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The perfect fodder for the soul

The stable emotions (sthayi bhava) are distinct from the thirty-three fleeting emotions (sanchari bhava).

india Updated: May 01, 2006 14:01 IST

The supreme beauty according to the Upanishads’ way of thinking can be traced only in the ecstatic state of realising harmony between the soul and Brahman: a perfect state of rasa, as an evoked state of delight and enjoyment. But the famous treatise on dramaturgy, Natya Shastra, by Bharata (2nd century) exposed for the first time, an intimate link between art and aesthetic enjoyment called rasa.

The arts mentioned in this treatise included music, dance and drama, apart from drawing, sketching and architecture. In being called the fifth Veda (literally the “body of knowledge”), it was stated to have borrowed the chanting of Mantras from Rig Veda, singing from the Sama Veda, dancing and acting from Yajur Veda; and rasa  from Atharva Veda.

Aesthetically speaking, Natya Shastra notes the rasa  as an emotional response of the spectator to what is emoted (bhava) by the per former on the stage: a psychological state, the content of which may be pleasant or unpleasant but the overall effect is of bliss and enjoyment. There are eight bhavas (emoting of sentiment): rati  (love); hasyai  (laughter); shoka  (pathos); krodha  (anger); utsaha (enthusiasm); bhaya  (fear); jugupsa (disgust); and vismaya  (wonder). The rasas  established or affected by bhavas in that order are:
Shringara (erotic); hasya  (laughter); karuna  (compassion); raudra  (anger); vira (valorous); bhayanaka  (terrible); vibhatsa  (nauseating); and adbhuta  (wondering). The ninth rasa, shanta  (tranquil), was added later on.

The stable emotions (sthayi bhava) are distinct from the thirty-three fleeting emotions (sanchari bhava), such as, boredom, hatred, doubt, alertness, joy, sadness, vanity, impulsiveness, passivity, shock, ag gressiveness, and so on. Each sthayi bhava is, in fact, a creation out of these fleeting emotions (as ingredients and spices) and rasa  is the ultimate relish from the taste of the sthayi bhava.

From the earliest times, dance was connected to worship and, alongside Vedic rituals and sacrifices (yagnas), dancing played an important role. In later times, dancing before idols formed an essential part of daily worship in all well-known temples. All Indian classical dances go back to Bharata.

(Excerpted from Hindu Joy of Life, Niyogi OPL, 2006)