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Haiga - Haiku with Imagery

Mohan is a family physician, film and TV aficionado, a keen bibliophile and an eclectic scribbler.

Poetry and Art


I love the union of images and poetry. The magic of a beautiful poem set against the backdrop of beautiful art is a double joy for those who appreciate such creative endeavors.

Last year, I wrote some Haikus for Valentine's day and decided as an exercise to set them on various images that added value to the words. I really loved the end result, and so did many of the readers.

At that time, I had little realisation that the combination of Haiku and painting/art is a genre of its own and goes way back in time. Records show that it existed as far back in the 16th century Japan. As most Haiku creators wrote in calligraphy, juxtaposing an image, a scene or an emblem to their Haiku must have a been a natural progression with those flowing brushstrokes of ink.

This wonderful juxtaposition of art and Haiku is called Haiga.

 A little cuckoo across the Hydrangea : Haiga by Yosa Buson(1716 - 1784)

A little cuckoo across the Hydrangea : Haiga by Yosa Buson(1716 - 1784)

An old pond. Snow Falling on birds. Evening falls. Shiki

An old pond. Snow Falling on birds. Evening falls. Shiki

Haiga by Shiki

An old pond.

Snow Falling on birds.

Evening falls.


Shiki

A Short History of Haiga


Nonoguchi Ryūho (1595-1669) is credited to have initiated the form of Haiga but there are plenty of older examples of art and poetry juxtaposed on a canvas. Ryūho perhaps was the first to do this consistently and received great acclaim for it.The paintings were simple, elegant and comprised of few brush strokes that conveyed great depth and understanding of the subject being painted. Much like how the Haiku captures more from less, so did the accompanying painting.

The Haiga is attributed to have mainly originated around the Edo period (1603 - 1868) in Japan. The artforms of traditional 5-7-5 Haiku is combined with Nihonga (Japanese colour painting) or Suiboku-ga (Japanese ink painting) to create a Haiga.


I love the idea of 'reading' the image and the poem together. The Japanese masters created simple brushstrokes of elegance and eloquence that stand the test of time. Traditional Haiga are restrained efforts with the brush strokes that illustrate the painting and the words minimalistic and unpretentious. It submits to Matsuo Basho's ( the master of Japanese Haiku) call the 'Return to nature and submit to nature'

Like most art forms, the Haiga has been adapted and assimilated. My use of photographs to illustrate my Haiku came before I learnt of the art form, but as I scour the internet I can see that many have done similar work either to illustrate traditional Haiku's or other poems.

My Haiga

I feel the combination of photographs and Haiku adds a spin to the traditional Haiga. Here's some of my own creations. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did creating them:

Haiga 1: Sail Away

Haiga I: Sail Away (I took this photo off the Turkish Coast while sailing.)

Haiga I: Sail Away (I took this photo off the Turkish Coast while sailing.)

Haiga 1:


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Sail away with me

Open ocean, distant ports

Love guides, like the stars


Haiga II: Summer Love (This picture was taken in a eco-resort called Dune in Pondicherry, South India)

Haiga II: Summer Love (This picture was taken in a eco-resort called Dune in Pondicherry, South India)

Haiga II: Summer Love


Dusk paints sky and pool

golden shimmers, palm trees sigh

sun kissed summer love




Haiga III: Cloud Wisps

Haiga III: Cloud Wisps

Haiga III: Cloud Wisps



Mist over mountains

Distant haze hides majesty

Closer, just cloud wisps..



Haiga IV: Jouney ( I took this through the car window on the road to Pondicherry)

Haiga IV: Jouney ( I took this through the car window on the road to Pondicherry)

Haiga IV: Journey


Roads blur past in rushed

journey towards horizon

Trees watch, wait for you



Haiga V: Deeper ( Greek coastline near one of the cycladic islands)

Haiga V: Deeper ( Greek coastline near one of the cycladic islands)

Haiga V: Deeper


We swim in shallows

Safe feet touching the sand bank

Dare you dive deeper



Instead of home– the cool moonlight’s straw mat

Instead of home– the cool moonlight’s straw mat

Haiga - an experience

I find this exercise of creating a Haiga truly inspiring. Sometimes the poem inspires the photograph in others the photo inspires the words. In many other occasions I just find the two to unite in harmony. I find the whole experience exhilarating. When I posted Haiga on my Facebook page, the response from many friends shows they too, enjoy this experience.

I have since found there is an online magazine dedicated to Haiga. The pages here contain some wonderful examples of this art from, both traditional and modern.

See for yourselves at Haigaonline.