A Vakh by Lal Ded of Kashmir


With only a string I tow my boat
Across a stormy sea
Would that my lord will bear me across
Would that my lord will hear my plea
As water seeps through unbaked clay
So life seeps from my frame
A yearning for home fills me up
I pine for whence I came



aame pane sadrus naavi chas taraan
kati bozi dayi maeun diyam na taar
aamen taaken poen zan chamaan
zoo chum bramaan ghar gachcha


Lalleshwari (1320-1392), lovingly called Lal Ded (mother lalla) is, along with Sheikh Nur-u-Din Wali, a beacon of creative and spiritual energy in the dark night of medieval Kashmir. Her sayings resound through the annals of eternity, still as potent as the day they were uttered. She is amongst the earliest enduring women poets from anywhere in the world.

She is considered a saint in Kashmir. Her poems are heavily metaphysical and philosophical; they provide spiritual solace in adversity and difficulty.

The first vakh (=speech/uttering) above compares living a righteous life as akin to navigating a stormy sea of temptations and sufferings; a journey only divine grace can help accomplish. Whilst the second one talks of the ephemerality of life and a desire to return to the source where we all come from.



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