A rasa (Sanskrit: रस, Malayalam: രാസ്യം) literally means “juice, essence or taste”. It connotes a concept in Indian arts about the aesthetic flavour of any visual, literary or musical work that evokes an emotion or feeling in the reader or audience but cannot be described.
The rasa theory is mentioned in Chapter 6 of the ancient Sanskrit text Natya Shastra, attributed to Bharata Muni, but its most complete exposition in drama, songs and other performance arts is found in the works of the Kashmiri Shaivite philosopher Abhinavagupta (c. 1000 CE). According to the Rasa theory of the Natya Shastra, entertainment is a desired effect of performance arts but not the primary goal, and the primary goal is to transport the individual in the audience into another parallel reality, full of wonder and bliss, where he experiences the essence of his own consciousness, and reflects on spiritual and moral questions.
According to legend, the Rasa theory was laid down in writing by St. Bharata Muni in the book Natyashastra and expanded by Abhinavagupta at the turn of the first millennium. It describes eight or nine basic moods (rasas), which, depending on the nature of the work of art, are caused by combinations of precisely defined emotional triggers (bhavas). The Rasa concept is still used in theater, dance, music, literature and fine art and is also shaping Indian cinema.
Although the concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian arts including dance, music, theatre, painting, sculpture, and literature, the interpretation and implementation of a particular rasa differs between different styles and schools. The Indian theory of rasa is also found in the Hindu arts and Ramayana musical productions in Bali and Java (Indonesia), but with regional creative evolution.
The word rasa appears in ancient Vedic literature. In Rigveda, it connotes a liquid, an extract and flavor.[note 1] In Atharvaveda, rasa in many contexts means “taste”, and also the sense of “the sap of grain”. According to Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe – a professor of Drama, rasa in the Upanishads refers to the “essence, self-luminous consciousness, quintessence” but also “taste” in some contexts.[note 2][note 3] In post-Vedic literature, the word generally connotes “extract, essence, juice or tasty liquid”.
Rasa in an aesthetic sense is suggested in the Vedic literature, but the oldest surviving manuscripts, with the rasa theory of Hinduism, are of Natya Shastra. The Aitareya Brahmana in chapter 6, for example, states:
Now (he) glorifies the arts,
the arts are refinement of the self (atma-samskrti).
With these the worshipper recreates his self,
that is made of rhythms, meters.
— Aitareya Brahmana 6.27 (~1000 BCE), Translator: Arindam Chakrabarti
The Sanskrit text Natya shastra presents the rasa theory in Chapter 6, a text attributed to Bharata Muni. The text begins its discussion with a sutra called in Indian aesthetics as the rasa sutra:
Rasa is produced from a combination of Determinants (vibhava), Consequents (anubhava) and Transitory States (vyabhicaribhava).
— Natyashastra 6.109 (~200 BCE–200 CE), Translator: Daniel Meyer-Dinkgräfe
According to the Natya shastra, the goals of theatre are to empower aesthetic experience and deliver emotional rasa. The text states that the aim of art is manifold. In many cases, it aims to produce repose and relief for those exhausted with labor, or distraught with grief, or laden with misery, or struck by austere times. Yet entertainment is an effect, but not the primary goal of arts according to Natya shastra. The primary goal is to create rasa so as to lift and transport the spectators, unto the expression of ultimate reality and transcendent values.
The Abhinavabhāratī is the most studied commentary on Natyasastra, written by Abhinavagupta (950–1020 CE), who referred to Natyasastra also as the Natyaveda. Abhinavagupta’s analysis of Natyasastra is notable for its extensive discussion of aesthetic and ontological questions. According to Abhinavagupta, the success of an artistic performance is measured not by the reviews, awards or recognition the production receives, but only when it is performed with skilled precision, devoted faith and pure concentration such that the artist gets the audience emotionally absorbed into the art and immerses the spectator with pure joy of rasa experience.
