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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3


Haiku: An Indian Perspective
by Dr. Angelee Deodhar

India, with eighteen officially recognized languages, uses English as an additional official language. The Indo-Aryan languages evolved from Sanskrit. Hindi is the official language of the Government of India, and is also the official language of six states. Hindi has several dialects.

Haiku has not gained popularity in India for several reasons. Although the haiku poem was known to poets as far back as the beginning of the twentieth century it did not become popular and the spread of haiku poetry was sporadic. The Indian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, wrote eloquently about Japanese culture and literary heritage. He was aware of the haiku poem and his collection of haiku like poems, Fireflies, was published in English and Bengali. In 1916 the other national poet—Subramania Bharati—wrote a long essay under the title "Japaniyat Kavitai," (Japanese poetry) which was a lengthy critical appraisal of haiku where Bharati examined at length the opinion on haiku poems expressed by a Japanese poet, Yone Noguchi.

A three day seminar on 'Impact of Haiku in Indian Literature' was held at the Institute of Asian Studies based in Chennai (Madras) from 29th-31st of March 2000. Several poets from India and Japan participated in this seminar, but till now the abstracts of papers presented there are still not available.
The pioneer of haiku is India's first Japanese scholar, Prof. Satya Bhushan Verma, whose first translation of Japanese haiku into Hindi—Japani Kavitaian—was published in 1977. In 1981 Prof. Verma started a newsletter in Hindi called Haiku. This was in the form of an aerogramme. This publication was discontinued in 1989. Prof. Satya Bhushan Verma, now a professor emeritus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, was chosen for the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Prize in 2002. He shared the one million yen prize with an American poet, Cor van den Heuvel.

The second Indian whose efforts are to be commended is Prof. B.S. Aggarwala who publishes a Hindi quarterly journal called Haiku Bharati, started in 1998 and continuing till today. There are about 300 poets writing in their native mother tongues associated with this quarterly Hindi journal. Some haiku are translated from the original into Hindi, and then published. Prof. Aggarwala, the author of several books in Hindi, is currently working on a history of haiku in Hindi.

English language haiku in India is slowly finding a foothold and there are quite a few haijin writing in English, but most of these poets' haiku is being published abroad. Some poets are bilingual or multilingual, but haiku written in one language does not get easily assimilated into another.
One sees every recognized form of the English poem taught in schools all over India, but haiku is not taught.

Unfortunately, India does not have any formal haiku association or club. There are some Indian poetry magazines in which haiku are being published in English; however, the Indian haiku scene is still far from satisfactory and needs all the help it can get. Books about haiku are still almost non existent and difficult to obtain. Unless haiku is introduced into the schools it will not gain the attention it deserves. The language for the study of haiku in India will have to be English, so that Indian poets can communicate and share haiku with poets worldwide.

This essay is reprinted by permission of the author. It was originally published on the Haiku International Association's webpage:

Angelee Deodhar is a haiku poet and artist from India. She has a keen interest in promoting haiku and its related forms throughout the world. Her artwork is a form of modern digital haiga. She tells us that it provides her with an opportunity to share different cultural perspectives with a view to improved friendships among haijin

Her haiku and haiga have been published internationally in various books, journals and on the Internet.
She is a member of several haiku groups worldwide, the chief among them being the Haiku Society of America, Haiku Society of Canada, and Haiku International Association-Japan, Meguro International Friendship Association-Japan, Evergreen Haiku Society-Japan and the World Haiku Association-Japan.

In her work life, Angelee is an eye surgeon, a member of International Arts Medicine Association and is published in medical magazines. She lives in Chandigarh with her physician husband, a son and two dogs.

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku