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Diane Fereig

A Thesis


The Department



Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements

for the Degree of Master of Arts (History and Philosophy of Religion) at

Concordia University

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

February 2013

© Diane Fereig 2013


School of Graduate Studies This is to certify that the thesis prepared By: Diane Fereig Entitled: Locating Kashmir in Lal Ded: Communicating Identity and Meaning through Narrative and submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (History and Philosophy of Religion) complies with the regulations of the University and meets the accepted standards with respect to originality and quality.

Signed by the Final Examining Committee:

______________________________________________________ Chair Leslie Orr ______________________________________________________ Examiner Shaman Hatley ______________________________________________________ Examiner Carly Daniel Hughes ______________________________________________________ Supervisor Leslie Orr Approved by ____________________________________________________________________

Chair of Department or Graduate Program Director ________________________ 2013. ______________________________________________

Dean of Faculty

Locating Kashmir in Lal Ded:

Communicating Identity and Meaning through Narrative By Diane Fereig Abstract The fourteenth century Kashmiri saint Lal Ded, also known as Lalla, has had a profound effect on the people of Kashmir. To this day, her sayings are an everyday occurrence, and have been passed down through the generations orally, revered by all Kashmiris. Many say Lalla is synonymous with Kashmir. Her legends, lore, and her vaks (the oral sayings) have become an integral part of all things Kashmiri – so much so, that as we move into the twenty-first century, and identities are shifting and changing faster than one can imagine, so too are the identities of Kashmiris spread all over the globe, and along with them, Lalla is changing too.

How she changes and how Kashmiri identity changes is reflected in her narratives told by Kashmiris to each other, to friends, written in books and on the internet, told in stories, sung in songs, enacted in films and portrayed in media. These narratives form a bond not only between Kashmiris as a cultural group, but also between Lalla and identity as a Kashmiri.

This thesis explores the nature of narrative by utilizing the works of Peter Gottschalk and Jordan Peterson to form a framework of analysis, and apply said framework to the narratives of Lalla‟s story.

In doing so, a multi-layered form of communication and identity is revealed – a communication that can speak both literally and figuratively of the multiple layers of identity all human beings navigate.

–  –  –

First and foremost my department – Tina Montandon, Munit Merid, Shaman Hatley, Leslie Orr, Lynda Clarke, Richard Foltz, and Marc Dejardins have all played some part in supporting me through not just the academic side of things but additionally as a major life event shook me that I could not have managed otherwise without their support. Shaman Hatley you’ve gone above and beyond the call of a professor, and I am so grateful for all your support. I would not be here without it.

My colleagues & friends, Marie-Paule Martel-Reny, Mrinal Kaul, Juhi Shahin, Umberto Cicchetti, Tahmina Tariq, Sertac Sehlikoglu, Shaun Turiff, John Bilodeau, and Michael Gollner, have been friends of the utmost through thick and thin and really made it possible for me to keep to my goal despite the challenges.

To Jordan Peterson whose work changed my attitude towards my own life and the work I love, and for his words of encouragement to keep at it despite the resistance, and to “BE BRAVE” To Yeshe Namkhai who popped into my life and taught me the beauty of suffering, supporting me more than I realized though to my own understanding.

To Vasant Lad for lightening my load and showing me what awaits in the next chapter.

My son Kaimen Whynot, who held a quiet presence as I pressed through things I could never imagine, and all the while held up his own studies to be accepted on partial scholarship at UW (I’m so proud of you!). My family, Janine Woo, Ron Schroeder, and Quintin Schroeder who kept at me to keep at it even when I wanted to give up.