The Rasa Theory
In chapters 6 (States of Being / Rasa) and 7 (Feelings and Other States / Bhava) of Natyashastra, the basic theory for Indian drama is developed. It describes what is depicted in a play, how the creative process is possible and how the aesthetic transfer takes place. Its object is the abstraction of life in basic moods, feelings and emotional states of a universal nature, from which the drama can then be put together. The point of departure is the aesthetic appreciation and experience of the spectator, which must be achieved. Later, the application of the Rasa theory has also extended to other art branches.
Word meaning of Rasa
The earliest use of the word rasa is in the Rigveda. There it has the meanings of water, life juice (soma juice), cow’s milk and seasoning or flavor. Atharvaveda expanded the meaning to juice of the plant, taste. In the Upanishads an abstract, symbolic level was added to these concrete meanings: Essence. Here comes the context of Brahman. Both the concrete meaning of the culinary context and the abstract meaning of the spiritual context are used in Natyashastra. Common to both meanings is that they describe both an object and a process in time that can not be directly grasped by the senses.
The Rasa theory is an aesthetics based on a logic of emotions. Their guiding principle is the triggering of a mood in the audience. The evocation of feelings in the viewer is not only the goal of aesthetic effort, it is also the key to the structural integrity of a work, the form of history and its representation. The theory applies equally to the artistic side of production as to the aesthetic side of reception. Rasa also describes the creative experience of the artist. The dramatic means described in theory derive from a semiotics of emotional expression, because the feelings or psychic-physical states of a stage echosounder can not be expressed directly, but only through gestures, words and movements. A performance succeeds when the performers and the audience share the same mood space at the end. Rasa is the essence of the totality of all qualities that make up a poem or theatrical performance.
The theory of Rasa is based on stimulus-response relationships and their transfer into the aesthetic space. Emotional states are triggered by external events – vhibhava. They manifest as gestures, body movements, sounds, speech, facial expression, gaze etc. These reactions are called anubhava. The theater is about the representation of these emotional states, which are divided into 49 groups in 49 bhavas. The composition of a work is the organization of the expression of various fleeting emotional states – Vyabhicaribhava – to a permanent overall mood stahyibhava, which forms the basic tone of a work. When this keynote touches the clear heart of an ideal onlooker, the time-and place-less experience of Rasa becomesas a deep aesthetic enthusiasm and blissful ecstasy that can not be put into words.
The task of artists participating in a work is not to express their personal feelings. The poet, actor, musician must be able to objectify feelings through the creation of images, characters, plot, etc. Through “transpersonalization,” sadharanikarana, a process of objectification and universalization, the artist and the viewer are released from his private everyday experience and elevated to the level of a collective human experience. “As the tree emerges from the seed (bija), and the flowers and fruits (with the seed) emerge from the tree, so the sensations – rasas – source and root of all states – are bhavas, and so are the states of origin of all sensations – rasas. ” At the beginning of the creative process is the Rasa-Experience of the author, which is transmitted by the actors, dancers, musicians. As a manual, Natyashastra provides meticulous guidance on how to achieve this.
Often in connection with Rasa is spoken of the “aesthetic taste”. This can lead to misunderstandings. The metaphor of taste and taste in culture used with Rasa as an “aesthetic flavor” means something different each time, even though Rasa presupposes knowledge of the underlying rules of a work by the viewer. In the perspective of Rasa art becomes a “felt knowledge”. By “costing” feelings, we experience a universal meaning. Rasa is also compared to the state after an excellent time, in which all the ingredients of the evening become a single deep sensation, Rasa, connect. However, the analogy also refers to the process of evoking the taste experience, which requires a sophisticated blend of the various ingredients and a compounding process.
The Rasa theory is based on the most important concepts of Indian philosophy. The text of Natyashastra is “heavily coded” and has therefore experienced a variety of interpretations and recontextualizations. Thus the doctrine of Purusha, the cosmic man, Brahman and Guna is implicitly presupposed. The difference of stahyibhava and Rasa is melded from their different composition in the Gunas: Bhavas contain all three Gunas Tamas, Rajas and Sattva, while Rasa consists only of Sattva or satoguna. RasaThe ecstasy, rapture is always blissful, while the moods and states of the Bhavas can be tragic or comical. Rasa is infinite and does not know the effect and the cause like the bhavas running in time, this is the relation to Brahman and Atman. While Bhavas can be felt by all people, the experience of Rasa requires a sensitive, attentive, and conscious heart.
Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient Sanskrit text of dramatic theory and other performance arts, written between 200 BC and 200 AD. In the Indian performing arts, a rasa is a sentiment or emotion evoked in each member of the audience by the art. The Natya Shastra mentions six rasa in one section, but in the dedicated section on rasa it states and discusses eight primary rasa.
Related to love, eros (Śṛngāra, शृङ्गार)
Humorous, comic (Hāsya, हास्य)
Pathetic, disgust (Bībhatsa, बीभत्स)
Fury, anger (Raudra, रौद्र)
Compassion, sympathy (Kāruṇya, कारुण्य)
Heroic (Vīra, वीर)
Terrible, horrifying (Bhayānaka, भयानक)
Marvellous, amazing (Adbhuta, अद्भुत)
Śṛngāram (शृङ्गारं): Love
based on the Stahyi bhava #Rati (pleasure, pleasure)
Śṛngāram is the most important of Rasas. It is pure for the pious soul, bright, distinguished, gorgeous and its nature is the joy. It is expressed by the attraction of man and woman. This attraction can have two qualities: Sanyoga / Unity or Viyoga / Separation. For the incarnation of Śṛngāram 46 Bhavas can be used, only Alasya laziness, Ugrata violence and Jugupsa disgust are not used.
The feeling of unity is evoked by such determinations as pleasant seasons, the joy of jewelery and ornament, fragrant ointments, walks in the garden, stay in beautiful rooms, company of the beloved person, tender words, play with the partner.
The sense of separation is associated with concern and desire. The states used are asuya – jealousy, srama – fatigue, cinta – anxiety, autsukya – restlessness, desire, nidra – slumber, supta – asleep, overwhelmed by sleep, dreaming, vibodha – awakening, vyadhai – fever, disease, disorder, unmada – madness, jadata – dullness, apasmara – forgetfulness, maranam – death caused by illness or violence.
Hāsyam (हास्यं): Humor
based on the Stahyi bhava #Haasa (laughter, happiness)
Laughter is generated by unusual jewelry, deranged clothing, impudence, ripoff, mistakes, incoherent speech, etc. This Rasa is mostly seen in female characters and figures of a lower rank.
There are 6 types of this Rasa: Smita-gentle laughter, Hasita-laughter, Vihasita-wide smile, Upahasita-satirical laughter, Apahasita-silly laughter, Atihasita-loud laughter. The first two tints can also occur in figures of higher rank.
11 Bhavas are used for the embodiment of Hsyam.
Raudram (रौद्रं): Anger, Anger
based on the Stahyi bhava #Krodha (anger)
This Rasa is associated with evil spirits and violent persons, but can also be found in other characters. It causes struggles. The characters are described as having more than one face whose appearance in speech, gestures and words is frightening. Even if these characters love their love is violent. Even their servants and soldiers come to this Rasa.
Raudra is caused by battles, slamming, wounding, killing, etc. His portrayal involves many weapons, severed heads, and the like. Raudra is present in actions such as flogging, beating, causing pain, bloodshed, attacking with weapons, etc.
It is embodied by 14 Bhavas.
Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यं): Pathos
Color: dove gray
based on the Stahyi bhava #Soka (crying, mourning)
Kāruṇyam is evoked when we see a loved one or a loved one die or by hearing bad news.
It is embodied by 24 Bhavas.
Vīram (वीरं): virtue, chivalry
Color: dove gray
based on the Stahyi bhava #Utsaha (zeal)
Vīram is about noble and brave characters. It is caused by cold-bloodedness, determination, justice, chivalry, strength, prudence, etc. This Rasa is expressed through steadfastness, fearlessness, open-mindedness and craftsmanship.
For the representation of Vīram 16 Bhavas are used.
Bhayānakam (भयानकं): fear, fear
based on the Stahyi bhava #Bhaya (fear)
Bhayānakam is evoked by viewing or hearing uncanny persons or objects, narratives about the death of persons, captivity, etc.
