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Theory of Rasa

Theory of Rasa

“The aesthetic pleasure of Hindu theatre is determined by how successful the artist in expressing a particular emotion evoking the Rasa (Encyclopaedia Britannica).”  In production of a play, the Rasa, created by the actor in his acting, is enjoyed by the spectator, says Sumanash. “Just as the combination of several spices creates a flavour in food, so too, the combination of several emotion yields in Rasa (in a play).’ Thus, the combination of different emotions results in Rasa. The Natyashastra states this briefly as “Rasa is born of the joint action of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari Bhava (so called Sancari bhava) then it proceeds with Nirukta.”

The Rasa theory was mostly applicable to dance-drama-s. In addition, the Rasa theory may be seen also from audience point of view. Here it is suggested that the spectator identify themselves with the characters and the situation on the stage. The protagonist of the Rasa theory clearly says that ‘the cultures (sympathetic) spectator becoming one with the characters in Rasa’. In contrast, the actor does not become one with the role; he acts deliberately to evoke the Rasa.

The Rasa-s are four: Srngara, Vira, Rudra, and Bibhatsa. Further, Hasya is derived from Srngara; Karuna form Rudra; Adbhuta from Vira; and Bhayanaka from Bibhatsa.   

Srngara is based on the Sthayi bhava of Rati (love) which results in the case of men and women, of healthy youth. “This should be acted by graceful looks and words and sweet speeches and smiles and by pleasing and attractive gesture”. Whereas, Humour is Sthayi bhava of Hasya—laughter. Laughter is stimulated by disfigurement of dress, deformed appearance, etc.

Vira Rasa or heroic concerns noble and brave individuals. “It is produced by an energetic, determined, unrelenting nature which is neither taken by surprise nor by confusion.” “Whatever remarks or act is out of the ordinary should be considered as the stimulus of Adbhuta Rasa.” ‘It should be acted by crying, words of appreciation, by praising, and also by repeating it with laughter’. Surprise is its Sthayi bhava.

Raudra Rasa is the Sthayi bhava of krodha or anger which gives us the Raudra Rasa that ‘is produced by battles, striking, wounding, killing and cutting by violence, etc. It is to be acted by using various weapons and cutting off heads, arms, etc’. “Karuna Rasa is produced by seeing dear ones die (or killed) and by hearing unpleasant things’. ‘It is to be acted by weeping, fainting, lamenting, and crying loudly and also by acting physical fatigue and hurt”.

Bibhatsa Rasa ‘is produced by things which disturb the mind like seeing something unpleasant’. ‘It is to be acted by a leering mouth, by holding the nose, by hangings the head or walking stealthily’. Fear is the Sthayi bhava of Bhayanaka Rasa. It is stimulated by going into empty house or lonely forests etc. It is acted by hands and legs trembling, eyes flitting to and fro.

Natyashastra makes another statement in describing Rasa: the four Rasa-s—Srngara, Rudra, Vira and Bibhatsa—are instrumental in evoking the other four Rasa-s—Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta, and Bhayanaka. It is clear that ‘instrumental in evoking’ does not mean ‘source of’, because, Srngara cannot be a source of Hasya; it is also not necessary cause, so the word hetu can here means instrumental cause only.

Abhinavgupta says imitation is reflection (Anukriti Adhasa). The exhibition of images of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari bhava creates reflections of Vyabhichari bhava. In Srngara there is Rati i.e. desire, wish—this is Vyabhichari bhava but Rati does not mean mental pleasure. Hence Srngara and Hasya have common Vyabhichari bhava. This Vyabhichari bhava in Srngara becomes a Sthayi bhava, while in Hasya it becomes a reflection of Sthayi bhava, not the Sthayi bhava itself. Because, in Hasya the Sthayi bhava is Hasya—laughter. This is explained as imitation.

But this method does not apply to the other Rasa-s. So, Karuna is not the imitation of Rudra. Karuna is result of Rudra. Abhinavgupta says “Rudra is an illustration of the Rasa which necessarily results in the second Rasa’. How? Sthayi bhava of Rudra is krodha, so its result is bound to be capture or killing, etc. When these becomes Karuna-s, the result will necessarily be Karuna Rasa. Also the Sthayi bhava of Karuna is soka, this also results form krodha.

Similarly, the action of Vira may be instrumental in evoking Adbhuta. And lastly, the creation of fear is unavoidable. Thus, Srngara, Rudra, Vira and Bibhatsa respectively produce the Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta and Bhayanaka Vyabhichari bhava-s; they then become imitations or reflections of their respective Sthayi bhava-s. That is how the first four Rasa-s becomes instrumental in producing the last four.

Here we have to bear in mind another point: Abhinavgupta quotes the line ‘seeing Arjuna killing the son of Karna in the presence of everybody, the whole world become afraid of Arjuna’ to show that Vira can also provoke Bhayanaka. That is why the Natyashastra says, ‘the second Rasa necessarily following as a result of the first.’ One Rasa may generate other Rasa also, but it can be the immediate cause of the Rasa which necessarily follows the first.
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