Natyashastra has been a
classic on dramatics and aesthetics which has been commonly attributed to
Bharata, the sage for its authorship. It has been founded on human psychology
prevailing under conditions of India’s cultural system with a focus on on-stage performance.
Rasa theory is at the center of the Natyashastra. Natyashastra is an analytical
text of dramatic performance that categorically characterizes fundamentals such
as Natya, Vithi, Bhav, Vyabhichari Bhav, Satvik Bhav, Vibhav, Anubhav,
Rasa, Rasa Sutra, Nishpatti, Model Spectator, and highly spiritual concept
of Shantih. The significance of the text lies in its applied relevance
for both creative and critical aspects. It displays philosophically as a
classic as well as a contemporary text. Bharata defines each Sutra offers us in
terms of determinants, consequence,s and Vyabhichari Bhav establishing his
authority in understanding the insight of human nature with an ability of
analytical expression and dramatic representation for ultimate Nishpatti
of desired Rasas for pleasure and delight of the audience. The tradition of
Sanskrit scholarship regards Natyashastra as an additional Ved and is a
compendium of performing arts, drama, music, dance, and fine arts. Bharata
leaves deep influence on the subsequent Sanskrit critiques like Abhinav Gupta,
Manmohan, or Vishwanath in India aesthetics. It is possible that on the basis of the practical experience of Rasas the art can find bedrock for art and fine arts.
A Modern Introduction to Indian Aesthetic Theory
Bharat Muni writes
Natyashastra possibly at the age of 48. He is committed to a single discipline of
art and fine art and is not an octogenarian like Aristotle. His reflection on
Natyashastra finds root in the psychology of man under prevailing conditions of the cultural system of India with a focus shift towards performance. Education,
culture, art, and fine art in the Indian context influence his findings in the
discipline of Natyashastra. Bharat Muni as a sage has grown as a noble
personality in establishing himself s perfect in the discipline of knowledge
feature such as Natya, Vithi, model spectator, Bhav, vyabhichari
bhav, Sattvik bhav, Vibhav, Anubhav, Rasa, Rasa sutra, Nishpatti and a
perpetual debate over the status of Shantih, establishing itself as a
permanent source of understanding new insights and new directions and artistic
trajectories in his sentimental work on art and fine art with a special shift
towards dramatic performance. His major contribution in the tradition of
Sanskrit scholarship has been acknowledged for the Rasa theory which is
practically useful as a guide not only for the creative artists but also for the audience or readers. Bharata defines each sutra of a Rasa in terms of
determinants, consequent, and Vyabhichari bhav establishing his
authority in understanding and insight of human nature but an ability of
analytical expression and dramatic representation for ultimate Nishpatti of
desired Rasas for pleasure and delight of the audience. The tradition of
Sanskrit scholarship regards Natyashastra as an additional Veda. The date is
generally referred to as the third century A.D. The authorship is ascribed to
Bharata the sage. The definite and reliable information about Bharata and
authorship is not known. Natyashastra is a compendium of performed arts, drama,
music, and dance i.e. art and fine art. Bharata leaves deep influence on the
subsequent Sanskrit critics like Abhinav Gupta, Manmohan, or Vishwanath in
Indian aesthetics. Bharata is remembered as the exponent of the Rasa theory.
Natyashastra provides an insight into the psychology of aesthetic reception and
has been acknowledged as the scientific exposition of Rasa theory making a
distinctive contribution in the form of Natya, Rasas, and Compendium
based on scientific application of reason to human nature and experience. It is
possible that on the basis of practical experience of Rasas the art can find
bedrock for aesthetics of art and fine art. Manmohan Ghosh’s rendering is
widely referred to for translations, though no rendering of Natyashastra is
satisfactory including that of Manmohan Ghosh. G.K. Bhatta produced a Bharat Natya
Manjiri (1975), a digest that is very useful for undergraduates of
Sanskrit poetics based on Manmohan Ghosh’s translation.
Natyashastra is a depiction
and communication pertaining to emotions of the entire triple world including
variety, sport, wealth, peace of mind, laughter, fighting, sexual passion, and
slaughter all activities of life. According to Bharata, Natyashastra imitates
the conduct of the world. Natyashastra will be the instrument of instruction for
the world in addition to entertainment and pleasure. Natyashastra includes all
knowledge, craft, art, lore, fine art, design, emotions, and acts of life.
Natyashastra is an indication of the happenings in the life of gods, demons,
kings, families, men, and sages who have spiritual knowledge. In fact the nature
and behavior of the world intimately connected with happiness and misery, as
rendered by physical and other forms of acting, to be called Natyashastra.