It is embodied by the use of 16 Bhavas.
Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं): disgust, disgust
based on the Stahyi bhava #Jugupsa (disgust)
Bībhatsam is triggered by things that disturb the mind, such as the sight of or the story of unwanted, ugly, evil, smelly, evil-tasting, jarring, and ill-feeling things.
For the incarnation 11 Bhavas can be used.
Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Amazement
based on the Stahyi bhava #Vismaya (surprise, surprise)
Adbhutam is triggered by the sight of gods, the sudden success of an effort, walks in the park, the visit of temples and the like. Any unusual event can be considered as the trigger of Adbhutam.
For the incarnation of Adbhutam 12 Bhavas are used.
According to Natya shastra, a rasa is a synthetic phenomenon and the goal of any creative performance art, oratory, painting or literature. Wallace Dace translates the ancient text’s explanation of rasa as “a relish that of an elemental human emotion like love, pity, fear, heroism or mystery, which forms the dominant note of a dramatic piece; this dominant emotion, as tasted by the audience, has a different quality from that which is aroused in real life; rasa may be said to be the original emotion transfigured by aesthetic delight”.
Rasas are created through a wide range of means, and the ancient Indian texts discuss many such means. For example, one way is through the use of gestures and facial expressions of the actors. Expressing Rasa in classical Indian dance form is referred to as Rasa-abhinaya.
The theory of rasas forms the aesthetic underpinning of all Indian classical dance and theatre, such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Kudiyattam, and others.
In Indian classical music, each raga is an inspired creation for a specific mood, where the musician or ensemble creates the rasa in the listener. However, predominantly all ragas and musical performances in Hindu traditions aim at one of six rasa, wherein music is a form of painting “love, compassion, peace, heroism, comic or the feeling of wonder” within the listener. Anger, disgust, fear and such emotions are not the subject of raga, but they are part of Indian theories on dramatic arts. Of the six rasa that are aimed at in Indian music, each has sub-categories. For example, love rasa in Hindu imagination has many musical flavors, such as erotic love (sringar) and spiritual devotional love (bhakti).
In the theories of Indian poetics, ancient scholars state that the effectiveness of a literary composition depends both on what is stated and how it is stated (words, grammar, rhythm), that is the suggested meaning and the experience of rasa. Among the most celebrated in Hindu traditions on the theory of poetics and literary works, are 5th-century Bhartrhari and the 9th-century Anandavardhana, but the theoretical tradition on integrating rasa into literary artworks likely goes back to a more ancient period. This is generally discussed under the Indian concepts of Dhvani, Sabdatattva and Sphota.
The literary work Bhagavata Purana deploys rasa, presenting Bhakti of Krishna in aesthetic terms. The rasa it presents is as an emotional relish, a mood, which is called Sthayi Bhava. This development towards a relishable state results by the interplay on it of attendant emotional conditions which are called Vibhavas, Anubhavas and Sanchari Bhavas. Vibhavas means Karana or cause: it is of two kinds – Alambana, the personal or human object and substratum, and Uddipana, the excitants. Anubhava, as the name signifies, means the ensuants or effects following the rise of the emotion. Sanchari Bhavas are those crossing feelings which are ancillary to a mood. Later scholars added more emotional states such as the Saatvika Bhavas.
In the Indian theories on sculpture and architecture (Shilpa Shastras), the rasa theories, in part, drive the forms, shapes, arrangements and expressions in images and structures. Some Indian texts on Shilpa on image carving and making, suggest nine rasas.
Bhava: The Sanskrit word raw means “psycho-physiological” states: moods and feelings. The term also playsa rolein yoga and other Indian traditions. In the Natyashastra 49 Bhavas are described, which are divided into three categories: Sthaayee Bhava: Lasting moods, Vyabhichaaree Bhava (or sancaribhava): variable moods – triggered by external stimuli – and Saattvika Bhava: Emotional moods – triggered by the inner state of the heart or a state of mind. Natyashastra describes in detail how the different bhavas of actors are to be embodied.
