Saturday, May 10, 2008


In Indian performing arts, a rasa is an emotion inspired in an audience by a performer. They are described by Bharata Muni in the Nātyasāstra, an ancient work of dramatic theory. Rasas are created by bhavas: the gestures and facial expressions of the actors. Expressing Rasa in classical Indian dance form is referred to as Rasa-abhinaya. The Nātyasāstra carefully delineates the bhavas used to create each rasa.

Natyasatra describes only eight rasas. The ninth rasa, Santham or tranquil, was suggested by Abhinavagupta on the grounds that actors may need this expression occasionally in their performances.

Originally written for the Sanskrit drama of the age of Kalidasa, the theory of rasas still forms the aesthetic underpinning of all Indian classical dance and theatre, such as Kudiyattam, Bharatha Natyam, and Kathakali.

The Navarasas
The nine principal rasas are called the navarasas:

Śriṛngāram (शृन्गाारं), Sringara - Love, Erotic Love
Hāsyam (हास्यं), Hasya - Laughter, Mirth
Karuṇam (करुणं), Karuna - Compassion, Kindness
Raudram (रौद्रं) - Anger
Vīram (वीरं), Veera - Valour
Bhayānakam (भयानकं), Bhaya - Terror, Danger
Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं) - Disgust, Odiousness
Adbhutam (अद्भुतं) - Wonderment
Śāntam (शान्तं), Shanta - Tranquility, Peace

The Bhavas
The Natyasastra identifies the first eight rasas with eight corresponding bhava:

Rati (Love)
Hasya (Mirth)
Soka (Sorrow)
Utsaha (Energy)
Bhaya (Terror)
Jugupsa (Disgust)
Vismaya (Astonishment)

Sources: Wikipedia plus my own notes and observations from class.

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