Bharata says that the entire nature of human beings as connected with the
experience of happiness and misery, joy and sorrow presented through the
process of histrionics (Abhinaya) is called Natya.
Vithi should have one act.
It has the character of all the sentiments and comprises thirteen aspects.
It is to be acted by one or two characters. It may include three kinds of
dramatic Prakriti, high, middling, and low.
A person who watches a
dramatic performance with full concentration and makes a judgment on the basis
of merit ignoring artistic faults can be judged as a model spectator. All these
qualities cannot be expected in a single person.
It gives an account of
rhetorical sentiments (Rasas), emotional states (Bhava), ascribing mental
conditions (Sthayi Bhava), transient mental states (Vyabhichari bhav), psycho-physical conditions (Satvik Bhav), the four kinds of Abhinay, (histrionic
representation), the Dharma (the mode of dramatic representation), the success
of Natya, musical notes, and instruments, songs, the size, and shape of theatre
Bharata’s Natyasastram (Chapters VI and VII: Rasa and Bhava)
Bhava and Rasa are related
mutually. Our view is that Rasa arises from mutual contact between Bhava and Rasa.
The other view is that Rasa arises from the emotional states alone and not vice
versa. During the process of histrionic representation, the two (Bhava and
Rasa) accomplish their status and function by dual interaction. The Bhava
produces poetic contents through words, gestures, and movements, and
psycho-physical representation. ‘Bhav’ is a root that denotes compassion. Bhava
is produced by Vibhav (stimulants) and functions as awareness to the spectator
(Anubhav), and the acting modes of words and gestures (Sattva-abhinaya).
Vyabhichari Bhavas are more
prominent towards creating the sentiments in a variety of ways. They move the
spectators to the poetic sentiments in actual dramatic performance. They are
thirty-three in number.
Satvik Bhava is something
that originates in the mind. Sattva is produced when the mind is in perfect
concentration on state of equipoise. The Sattvik bhavas are essential for the histrionic representation of human nature. They are eight in number.
Vibhav has the sense of
cause or stimulant, an instrument of intention. Vibhav determines words, gestures,
psycho-physical acts. Vibhav is the determinant or stimulant of Bhava. The actor determines words, gestures, and psycho-physical acts on the basis of Vibhav, and
also the spectator determines out of actor’s representation of words, gestures, and psychophysical acts.
Anubhav is a dramatic
experience i.e. consequence of physical reaction to acting through words and
Rasa has a twofold
significance. It means both aesthetic content and aesthetic relish. Rasa arises
from a proper combination of the stimulants (Vaibhav), the physical consequence
(Anubhav), and the transient emotional state (Vyabhichari Bhav). It is called
Rasa because it is capable of being tested or relished.
Now Rasas arise from a
proper combination of the stimulants (Vibhav), the physical consequents
(Anubhav), and the transient emotional states (Vyabhichari Bhav) (Bharat, Natyashastra trans. G.N. Devy
“Just as by a proper
combination of different spicy foodstuffs (Vyanjana), leafy vegetable
(Aushadhi), and other articles of food (Dravya), there is a flavor and taste
produced in the same way when different emotional states come together,
aesthetic flavor and relish are produced”.
spectators in the right frame of mind taste the permanent mental conditions
suggested (Vyarijita) by the representation (Abhinaya) of
emotional states the Abhinaya carried out by speech delivery (Vac),
physical gestures, movements (Anga), the physical acting of physical
impacts (Sattva), and obtain pleasure and satisfaction.
Bharata defines rasa sutra
as “Vibhav-Anubhav-Vyabhichari-Samyogat-Rasa nishpatti”. He observes
eight Rasas namely, shringar, hasya, veer, adbhut, roudra, karuna, bhibhatsa,
and bhayanak. Bhava brings about the inner idea of the poet. It then
pervades the mind of the spectator.
The Rasa Dance from Srimad Bhagavatam with Many Commentaries
The permanent emotional
states alone are said to obtain the status of the Rasa. They are eight in
number of which four are primary and four are secondary. The primary Rasa
produces the respective secondary Rasa in the following manner:
1. Erotic (Shringar) to Comic (Hasya);
2. Heroic (Veer) to Marvellous (Adbhut);
3. Furious (Rudra) to Pathetic (Karun);
4. Odious (Bibhatsa) to terrible (Bhayanak);
The erotic, comic, heroic,
and marvelous are positive traits of mind, however, the furious, pathetic,
odious, and terrible are negative. The Erotic (Shringar) Rasa is derived from
the dominant state of love and has its basis in shining and brighter aspects of
the world such as white, pure, and beautiful. The Comic (Hasya) Rasa has
its basis in the dominant emotion of laughter. It is derived from showing
unseemly dress or ornament, impudence, greediness, quarrel or defective limb.