The Bhavas themselves are not necessarily directly portrayable. But they are caused by perceptible triggers and produce perceptible reactions. These causes are called vibhavas. For example, the tiger in the lonely traveler causes fear. Loneliness and the call of the tiger are so vibhavas. The manifestations of fear in turn cause trembling, goosebumps, paralysis, etc. These reactions are called anubhavas because the Bhavas are accompanied (anu) by words, gestures, intonations, etc. The description of the description is given by the statement of the Vibhavas and Anubhavasgiven. For the permanent moods of Sthaayee Bhava, the associated variable and emotional moods are additionally indicated.
The various combination possibilities of the Bhavas give the mood of the piece, the meaning of which touches the heart of the spectator and evokes the ecstasy of the Rasa.
Sthaayee Bhava: The “permanent moods”
Sthaayee Bhava, in contrast to the other Bhavas, are permanent and dominate all other Bhavas. Only Sthaayee Bhava can trigger the enjoyment of Rasas. In a play or poem, they create the basic tone. “Like the king the supreme among men and the teacher the supreme among the disciples, so the permanent moods dominate all other moods,” it says in a verse.
Background of the theory is the Indian concept Perceptual concept Samskara: The thoughts, actions and perceptions of each person generate impressions without interruption. These are characterized by innate inclinations and instincts and sink to the level of the unconscious. There they are organized around feelings. Emotions, in turn, are related to universal, typical situations and produce definite patterns of action. These are called stahyibhava or permanent states because they are always embedded in the human organism and your character.
Rati (Well pleased, Joy)
Is caused by the fulfillment of the desire. Is tender and graceful to portray. The trigger is season, flowers, ornament, a rich residence, all that is beautiful or desirable. As an involuntary reaction to the presentation, a slight smile, melodious voice, fine eyebrow gestures, furtive looks and looking to the side, etc. are indicated.
Haasa (laughter, happiness)
It is caused by the imitation and caricature of other people and their actions or by stupidity, absurdity or empty, irrelevant words. Triggered by peculiarity of clothing or language, etc. Is represented by apes, smiles, giggles, laughter, excessive laughter, spraying saliva, etc.
Soka (crying, mourning)
Is caused by the separation from a loved one, the loss of wealth, sadness over the death or imprisonment of a family member and the like. There are three types of tears called: tears of joy, pain and jealousy. Representation through silent sobbing, crying, deep breathing, falling to the ground and lamenting etc. Tears of joy with raised cheeks, tears of pain are represented by body movements of discomfort and jealousy tears in women’s lips and cheeks, sighing, shaking of the head and narrowed eyebrows. Misfortune or discomfort causes crying and mourning in low figures and women, middle and higher characters dominate it.
It is caused by conflict, insult, strife, abuse, oppositions, differences of opinion and the like. Depending on whether the anger is triggered or simulated by an enemy, a teacher, the lover, a servant, there are different expressions. Anger over an enemy is indicated by flared nostrils, narrowed lips, and eyebrows. Anger against the teacher requires, among other things, controlled modesty and shy gestures, tears from the corner of one’s eyes and lips twisted to a pout, and an intense and threatening look with dilated eyes towards the servants. Feigned anger is represented by fatigue, fictional reasons, and feigned wrath.
Energy or zeal is a feature of a higher figure. It is caused by joy, strength, patience, bravery, and the like. Is played to express clarity, decisiveness, wisdom and judgment. Representation through resolute facial expression, dashing movements, leadership etc.
Caused by improper behavior towards the king or elders, the wandering in lonely woods or houses, precipices in the mountains, the sighting of an elephant or a snake, the darkness of the night, the calls of owls, scare animals, the hearing of terrible stories and the like. Representation by trembling of the body, dry mouth, hastiness and confusion, dilated eyes, frozen standing and so on. Only assigned to women or lower figures in the play.
It is caused by the sight of dirty and repulsive things. Representation through locked nose, low crouching and contracting of the limbs, skeptical look, hands holding the heart and other. the expression of disgust is only associated with women characters and lower figures.