My dearest friends who’ve lent me their ears and their homes and their hearts; Omar Kone, Farhat Jouini, AJ Newball, Prashant Thomas, Amita Kuttner & Ian Rusconi, Samir Iskander, Melissa Finn and Firas Mansour, Siham Barakat, Jean-Mathieu Potvin, Fa. Terry Gallagher, Victor Hori, Adarsa Chakra, Katie Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury, Fatima Seedat, Adam Shamash, Iona Fournier-Tombs, Khaled Ghoneim, The Nasr Family, Sahar, Shadi, Adalyat Isseyeva & family, Jose Corea, Philip Walsh, Walid Lounes-Bouzerar, Serena Emerson, Brent Titcomb, Cheryl Russell, Reza Shah-Kazemi, Omar Rifaat, Shankar Nair, Anisa Lynna Dhanani, Sidi ‘Abd el-Qadir, William Stoddart, Catherine Schuon and my

teachers who have opened me up to more than I could ever imagine seeing, beyond all knowing:

Stephen Adyashanti Grey, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Baba Hari Dass. Without Truth there is no seeing, and without you I would not have seen.

Last but certainly not least, my husband Omer Fereig, who entered and left my life quickly, a flash of lightning on both accounts! But he left such a profound mark, he will never be forgotten. His pride for all I had achieved despite the odds and his love of knowledge has fuelled my tanks when they were dry for the past 5 years. You have taught me the true meaning of Love and I am deeply grateful.

–  –  –

Tsālun chu maṇdiñan gaṭakār Tsālun chu pān-panun kaḍun graṭay Heti māli santūsh vāti pānay One must bear the lightning flashes and thunderbolts One must bear with the night at noon Endure the grinding of the millstones (ridding you of your chaff) Contentment and peace will most certainly attend you.

–  –  –

Contents Introduction

Chapter One: Placing Lalla – becoming Lal Ded, Lalleshwari and Lalla Arifa

Chapter Two: One Story: Many Layers = Many Meanings = Many Identities

Jordan Peterson Maps of Meaning: The Story Beyond the Story

Peter Gottschalk: Hindus, Muslims and Identity Beyond Religion

A Framework for examining Lalla’s story

Chapter Three: The birth of a Saint: Lalla and her Mother-in-law

Chapter Four: Lalla meets Hamadani - The Baker story

Chapter Five: Concluding Remarks

–  –  –

Lalla and Her Stories Growing up in Kashmir, I have memories of spectacular Himalayan mountains, magnificent lakes and countless rivers snaking through the valley, and accompanying all is the echoing on festive occasions of the melodious singing of Lalla’s verse-sayings, popularly known as Lalla-Vākh. Her outpourings are timeless and people of all faiths have treasured them.

–  –  –

For many Kashmiris, the name of Lal-Ded, also known as Lalla, is synonymous with Kashmir. A fourteenth century female saint, loved by all Kashmiris, Hindu and Muslim alike, Lalla left behind a collection of short verses known as vaks, and a narrative that far surpasses the historical person. Along with the collection of verses and stories, she has collected a number of epithets: Lalla, Lal-Ded, Lalla „Arifa, Rabia Ath-thani, Lalleshwari, and many others. Her reputation has become that of a saint who challenged the status quo, and spoke openly against the stagnation and dogma of the prevailing ritual and doctrine of the times. Despite her apparent unorthodoxy, she has survived centuries through oral tradition, her sayings and her lore being passed from generation to generation. Something about her has caused a tight bond to be cast; she is synonymous with the culture and there seems to be no possibility of removing her from it. Perhaps this bond is made through the telling of her stories. What kind of narrative has made Lalla‟s story so compelling? Why does it seem that Lalla‟s name is on every Kashmiri‟s lips?

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the British officials Grierson and Temple made every attempt to accurately record the vaks (sayings) of Lalla, but gave little attention to Jaishree Kak, Mystical Verses of Lalla: A Journey of Self-Realization (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 2007), ix.

her legends and lore, marking them as trivial and of little import. But in fact it seems that the very survival of her wonderful verses has been dependent upon the narratives woven around her and into the fabric of Kashmir, which has ensured they would become of key importance in Kashmiri culture. Indeed, not only have Lalla‟s sayings survived, she has become an integral part of Kashmiri identity, or “Kashmiriyyat” as it is referred to by the Kashmiris themselves.

