An unbroken tradition is validated time and again in Indian art practices. From antiquities to the contemporary, Indian art has a strong link with 'saundarya shastra ' or aesthetics. Indian aesthetics is understood as the theorization of the theory of the beautiful. The rasa theory is widely known as the major contribution of Indian aesthetics to the field of aesthetics in general.

In the 4th Century A.D. Bharata in his Natyashastra enunciated the theory of art. This theory focused on the idea of 'Rasa' for the first time. It was later elaborately developed by many learned scholars, philosophers and theoreticians. Abhinavagupta, Bhattatauta, Bhatta Lollata, Kuntaka, Dandin, Mammata, Vamana, Rudrata, Visvanatha, Bhamaha and Jagannatha contributed greatly to the development of Indian aesthetics. Abhinavagupta’s Dhvanyaloka revolutionized Sanskrit literary theory by proposing that the main goal of good poetry is the evocation of a mood or "flavor".

The concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, painting, sculpture, poetry, and drama. The fictionalized emotions which we experience through poetry and art are called rasa. Its literal meaning is taste or flavour. It is considered to be the essence of a work of art. It signifies the peculiar experience that poetry affords us. It is regarded as extraordinary or unworldly. Rasa, thus, is a realization of the impersonal contemplative aspect of the self. According to Bharat, “No composition can proceed without rasa.” Abhinavagupta is of the view that there is no poetry without rasa. It is an emotion inspired in an audience by a performer. In short, Rasa is the ultimate criterion of literariness. It is identical with the taste of one's own blissful self.

 There is no concurrence on the number of rasas. The Indian theoretician Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Natyasastra. According to him each rasa has a presiding deity and a specific colour. These rasas are: Śringaram, Hasyam, Raudram, Karunam, Bibhatsam, Bhayanakam, Viram and Adbhutam. At a later date the ninth rasa of ‘Shanta’ has been added. This rasa was suggested by Abhinavagupta. With this addition the expression Navarasa could come into vogue. In addition to the nine Rasas, two more appeared later especially in literature. They are – Vatsalya and Bhakti. However, the presiding deities, the colours and the relationship between these additional rasas have not been specified. Shantha slowly attained a state of primacy. It appeared as the Rasa of Rasas. Bhakti also soon began to loom large. It is the Bhagavata that gave the great impetus to the study of Bhakti.

 Rasas are created by bhavas: the gestures and facial expressions of the actors. The Rasa is said to arise when the sthayibhava in the individual is awakened by his perception of the vibhavas, anubhavas, vyabhichari bhavas, and sattvic bhavas. Vibhavas (determinants) means Karana or cause. The vibhavas are of two kinds. The alambana vibhava is the basic stimulus capable of arousing the sentiment, whereas uddipana vibhava is the enhancing stimuli. However, it must be noted that vibhava is not the ‘cause’ of producing any emotion but only the ‘medium’. The Anubhavas (consequents) means the effects following the rise of the emotion. They are the deliberate manifestations of feelings on the part of the actor. They consist of the various gestures and glances of the actor which are intended to develop the basic stimulus or the vibhava. In the case of sringara rasa the presence of a beautiful young girl on the stage is a vibhava and her movements and glances are the anubhavas. The vyabhichari bhavas (complementary emotional states) are the transient emotions which arise in the course of maintaining and developing the basic mood. If the basic mood is love, joy in union and anguish in separation will be the accompanying ancillary emotions. Sattvic bhavas are the involuntary expressions such as blushing, perspiration. They arise as a result of experiencing and portrayal of the emotion. As a result of the joint operation of all these factors, the sthayibhava (the latent sentiment) is aroused in the spectator and becomes Rasa. This is expressed in Bharata’s formula: vibhava anubhava vyabhichari samyogad rasa nishpattih.


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