Bhava is something which conveys the meaning intended, through words, physical gestures and facial expressions. It is the expression of the mental state which is the essential ingredient in Bharatnatyam dance. Bhava is that which leads to the result. The creation of expression by mode of vachika, angika and sattvika aspects is bhava. In dance, it indicates the emotional condition displayed by a character in its existing stage. The term is derived from the Sanskrit root “bhoo” meaning “to become”. It means expression of the idea by depicting the mental state. Rasa can be created only when the Vibhava, Anubhava, Vyabhichari and Sanchari bhavas are combined together in its adequate proportions.

Sthayibhava can be termed as the origin of bhava from which Rasa is originated.

Emotions that are stable and universal can be termed as sthayi bhavas or constant feelings. They have a close relationship with human expressions that are easily identifiable. It is these sthayi bhavas which give rise to different bhavas and rasas.

Bhava is mainly classified into four categories- Vibhava, Anubhava, Satvikabhava and Vyabhichaari bhava.

  1. Vibhava Bhava: The term Vibhava means knowledge. It is the expression of bhavas by the combination of Vachika, Angika and Sattvika abhinaya. It is the aspect that evokes Rasa in its complete form. The creation of Rasa in a peculiar way can be termed as Vibhava. In Vibhava, the characteristic feature of each individual is determined from the expression of feelings. It is of two types:
    • a). Alambana Vibhava: The evoking of emotion by the deed of an object or person can be termed as Alambana Vibhava. It can be an idea about the nature or the deed of the characters. The emotional experience Sita felt at the sight of Shri Rama is an example of Alambana Vibhava.
    • b). Uddipana Vibhava: The aesthetic feelings which arouse the emotional pleasure of an individual can be termed as uddipana. When Sita was left alone after seeing Rama, the feeling she had can be compared to Uddipana Vibhava. It is of four types- Guna, Alankara, Cheshtha and Tatasha.
  2. Anubhava Bhava: This is the expression of the emotional feelings or sentiments felt by a person embedded in the mind. These come as natural emotions. This is represented by the movement of the eye brows and facial expressions. For example, when the Nayika hears the cuckoo singing or sees the Moon, she feels the pangs of separation more and this is actually Anubhava. Anubhavas are immediate reactions and can be found in common people. It is of four varieties:
    • a). Chittajanubhava: As the name suggests, it is the anubhava felt by the mind. It expresses the mental conditions like courage, disapproval, perturbation, enlightenment and so on.
    • b). Gatrajanubhava: This is anubhava expressed by the bodily gestures. It relates to expression of the mental state like pleasures of feeling, love, affection, sportiness etc.
    • c). Buddhyarambhanubhava: It relates to the Buddhi or intellect. Here in the mental impulses and reaction pertaining to the intellect are expressed.
    • d). Vagarambanubhava: This relates to word or vakya. Here the mental modes are expressed by conversation, crying, wailing, guidance, sympathy etc.
  3. Sattvika Bhava: This bhava evokes the sympathy by responding to the sorrow of others. The person gets worried over the problems of others. For a person who being depressed or troubled feels happy and relieved when he is consoled by another. Sattvika bhavas are of six kinds- stambha, sveda, romancha, vaivarnya, svarabhedas and ashru.
  4.  Vyabhichari Bhava: This is also known as sanchari bhava. The term means improvisation or explanation. These are transitory emotional feelings that differ from person to person. They will not have a constant nature. Sancharibhavas are of 32 varieties- Nirveda (disgust), Glani (torment), Samshaya (doubt), Shrama (toil), Dainya (feebleness), Jadatva (dullness), Asuya (jealousy), Chinta (anxiety), Vyadhi (sickness), Avega (pride), Garva (agitation), Dhriti (firmness), Smrithi (recollection), Chapalya (inconsideration), Ugrata (ferocity), Trasa (fear), Avahita (attention), Vishada (dejection), Mada (arrogance), Autsukya (eagerness), Mati (determination), Nidra (sleepiness), Moha (perplexity), Prabodha (enlightenment), Harsh (joy), Vreeda (sense of shame), Vitarka (argument), Supta (slumber), Amarsha (anger), Alasya (indolence), Unmeda (madness), Apasmara (forgetfulness), and Marana (death).

Bhavas are one of the most important elements that make a Bharatnatyam recital for it sets the tone of the performance and guide the audience on the visually artistic journey. All the great Bharatnatyam dancers have mastered the nuances of bhavas for them to convey the true aesthetic appeal of the classical dance to the appreciative audiences.