Vismaya (astonishment, surprise)
Triggered by the sudden appearance of something, magical properties, extraordinary human accomplishments, outstanding paintings and artwork etc. Played by wide open eyes, unblinking eyesight, eyebrow movement, goosebumps, trembling of the head, comments of appreciation etc. Intended to great pleasure.
Vyabhicaribhava: Variable Moods
Unlike the anubhavas, the involuntary reactions to an external stimulus (vibhava), the variable states vyabhicaribhava are of arbitrary nature – that is, they can be controlled. 33 Vyabhicaribhava are described with their respective triggers and display modalities:
Nirveda Dissociation, Glani -Reue, Sanka- Concern, Asuya -Jealousy, Mada- Intoxication, Srama- Fatigue, Alasya- Laziness, Dainya -Elend, Cinta- Anxiety, Moha- Fainting, Smrti -Reminder, Dhrti -Validity, Vrida – Modesty, capalata- nausea, harsa- joy, avega- excitement, jadata- dullness, garva- pride or arrogance, visada- duration, disappointment,Autsukya- restlessness, craving, Nidra- slumber, Apasmara -generality, Supta- slumbering, overwhelmed by sleep, dreaming, Vibodha awakening, Amarsa impatience, Avahittham- celibacy, Ugrata -violence, Mati -standing, judgment, Vyadhai fever, Disease, disorder, Unmada’s insanity, Maranam’s death caused by illness or violence, Trasa’s lick, Vitarka’s conclusion
Saattvika Bhava: Emotional Moods
Emotions have to be made visible in the drama if people’s behavior is to be portrayed. They are considered more difficult to represent than the Vyabhicaribhava. Her incarnation requires a collective mind to present the pain and pleasure emotionally correct and natural. Unlike the vyabhicaribhava, the actor must feel the emotions to be spiritual.
Stambha – stunning, Sveda – sweating, Romanca – I feel inspired, Svarbheda – broken voice, Vepathu – trembling, Varivarnya – blues, Asru – tears, Pralaya – powerlessness, death
Rasa in Indian art: drama, music, painting
Starting from dance and drama, the scope of the Rasa theory first extends to poetry and literature. The composition of emotional states as a guiding principle in conjunction with the idea of the “seed” and a circular structure as a starting point results in different courses of action than a linear time axis. Ras lila is the dance theater in honor of Krishna.
In the music of the raga, the melodic elements create moods and the emotional power of the sounds evokes Rasa. To experience Rasa through music becomes a sacred act.
In the exhibition Navarasa: An Embodiment of Indian Art in 2002, the works of contemporary visual artists were placed in the context of the Rasa theory.
Comparison Rasa – catharsis
Both Western and Indian scholars continue to compare rasa and catharsis. The similarities include the reference to the emotional reactions of the audience as the goal of the drama and its extrinsic message.
While the Aristotelian poetics knows only the two states of Eleo – emotion and misery – as well as Phobos – horror and shudder – Bharata differentiates eight Rasas different content. And regardless of the feeling, the experience of Rasa is always pleasant and evocative.
An attempt to assign the Rasas results in an unclear situation with overlaps
Tragedy: sympathetic, angry, heroic, scary, disgusting, great or wonderful
Comedy: erotic, funny, heroic and great or wonderful
The Indian drama does not follow the mimesis concept of the Platonic imitation theory. In Plato, literary images are poor mirror images because they are three times removed from reality. In the Indian aesthetics, on the other hand, no attempt is made to depict the “reality”, but, on the contrary, to recreate it through the parameters of art.
Rasa in Contemporary Application
Today, attempts are being made to use the Rasa theory in contemporary literary criticism. She also plays a bigger role in the cinema. Best known are films by Satyajit Ray such as Devi or the Apu trilogy. But even Bollywood productions sometimes use the Rasa aesthetic.
Influence on cinema
Rasa has been an important influence on the cinema of India. Satyajit Ray has applied the Rasa method of classical Sanskrit drama to movies, for instance in The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959).
In Hindi cinema, it is the theme of the film Naya Din Nayi Raat, where Sanjeev Kumar played nine characters corresponding to nine Rasa.
Source from Wikipedia