indian subcontinent SAIJIKI

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

the leap! a himalayan aspiration indian subcontinent SAIJIKI

editors: Lakshmi Iyer, Milan Rajkumar, Kala Ramesh, Surashree Ulhas Joshi, Suresh Babu, Sushama Kapur, Tapan Mozumdar & Teji Sethi.

All poets and lovers of haikai literature are welcome to contribute in this search. Post your season words in this thread below and it will be viewed and reviewed by our committee!

Please read the notes carefully to understand what we mean by a season word – kigo.

Season words collected for over a thousand years appear in a dictionary of sorts called the

‘Saijiki’ in Japan. I’ve heard that when a Japanese student goes to a ‘sensei’ (guru) to learn how to write a haiku, s/he is first given the saijiki to read and is expected to internalise how seasonal changes affect moods and the way moods reflect the surrounding world — a great starting point for learning how to show respect and love for Mother Earth.

(Click here to understand more about Japanese kigo words: The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words: )

Being poetry of seasons and nature, haiku makes extensive use of seasonal references, although one can write haiku about nearly anything and one can also write a haiku without a seasonal reference. But ‘kigo’, the seasonal reference, and kire (the cut), are the two most important tools you need to understand before stepping deeper into the art of writing haiku.

As a poetic tool, the seasonal reference or kigo creates a backdrop against which the action takes place. Kigo can be the name of a season (autumn, spring), or it can use words specific to a particular season, such as blanket, suggesting winter, or blossom, suggesting spring.

But seasonal references appropriate to Japan may not resonate in India or other parts of the


Susumu Takiguchi, of World Haiku Club, states:

The real issue is whether or not finding local season words pertaining to specific climatic

and cultural zones or countries in the rest of the world would be possible, plausible,

desirable, useful or necessary in terms of making what is written as haiku more like haiku

or better haiku. The fact that many poets have thus discarded or dismissed kigo (some

have even condemned it as being no more than a weather forecast and not poetry) as

inapplicable or irrelevant has damaged haiku outside Japan and denied it cultural and

historical depth.

India has always been associated with nature - be it our harvest festivals such as Kojagiri

Poornima and Sankranti, or other festivals such as Holi and many more around the year. Many

well-known Indian classical ragas are associated with natural phenomena; for example, raag

Malhar with rain, raag Deepak with heat, and raag Basant with spring.

Adding seasonal references and cultural memory — bringing something very Indian into your

haiku — will create greater resonance for all your readers who understand the cultural

connection. Here is an example: amavasya (no-moon night) comes every month, so how do we place the haiku (below) in a particular season? From the flowing rivers, the reader will know which no-moon night I am talking about – the one immediately after our monsoons. Can you picture Ganga gushing and curving down the mountain slopes? Giving my own poem here as an example:

amavasya …

the river flows on sounds

the river makes

With this in mind, a committee was created to make that sincere attempt to understand and gather season words pertaining to India. To pick or create a kigo word – we need to be observant – keep our five senses open. Observe and internalise the seasonal changes happening through sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN KIGO WORD

A kigo word/season word has to occur at some time in the year, every year: for example – cherry blossom occurs each year only for a week in spring in Japan.

Choose something in nature which you have seen appear only in some particular month or some particular season, each year. Only that can be called a kigo word. Words like – sun, rain, sunshine – are not season words. They can occur anytime of the year.

Create your own kigo!

In the haiku course that is offered to undergraduates at the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts (India), one of the assignments I give my students is that each student has to ‘find’ one kigo word from their own experience, and one that resonates for them. It is tough and not all students were able to tackle this question.

However, I received several exceptional entries, including one by Nayaneeka, which I’ve decided to share with our poets here.

Kala Ramesh

My Own Kigo Word

Nayaneeka Dutta Choudhury

The kigo word I have chosen to create, using a term used in Indian culture, is Mango Chutney.

The word “chutney” has been derived from the Sanskrit word, “catni” which means “to lick”. In general terms, it is a pickle of Indian origin, made from a family of ingredients such as fruit, sugar or spices among others.

Chutney is a relish that can be made all through the year, using different ingredients, as and when they are available. Hence, chutney in itself is not a kigo word as it is not restricted to a particular season.

This is why I have chosen to specify which chutney I am speaking about so as to be able to indicate the season I wish to classify it under.

Mangoes, in India, are available in massive quantities during the summer season when the tremendous heat and seasonal characteristics allow it to grow and ripen. Mango chutney is therefore, a seasonal word, as I am referring to the fresh mangoes available only in summer and not the processed or canned mangoes found all through the year.

I think it is a good kigo word because it clearly defines the season which I wish to highlight. Even though “chutney” is an Indian term, and a pickle of Indian origin, it is known to people all over the world by the same name and is consumed in foreign countries as well. Hence, it is easily comprehensible. Along with that, the word “mango chutney” also allows me to bring forward an age old tradition and introduce to the world the culinary culture of India.


Some more examples:

Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts Pune, a constituent of Symbiosis International University, has introduced haiku as one of the subjects offered in their Floating Credits Program. As part of their final assessment the students were asked to create ‘kigo words’, suitable for Indian seasons, from their own experience:

scorching winds

“My hometown is Baroda, Gujarat - a place where summers are extremely hot. The heat is so dominant that even the winds that blow carry hot currents and when they touch your skin, you feel as if they burnt you. These winds are pretty harmful because exposure to them could cause a heat stroke, even dehydration. My kigo word is ‘scorching winds’. ”

Krishna S. Gohil

white rain/naked rain & wood chopping

Rains without the dark clouds. When it rains in the rainy season without dark clouds, on a bright day full of sunlight, it can be called ‘white/naked rain’. Wood chopping is mostly done in winter season for producing fire to warm the body. So ‘wood chopping’ can be considered as an activity for the winter season.

Disha Upadhayay


For me the word ‘sharbat’ (sherbet) symbolizes summer and especially the summer holidays when I was in school. This is so because, growing up in Delhi, I have experienced extreme hot summers and ‘sharbat’ was the first thing I used to have at home after a long day of playing in the sun.

Vinamra Agarwal

cowdung cakes

In India, ‘cowdung cakes’ signify late winter in the month of January when people enjoy the festival of harvest. In rural areas, during this time, the ladies of the house use ‘cowdung cakes’ to ignite the fire and then dance around it. It is auspicious to keep a ‘cowdung cake’ in the centre of a rangoli (rice flour designs), which is usually drawn everyday outside in most traditional Indian homes.”

Lavanya Tadepalli


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