Natyashastra and the Nine Rasas
Drama and Art
From days of yore, drama was accepted as a complete art form which imbibed the individual art manifestations of dance, music and poetry. Bharata Muni’s Natyashastra (3rd-4th century AD), a book which focuses on the theory of art based on Rasas is the first authentic treatise available on Indian classical music and drama. The Natyashastra envisions the Gods as the ultimate witnesses of the theatre.
The Theory of the Rasas
As per the Rasa theory, all the aesthetic experience or expression is transcendental in nature, arising from one and only source: The Divine. For the artiste, it lies in the act of creation, while for the spectators, it lies in the act of observation. The degree of aesthetic fulfillment is in the hands of the artiste. By imbibing the divine expressions-the Rasas- in his/her art, he/she will be able to achieve a higher degree of aesthetic gratification and perfection.
Bharata speaks of the following eight Rasas:
- Shringara (erotic or dealing with sexual desire)
- Hasya (comic)
- Karuna (sympathy or pathetic)
- Raudra (anger)
- Veera (heroism or bravery)
- Bhayanaka (fear)
- Bhibhatsa (hatred)
- Abdhuta (marvel)
Later, in the 17th century AD, Abhinavagupta, one of the greatest Kashmiri musician and dramatist of his times, introduced the ninth Rasa, the Shantha Rasa (happiness or calmness). Thus, a collection of nine Rasas emerged, which gained popularity as Navarasas.
The Magic of Number 9
The number 9 holds a unique and significant place in the Vedas and other sacred texts. Nine is considered to be complete because any number multiplied, added, or deducted by nine gives a figure that totals nine. The concept is well detailed in the Upanishads.
Apart from the nine Rasas, as mentioned above, other significant points to be noted, in the religious and philosophical context, regarding this digit are:
# There are said to be 360 rays of light or potencies of the universal Shakthi, the Maha Tripurasundari; this number 360 adds up to 9.
# The universe is made up of 36 elements; the number 36 again adds up to nine.
# The lunar year has 360 days(tithis) which leads back to the number 9.
# There are nine planets in the solar system which are referred to as Navagrahas.
# Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine forms.
# There are nine apertures in the body and nine psychic centres.
# There are nine gems- the Navaratnas.
The number nine is also significant astronomically. There are 27 constellations in the galaxy, the numerical value of which is again nine.
The colors of the Rasas
The various Rasas along with the colour and the divine form associated with each of them can be enumerated as below.
1. Hasya Rasa: The feeling of joy
2. Bibhatsa Rasa: The feeling of repellence
3. Bhayanak Rasa: The feeling of fear
Divinity: Kala, god of time
4. Sringara Rasa: The feeling of love and passion
Colour: Dark Blue
5. Karuna Rasa: The feeling of compassion
6. Veera Rasa: The feeling of courage
7. Adbhuta Rasa: The feeling of wonder
8. Raudra Rasa: The feeling of anger
9. Shantha Rasa: The feeling of joy and serenity
Colour: Jasmine and the Moon
Shringara rasa is considered the king of Rasas in the theory of Navarasas. It is through these nine Rasas that the essence of the art is displayed by the artiste and is savoured by the spectators. Therefore, Rasa is the most important term in the Indian art, signifying a state of heightened delight or ‘ananda’ by the artiste.