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LEARNING: the heart of a haiku | seasonal reference | part seven

Written by Kala Ramesh

First published in Pune365, an online newspaper. May 21, 2024

the heart of a haiku

a space for a little poem

to weave its magic!

Part 7

seasonal reference

the kigo -


Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts has a 60-hour course haiku, senryu, tanka, haibun and renku, which I cover in three to four months. This comprehensive course on Japanese short forms of poetry is offered as an elective in their 4-year bachelor’s course. As part of their final assessment, the students were asked to create their own ‘kigo words’, suitable for Indian seasons, from their own experience. Here’s one brilliant answer from the batch of 2014.

My Kigo Word – by 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.


As an on the spot class exercise my 2014 batch of 17 students all under the age of 18, wrote a haiku/senryu on mango chutney, and enjoyed sharing it with others. The most important aspect of haiku writing is to share! Just picked a few, laughalong or maybe ponderalong! a mango chutney sun blazes over the world … lazy siesta — Mihir Oak

bottled up like her emotions— mango chutney — Simone Noronha

aloo paratha and khatta mango chutney memories come back

— Karishma Sawlani

all he remembers about his grandmother — the mango chutney

— Rituparna Singh

he smiles at his lunchtime dabba — mango chutney — Radhika Mohite (*dabba – lunchbox)

for a moment she was a child again — mango chutney — Prachi Agrawal

breakfast — my sister explains what mango chutney is — Maximilian Markard A student from Germany on an exchange programme to Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

he wipes off the stickiness from his face — mango chutney

— Ankita Datta

Check out the list of 500 kigo words in the link given above. Notice how the Japanese have meticulously collected different events and happenings in one season from all parts of their land. India is a vast country and a person living in the South will experience a different winter from those living in the North or near the Himalayas.

Can you create your season word that describes something quintessentially Indian, pertaining to your state or the region you belong to, something that you’ve noticed or experienced?

After you’ve studied how the Japanese have gathered their seasonal words in their ‘Saijiki,’ try to create your own. It will be a challenge, yes, but can be great fun too!

Gabi Greve, a German who lives in Japan, has collected kigo words from many countries. The link to Gabi’s India Saijiki:

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

Triveni Haikai India has been working on Indian kigo words.

My special thanks to Jenny Angyal for editing and proofreading this column. The copyright of the haiku rests with the authors—copyrights of the title and the page rest with Kala Ramesh.


Challenge: Post a haiku using a kigo word. Only two are allowed for this essay. Give reasons why you have used a particular kigo word.

Use your imagination, give us some fresh kigo words!



Kala Ramesh - Poet, editor, anthologist, and festival director, Kala’s initiatives culminated in founding INhaiku' in 2013 and in 2021 she founded the Triveni Haikai India to bring Indian haiku poets under one umbrella. A foremost practitioner and pioneer in the field of haikai literature in India, her book ‘Beyond the Horizon Beyond’ Haiku & Haibun, was awarded a Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize Certificate for ‘excellent contribution to literature’ in 2019. In July 2021, HarperCollins is publishing her book of tanka, tanka prose and tanka doha.

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35 Kommentare

a black-tailed deer

bounds past the window--

gusting rain

My first recourse in thinking about or choosing a season word is the Yuki Teikei lists we have online, either the traditional list put together by Mr. and Mrs. Tokutomi, or our local Bay Area saijiki ( This haiku is sort of a combination of the two.   “Deer“ is a season word for Autumn in the traditional saijiki, though I’ve gone a bit farther and named the local species, the Coastal Black-tailed deer.

“Rain” in and of itself is not a season word, so we do have seasonal reigns such as “spring rain” or “first winter rain” in our traditional season word lists. what must be in the mind of…

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Antwort an

Yes, generally I write only one, but I also like to play around with nuances and transitions.

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pulling me deeper

into the fairground jingle -

candy floss tufts

Joanna Ashwell


Feedback welcome


Candy floss for me takes me back to a fair that comes to my local town every year for the May Day Spring Bank Holiday weekend. There are rides, games and food stalls. I remember eating candy floss as a child and being enchanted by the music of all the attractions of the fair.

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Wow, such a rich array of seasonal references. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read all of these.

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Pre-monsoon rain comes at the end of May in the western Ghats

And proper monsoon begins by 15 of June

pre-monsoon heat

when hailstones knock

on glass windows

Kala Ramesh


Feedback welcome

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Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
01. Juni
Antwort an

Thank you so much.

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#1, 30/5, editing the poem

Kigo : Diwali Legiyam/ medicine

a memory of burps

at the gulp of legiyam

Diwali dawn

Lakshmi Iyer, India


squeezing her crescent smile

the legiyam slides down the throat

. . . first Diwali

Lakshmi Iyer, India


The Deepavali Legiyam, also known as Deepavali Marundhu is a medicinal paste that helps aid in digestion. It is consumed on the day of Deepavali on an empty stomach right after the hair oil bath.

This herbal mixture is said to aid the digestive system by fighting the ill-effects of the heavy foods that one may indulge in at this time.

Jaggery,Ginger, Ghee, Sesame Oil, Black Pepper Powder, Coriander Powder, Cumin Powder, Omam, Thippili (arisithippli), Citharathai…

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lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
02. Juni
Antwort an

Thanks so much for the encouragement.

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