A Hundred Gourds 2:3 June 2013
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Haiku in India

| Introduction | page 2 | page 3 | page 4 | page 5 | page 6 |

Haiku and Classical Indian Aesthetics

– Kala Ramesh

Haiku seems to have become a new mantra in India. If you tell people you’re into haiku, you’ll see stars in their eyes!

Indians are slowly, but surely waking up to its beauty and the reasons are not far to seek. Haiku is about nature’s creative force and if we read the Rig Veda, all we see are verses in praise of nature. Imagine one of the oldest civilisations known to man, before there was language as we know it now– when the sun was not called the sun neither the moon nor the earth were known by their names. Probably, all that men and women did was to marvel at the colours and the wonders around them. It’s not surprising that nature was worshipped and adored in the Vedic period.

Hindus and Buddhists believe that all Creation is composed of five essential elements, The Panchabhootam. With death, everything is transposed into these elements of nature, balancing the cycle of evolution.

The five elements are:
Ether - Akasha in Sanskrit- is associated with sound
Wind -Vayu – is associated with sound and touch
Fire - Agni - with sound, touch and form
Water - Jalam - with sound, touch, form and flavour
Earth - Prithvi – is associated with sound, touch, form, flavour and smell

This classification and this thinking are woven into the fabric of our daily activities. It’s widely used in all art, including poetry, literature, dance, music, painting and even Ayurveda – a system of traditional medicine native to India.

To this, add that core ingredient of haiku – the art of suggestion. The famous Bharatanatyam dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale said that Abhinaya in dance – the rendering of the various emotions through body and facial expression –needs to be mere suggestion, anything more becomes drama.

It would not be a far stretch to say with haiku we’re touching base with our roots. Haiku poetry fascinated both Rabindranath Tagore and Subramanya Bharathi – revered poets from Bengal and Tamil Nadu – at the beginning of the last century. A recent phenomenon in our haiku landscape has been Prof. Satya Bhushan Verma, a professor emeritus of Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was chosen for the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize in 2002, and he shared the prize money of one million yen with the American poet, Cor van den Heuvel. Haiku in regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil and Punjabi is gathering momentum.


Photo by Bhavani Ramesh.