The Heroic (Veer) Rasa has its basis in the superior type of persons,
grandeur, greatness, goodness, strength, and energy. It displays the concentration
of mind, perseverance, diplomacy, discipline, military strength,
aggressiveness, the reputation of might, and frightening capacity, etc. The
Marvellous (Adbhut) Rasa finds its basis in the dominant state of
astonishment. It is derived from the determinants such as the sight of heavenly
beings or events, attainment of the desired object, entrance into the superior mansion,
temple, audience hall, seeing illusory and magical acts, etc. The Furious (Rudra)
Rasa finds its basis in the dominant state of anger. It is derived from the
determinant such as anger, rape, abuse, insult, untruth, allegation, jealousy, and the like. The Rakshasas, Danavas, and haughty men are its sources.
The Pathetic (Karun) Rasa is rooted in the dominant state of sorrow, misery,
and suffering. It is derived from determinants such as afflictions due to
separation from dear ones, divorce, loss of wealth, person, death, accident or
plight, and captivity. The Odious (Bibhatsa) Rasa has the dominant state
of disgust. It is derived from determinants such as hearing unpleasant,
offensive, impure, harmful things or seeing and discussing them. On the stage, it can be represented by consequents such as stopping the movement of all
limbs, narrowing down the mouth, and the like. The Terrible (Bhayanak) Rasa
is rooted in the dominant state of fear. It is derived from the determinants
such as hideous noise, sight of ghosts, panic, anxiety, or voices of jackals and
owls, an empty house, dense forest, sight of murder or death of hearing and
discussion of such events and also horripilation, change of color and loss of
The wise should know that
the Vibhav and the Anubhav are such matters in the art of acting as are
actually created by human nature, and as closely follow the ways of human
nature and worldly conduct.”
According to Bharata, “Nishpatti
is a manifestation (Abhivyakti) of what was already latent.” Abhinav
says, “All Rasas are dominated by pleasure, because of being the manifest and
uninterrupted form of tasting one’s own consciousness.”
Abhinav Gupta considers Shantih
(peace) as the ninth Rasa. This is the point of debate over the status of Rasa
in the tradition of Sanskrit scholarship in art and literature. The debate
provides new directions and insights in exploring the nature of man and the
nature of art from the point of view of dramatic performance and aesthetic
realization of both entertainment and instruction for proper education and culture.
In the context of the art and
literature of India, it is interesting to quote Max Muller, “If I am asked
which nation had been advanced in the ancient world in the aspect of education and
culture then I would say it was India”. The absence of Shantih as
Rasa in Bharata’s Natyashastra is a question of debate and discussion in the
philosophical systems in the East and the West as we do find Shantih being
artistically used in the classic work by T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land. The
structural changes in Bharata’s theatre have undergone different phases
over the centuries. Rasas are the direct product of dependent co-production of
determinants, consequent, and transitory mental states. However, Shantih
is the ultimate peace and tranquillity which is a state of perfection of mind
and absolute unconditioning from the law of dependent co-production (Buddha).
Peace is free from either pleasure or pain. It is a state of ‘oneness’. It is
possible that one may remember either ‘Nirgun’ of Krishna or ‘Nirvana’
of Buddha. It is not emptiness rather it is a state of ‘fullness’ (paradox).
Therefore, the state of fullness, perfection, and oneness stand to be evidence
for unconditioning of dependent co-production. The Indian tradition led by
Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Nanak, and others can be cited as illustrations in
support of the view that Shantih is not a Rasa. Shantih is beyond
Rasa – a field of absolute knowledge and infinity (Anant). The issue
debated needs to be seriously researched to discover the truth of Shantih.
The experience of Rasas of transient nature may lead one beyond the
transitoriness for ultimate peace i.e., permanent achievement. The taste of the
Rasas of human nature with binary oppositions provides a catalyst to an individual
for take-off from the state of unrest to the state of peace. The dramatic
experience can be an opportunity for pleasures as well as for instructions into
insight and tranquillity and peace.
1. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupad, Bhagavadgita. The Bhaktivedant Book Trust International, Inc.
2. Bhatt G.K. trans.
Natyashastra in Devy G.N. Ed. Indian Literary Criticism. Orient Longman,
3. Devy G.N. Indian
Literary Criticism. Orient Longman, 2002.
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