What do you understand by the Bhava-Rasa theory in Indian art? Discuss contribution of Abhinavagupta towards this theory.

The Bhava-Rasa theory is a fundamental concept in Indian art, particularly in the fields of classical Indian dance, music, and drama. It explores the emotional and aesthetic experiences evoked in the audience through the portrayal of different emotions by the performer.

According to the Bhava-Rasa theory, Bhava refers to the expression of emotions, while Rasa represents the aesthetic experience or the essence that is felt by the audience. The theory suggests that through the depiction of specific Bhavas (emotions), an artist can evoke corresponding Rasas (aesthetic experiences) in the audience.

The theory was first systematically outlined in the Natyashastra, a classical Sanskrit text on the performing arts attributed to the sage Bharata Muni. It describes eight primary emotional states or Rasas:

  1. Shringara (erotic or romantic)
  2. Hasya (comic)
  3. Karuna (pathetic or compassionate)
  4. Raudra (furious or angry)
  5. Veera (heroic)
  6. Bhayanaka (fearful)
  7. Bibhatsa (disgusting or odious)
  8. Adbhuta (wondrous or marvelous)

Each Rasa is associated with a particular Bhava, which is expressed through various artistic elements such as facial expressions, gestures, music, rhythm, and lyrics.

The ultimate goal of the Bhava-Rasa theory is to transport the audience into a state of aesthetic bliss or transcendence. The performer’s skill lies in effectively conveying the emotions, allowing the audience to experience the corresponding Rasas and feel a deep connection with the artistic presentation. The theory acknowledges that emotions are universal, and through their portrayal, artists can tap into the collective human experience and touch the hearts and minds of the spectators.

The Bhava-Rasa theory has had a profound influence on various forms of Indian art, including classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, and Kathakali, as well as classical music and Sanskrit drama. It continues to be a guiding principle in the training and practice of these art forms, emphasizing the importance of emotional expression, aesthetics, and the transformative power of art.
Role of Abhinavgupta: Abhinavagupta wrote Abhinavabharati, a commentary of Naṭyasastra of Bharata. For the first timehe brought a technical definition of rasa. As per him, Rasa is the universal bliss of the atman colouredby the emotional tone of a drama. Abhivangupta introduced a ninth rasa called Santam which denotes the peace or tranquillity. These total nine rasas make the Navarasa.

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