Global Correspondent Report from India




Aju Mukhopadhyay

Bangalore, India

The Ninth World Haiku Festival, 23-25 February 2008

Born with the power of revival in him of what he was in his previous birth, he made his elders wonder-struck at the age of four only by reciting from the great Indian scripture, Bhagavad Gita. Steeped in Indian tradition, he became a Vedic scholar at a very early age and came out with a degree in modern science at 17. In line with the Upanishadic teaching that Sarvang Khalu Idang Brahma, everything whatever is here is Brahma or the Sanskrit teaching, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the whole world is related, his mission became Uniting the World into a Global Family. Imbibing the ancient Indian system of medication and way of living, pranayama and yoga asanas, he rediscovered and new-made them to suit his modern purpose. Thus armed with Sudarshan Kriya or breathing exercise to relieve one of stress and trauma, towards establishing a physical and mental well being, relieving oneself of anger, anxiety and worry, he wishes to establish a world family consisting of all the peoples of the world irrespective of race and religion, community and nationality.

Such a social leader armed with his unique way of the Art of Living based on Indian spiritualism, could not confine himself to his cave of tapasya in digging deeper and higher his being only. He has to go out to the world teaching and harmonizing the conflicting lives of the peoples, for he, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar too has realized like Sri Aurobindo that all problems are essentially the problems of harmony.

We heard but really understood it when we reached the heart of his ashram, the Head Quarter of the globe trotting leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It is no wonder that he was not there. He was away to USA. But his arrangements are in tact, modern technology mixed with wholesome Indian hospitality. We had all the comforts of living in the guest rooms without the modern hotel facility. Food and drink and discipline were simple but praiseworthy. We had no difficulty in living there for three days, in going in and coming out of it.

Vishalakshi Mantap, the gigantic structure in the shape of a temple facilitates most of the conferneces and meetings. Illuminated in the evenings, all marbled and surrounded by rockery, appropriate plants and grass lands around, serviced all the time by workers engaged for the purpose, it is a pleasure to move around it. The big halls are equipped with all the facilities to display DVD, play music or make other arrangements for dissemination of ideas. There are some elephants reared by the ashram. The ashram has cars and vans for essential movements but inside the sprawling area of 120 acres with lakes and undulating hill paths, one has essentially to walk between places which may be a little troublesome at the beginning but gradually one realizes it to be a healthy practice. Living in such a physical surrounding was an additional charm to all of us gathered, from India and abroad, some for the first time for such a festival.

The three days and evenings were jam-packed with programmes from 8 in the mornings to 8 in the evenings. Besides talks and paper presentations, it consisted of Ginko Walk, recitations of Mirza Ghalib’s poems by some experts, dance and bird calls. As the subject Haiku is already very debatable, there is no one rule to compose such poems, either in contents or forms. Most of the poets gathered being practising poets the talks did not help much, more so as the speakers were mostly ones among them, with almost the same resources to help with. Certain things like writing haiku instantly in chits of papers and circulating them among the gathering to get their views were in a sense unique and warming, as instantly innovated by Dr. Susumu Takiguchi, the President of the World Haiku Club. His drawing of Calligraphy, sitting at the centre of a gathering was interesting though; no talk was made to introduce it, to describe its significance.

Among the papers submitted some were of general nature describing the nature and quality of haiku but some stressed the development of haiku as a literary genre in some regions of India. Though only four languages could be covered among the large number of linguistic regions of India they obviously drew our attention.

The speaker for the haiku in Hindi though presented a paper in English (written in third person), as it was done throughout the programmes in all subjects, his speech was entirely in Hindi. I hope that many of the Indians understood what he said, though not others. One thing emerged from the papers was that poet Rabindranath Tagore introduced it to Indians after his visit to Japan in 1916. Though he did not write any haiku as such, he wrote many haiku like poems and translated some Japanese haiku like the famous one by Basho about the jumping of a frog in the well and its consequence.

In Hindi the haiku and tanka began their journeys in 1977 through translation by Satya Bhusan Verma. In Tamil the journey began with the writing of an essay on Japanese haiku by poet Subrania Bharati in 1916. In both the languages there are some 100 poets now and they have published a number of anthologies and books in haiku. The Tamil paper was a scholarly presentation beginning with the history of Tamil language and presenting a large number of poems. The paper was bigger than the time frame allotted. In Kannada language the haiku proper began its journey, it seems, by the end of the twentieth century. Though she named quite some Kannada poets later, at the beginning the speaker dealt with her own works and her daughter and granddaughter’s achievements, edifying as if a family line, though we enjoyed the tales of her seven year old grand daughter writing her from England. The presentation on Marathi haiku too contained the history and present the position of it, the origin not being very old as is the case with other language groups in India. The adaptation of haiku and its Indianisation has been an ongoing process. In spite of all liberty, we feel that to be called a haiku, it must retain its basic characteristics. It is otiose to go into the details here.

Though not properly introduced, we enjoyed the felicitation of honouring some eight poets, veterans and others. At the end the President chose some poets on the basis of instant production of haiku on the themes suggested by him, as awardees of the World Haiku Club. Most of the poets chosen were new to the field and very young. It is a way of cheering them to their path. One of them began writing haiku after joining the festival.

Besides the bird call by the experienced Kiran Purandare with his explanation, aptly aided by knowledge and interest in Nature, what we enjoyed most was the Kathak and Odissi dance programmes by Ms. Yogini Gandhi and her troupe. Yogini was superb in her movement and grace, rhythm and music in it. Next to her in all such qualities was the Odissi dancer. We enjoyed the side works of such accomplished artist as the poet Dr. Angelee Deodhar. She pleased everyone present with drawings of one of their poems in the Indian Haiku edited by her in the colourful natural set up and presenting one to each.

At the end we must felicitate Mrs. Kala Ramesh, the present Director of the Festival, who almost single handedly arranged the whole programme assisted by some as she found suitable on her way. It must be stated that the participants enjoyed the programmes including the outing for three days in such a unique place.







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