guru. Her philosophy and practices as recorded in her poems show a deep understanding of the central tenets of the Shaitive non-dual philosophy.

"Passionate, with longing in mine eyes, searching wide, and seeking night and days, Lo! I beheld the truthful one, the wise Here in my own house to fill my gaze". "That was the day of my lucky star. Breathless I held my guide to be. So my lamp of knowledge blazed afar, fanned by slow breath from the throat of me. Then, my bright soul to myself revealed, winnowed I abroad my inner light, and with darkness all around me sealed Did I garner truth and held him tight".
(Temple 1924: 167)
"Think not on the things that are without, Fix upon thy inner self thy thought; So shallthou be freed from let or doubt. Precept these that my preceptor taught".
"Dance then Lalla, clothed by the air; Sing then Lalla, clad but by the sky. Air and sky; what garmant is more fair? 'Cloth', saith custom; ' doth that sanctify?'".
(Temple 1924: 173)

There is no doubt that Lallishwari commanded and commands great respect among the Shaiva sects but the great Sufi's of her time also revered her. Among the people she was given the title Ded (Grandmother), and this reflects the affection and respect with which the common people regarded her.

Source: Temple, Sir Richard Carnac. 1924. The words of Lalla, The Prophetess: Being the sayings of Lal Ded or Lal Diddhi of Kashmir. Cambridge University Press.