I Am Not That

Mystic poets of Kashmir: Rupa Bhawani

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17th Century female mystic poet of Kashmir — Rupa Bhawani

“I dashed down into the nether regions and brought the 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.”
— Rupa Bhawani

I, the non-woman, the non-man

Not the Goddess

Not the remaining God

Not the disciple

Not the teacher

The mystic, the poet

The f e m a l e

You see and bead

For the song of your time

For the glory of your past

I am not that.

Not even the Shiva

The Sufi



I am not that.

I am not

barefooted pilgrim

climbing snow mountain

every moon night

to find God breath.

I am not that.

I am not




I am not that.




Not that.

Witness of

Lal Ded

Rupa Bhawani


manifesting time and again

for all the Kashmirs

there ever were

and ever will be:

Their stage

Their spectator

Their word


Their vital breath

I am.


Vaishali Paliwal

Second piece to my ongoing series dedicated to mystic poets and artists of Kashmir. First piece dedicated to the 14th century mystic poet Lal Ded is below:

Intersection and commonality of the profound work by Lal Ded and Rupa Bhawani, the two female mystic poets of Kashmir from 14th and 17th century respectively, is not a simple coincidence. Its magical power is well evident.

Without identifying with any specific idea, movement or phenomenon including ‘womanhood’, both the poets discovered themselves in isolation of society’s conditioning and programming. What came about was uncorrupted work of writing and spiritual message that saved the masses and the region from the political, divisive and oppressive regimes that were to take over.

They secured both the Shiva and the Sufi of Kashmir with their poetry without even aiming to do so. It was almost a divine purpose working through them, that first and foremost began by shedding indoctrinated ideas, and challenging what was taught as the truth and the obvious. Thereafter in their meditations and devotion, births a poem that relieves their time and place from all its slavery and hunger.

Below paper excellently covers the work and its influence.


Lal Ded and Roopa Bhawani became, what is known in modem feminist critical idiom, the Subject Women, or-to use the current jargon, an Empowered Women, one who through their mystic poetry, set in motion a cultural, linguistic, social and religious revolution. Their works reveal that they conversed and discussed with the most learned scholars-all men-of their times on an equal footing, without a trace of gender inequality, self-consciousness or the so-called womanly reserve, yet their vocabulary is that of the common man. Their poetry is a woman’s work and in the process they gave a voice to women. Yogeshwari Lalla and Roopa Bhawani were the first Saraswat Saints and Poetesses of Kashmir. Born in the first quarter of the 14th and 17th Centuries respectively, they were the harbingers of the unexpected overall politico religious changee of Kashmir, and in accordance with the will of the Great KALA (Time) thousands of years old Hindu Kingship had to yield place to the Islamic dynastic rule. With this change they however preserved the ancient Cultural heritage of the Kashmiri by preaching in the common man’s tongue the high principles and teachings of Shaivism. In this universe nothing happens without a purpose underlying it. Religious fanaticism had to be tempered; the ideal of secularism-for the Kashmiris are basically one race of Saraswats, tolerance, co-operative understanding and had to be spread far and wide.”

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