RASA THEORY OF INDIAN AESTHETICS
The Concepts of Bhava and Rasa
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© Gargi Bhattacharya 2009
Bharatamuni’s Natyasastra is the earliest treatise on drama available in any civilization. It rivals Aristotle’s theory of Catharsis as propounded in Poetics in its scope, its rigorous concepts of the theatrical art, of stagecraft and the role of the spectators. It is especially famous for laying down the cornerstone for Indian aesthetics in the form of the Rasa Theory, which is imperative in the understanding and appreciation of all Indian arts, since most follow the rules laid down by the sage even after the passage of centuries. The Rasa Theory claims itself as one of the most authentic, original, credible and enduring theories in Oriental arts, and theorists and performers attach immense importance to its merits. Bharata also refers to bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform, and the rasas (emotional responses) that they inspire in the audience. To that extent, the eminence of the Natyasastra cannot be overstated. The paper looks at the exponents of bhava and rasa, their definitions, degrees and varying forms in performance, and elucidates the role played by the concepts of bhava and rasa in both the artistic and the spectatorial arena. It also explains the importance of Natyasastra in the evolution of the theory of art and society, and the relation between the rasas and bhavas as they are made manifest in the secret art of the performer.
Gargi Bhattacharya: Pursuing Master of Philosophy (M. Phil.) in English, first year, in Jawaharlal Nehru University, after successfully completing M.A. in English in the same University and being ranked first. Variously employed in the capacity of ad-hoc lecturer in Shivaji College as also guest lecturer in Motilal Nehru College and P.G.D.A.V. College, all affiliated to Delhi University. Employed in the capacity of Production Editor in the prestigious SAGE Publications, New Delhi. M.A. in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University and B.A. in English from St.Xavier`s College, Kolkata. She has a particular interest in Critical Theory, Indian Writings in English, Folk Literature and Film Studies.