Both Peter Gottschalk and Jordan Peterson point to the necessity of narrative in the formation of communal identity in their work. There are both overt, obvious reasons, and what Peterson calls “invisible reasons” for the existence of particular narratives that seem to continue unabated for centuries. Narrative creates an instantaneous connection that simultaneously allows the narrator to express their own identity and connect to the group as a whole through demonstrated identity. Peterson‟s work also emphasizes the connections we instinctively make to familiar, archetypal elements that inform us and propel us to act in ways that further our own place in society.

My intention is to explore the nature of narrative and how that narrative continuously shapes the identity of a community, while simultaneously passing along these invisible lines of communication other levels of identity, which create an impetus or perhaps compel the listener to hear the story again and tell it to others and successive generations, demonstrating the importance of both of these aspects for the interdependent continuation of the narrative and the group.

In discussing the complexities of a village, Peter Gottschalk quotes from fiction writer Mudra Rakshasa‟s novel The Hunted, where journalist Kanchan is perplexed by the complexity of identities found in the village: not in the people – that is a whole other layer of identity – but in the village itself. He writes, “A village is like the first civilizations buried in the ground ages ago, for which we need a scientifically organized dig in order to find out who these people were, who performed sacrifices and whose civilization slipped, and who were those who fought against the sacrificers.” And as Gottschalk points out in reference to both the fictional village and the one in eastern India where he carried out his research, there is an “unusual, undefinable history”2 that is the village.

Likewise, with Lalla, who is a reflection of the complex world of identities and histories in the region of Kashmir, it is beyond my scope to determine how she has become an integral part of Kashmiri culture, within a complexity of “unusual and undefinable history.” Yet we can look at her narrated footsteps, and trace the shifting identities of her narrators in the images and tales they have woven around her.

The narratives themselves have been recorded since the mid-seventeenth century, providing us with snapshots of the hagiographers who chose to write about her. From the seventeenth century we move into the twentieth and twenty-first century, where the narratives come from a variety of sources, such as Kashmiri scholars, British officials, Western scholars, journalists, internet bloggers and Kashmiris living in a diversity of locales such as Oman, South India and North America. A wide range of religious backgrounds are also represented in this cross-section, including Hindu and Muslims from Kashmir, India and Pakistan, Christians, Buddhists and other spiritual seekers.

For both Jordan Peterson and Peter Gottschalk narrative has an essential role in creating identity, and provides something that is necessary for the function of the individual Peter Gottschalk, Beyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives From Village India (New York: Oxford University Press 2000), 66 and 68.

and the community. Thus, it is from these two writers that I derive my theoretical framework for this thesis.

Jordan Peterson‟s work primarily draws from the psychology of archetypes and their influence on the human mind. He utilizes psychological and scientific studies, as well as religious and mythological studies in his volume entitled Maps of Meaning:The Architecture of Belief. Peterson considers the ideas that are communicated through storytelling and enactment, whether they are communicated through religious ritual, oral narrative, or media (drama, music, cinema and other media), emphasizing that the purpose is the same – a communication of levels of meaning that consist of layers of information, including identity, from the prosaic to the sublime. He believes that these types of communication are necessary for the survival of human beings. The landscapes of the known and the unknown that we encounter are charted and navigated on various levels through narrative. Regional stories carry with them maps of the area and its culture through locating the characters in familiar surroundings. They communicate the past and the present on a number of levels, and Peterson feels can also communicate levels of meaning beyond the mundane into deeper aspects of the unknown.

Lalla is a great candidate to put Peterson‟s ideas to the test. She has numerous stories that have been told and retold for centuries, and there are familiar archetypal characters in many of them. Furthermore, she is said to be an enlightened being, a saint of the region who has a deeper understanding of the nature of reality, which may be just what Peterson is pointing to, when he talks of accessing the invisible layers of meaning.

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