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The Natyashastra of Bharata consists of thirty – six chapters, out of which chapters 6 and 7 relate to “rasas” (sentiments) and “bhavas” (emotions), 8 to 14 discuss Angigaabhinaya, 15 to 22 deal with Vachikaabhinaya and chapter 23 talks of Ahaaryaabhinaya.

The Sanskrit word “rasa” fundamentally means ‘taste’ or ‘flavour’ or ‘relish’ or ‘savour’.  It refers to the “emotional experience of beauty in poetry and drama”. The aim of writing, presenting, and viewing a play is to experience rasa. The purpose of a dramatic performance is to create a sentiment of rasa in the mind of the ‘sahrdaya’ or the ‘learned audience’.

According to Bharata, rasa or ‘sentiment’ is the mental condition of gratification or pleasure produced in the audience of a play or in the person who hears or reads the poems, as the inescapable reaction of the bhavas or emotions manifested by the characters. He gives a detailed account of the eight different rasas, or sentiments. These are as follows:

  1. Sringara- the erotic
  2. Vira- the heroic
  3. Karuna- the pathetic
  4. Hasya- the comic
  5. Raudra- the furious
  6. Bhayanaka- the terrible
  7. Bibhatsa- the odious
  8. Adbhuta- the marvellous

Rasa can also be described as the sense of delectation or experience, or feeling created in the mind of the sympathetic audience by the articulation of bhavas and is an experience the individual is subjected to on account of this expression of bhavas.

Bhava is the emotion, or rather, the dominant emotion that creates a sense of gratification or pleasure, and that enjoyment or experience is rasa.

Normally, incidents that cause grief in our lives create depression. But when the same episodes are narrated as a work of art or presented on the stage, a pleasure is experienced by humans which is called rasa. The actor interprets not only what is written in the text, but also contributes on his own by using his creative talent, embellishing the blanks that might have been left over by the author. This scene created on the stage with the expression of bhava, both sthayi and sanchaari, produces rasa in the minds of the audience and makes the representation thoroughly enjoyable.

Although Bharata does not speak of the Sthayi bhavas, it is important to understand their existence in order to explain the birth of rasa.

Sthayi Bhavas- These are static emotions. These emotions are retained in the minds of the audience till rasa is created. The constant emotional state of mind is called sthayi (basic persisting) because (i) It persists through all the stages of action in drama (ii) It is inborn in man’s heart (iii) It permanently exists in the mind of every man.

The sthayi bhavas are 8 in number and correspond to the 8 sentiments or rasas:

1.Rati- love, creates shingara rasa
2.Hasa- mirth, creates hasya rasa
3.Soka- grief, creates karuna rasa
4.Krodha- anger, creates raudra rasa
5.Utsaha- enthusiasm, creates veer rasa
6.Bhaya- fear, creates bhayanak rasa
7.Jugupsa- aversion, creates vibhatsa rasa
8.Vismaya- wonder, creates adbhuta rasa

Bharata’s Rasa -Sutra says, “Vibhavanubhava – vyabhichari-sanyogad rasanispatih” and gives its English translation as follows: “The realisation of rasa results from the union of three elements- vibhava, anubhava and vyaabhichari”.

  1. Vibhaav- Determinant– It is the root cause or “excitant” that creates emotion. It is of 2 types:
  2. Alambana– It is the fundamental determinant like the hero or heroine, without whom there can be no creation of Rasa in the audience.
  3. Udippana– These are contributory determinants such as place, time and circumstances. Their purpose is to foster the sentiment which has arisen. For example, Udippana for Shringara Rasa is cool breeze, the moon, smell of flowers etc.

Vibhav stands for the emotive situation which is presented on the stage and which in actual life would be responsible, for the emotion, which is shows by the hero. In drama , Vibhava is represented to have two aspects-

(i) Alamban
(ii) Uddipan

The object which is primarily responsible for the arousal of emotion is known as Alamban bhava is a character due to whom and toward whom Sthayi Bhava is felt. For example, in Abhigyaan Shakuntalam, king Dushyanta feel rati toward Shakuntala. Here Shakuntala is responsible for the arousal of Rati in Dushyanta. Hence Shakuntala is Alamban Vibhaava in this case.

Uddipana- The environment, the entire surroundings, which enhances the arousal of Sthayi Bhava is known as Uddipan Vibhava. Thus, in Abhigyaan Shakuntalam, the entire forest scene with beautiful hermitage–garden at its centre and pleasant breeze, gentle sun-shine and the sweet companions, which offset her beauty and make it more bewitching is Uddipan Vibhava.

The root cause or excitant that creates the emotion is called vibhaav or the determinant. So Vibhaava is the cause and Bhava is the effect.

  1. Anubhav- Consequent– It is the external manifestation of feeling by which actors communicate their mind and heart to the audience. For example, glances, smiles, movements of the limbs etc to indicate their feelings through actions.

The physical change and movement which communicates Sthayi Bhava(basic emotion) aroused in hero are knows as his Anubhava.

Anubhavas are of two kinds-

(i)Voluntary physical changes known simply as Anubhava. e.g., movement of eyes, eyebrows, etc.
(ii)Involuntary physical changes known as Sattvik Bhavas-

Sattvika Bhavas- They are responsive emotions.  These are physical, involuntary emotions that manifest themselves because of intensity of emotion in the mental plane. These are 8 in number:

  1. Stambha- stunned.
  2. Sveda- sweating
  3. Romaancha- thrill
  4. Swarabheda- break in voice
  5. Vepathu- trembling
  6. Vaivarnya- pallor, change of colour.
  7. Ashru- tears
  8. Pralaya- swoon, fainting

Although the words Vibhaav and Anubhav incorporate the word Bhava, it may be noted that they are not Bhavas. Vibhaava , Anubhava and Bhava are thus intimately connected with each other . The Bhavas when expressed must be natural with their roots in the actual happenings in the world.

  1. Sanchaari or Vyaabhichari Bhavas- These are transitory emotions. They are passing emotions that contribute to the creation of Rasa. The Natyasastra, however, recognises that these factors are insufficient to produce rasa. The emphasis is on the fact that the essential element for producing Rasa is the Sthayi Bhava or dominant emotion, which persists throughout the drama amid the variations of the transitory feelings which come and go. These are 33 in number:
  • Nirveda- dejection
  • Glaani- depression, tiredness, exhaustion
  • Sanka- suspicion
  • Asuya- Jealousy
  • Mada- intoxication
  • Srama- weariness
  • Alasya- laziness
  • Dainya- helplessness, depression
  • Chinta- anxiety
  • Moha- passion
  • Smriti- recollection
  • Dhrti- boldness
  • Vrida- shame
  • Chapalta- fickleness
  • Harsya- joy
  • Avega- agitation
  • Jadata- stupor, apathy
  • Garva- arrogance
  • Visada- despair
  • Autsukya- inquisitiveness
  • Nidra- sleep
  • Apasmara- epilepsy
  • Supta/sukti – dream
  • Vibodha- awakening, enlightenment
  • Amarsa- intolerance, indignation
  • Avahittham- concealment, dissimilation
  • Ugrata- ferocity
  • Mati- knowledge, assurance
  • Vyadhi- sickness
  • Unmad- insanity
  • Maranam- death
  • Trasa- fright
  • Vitarka- doubt, deliberation

Together, these are 49 emotions (8 sthayi+ 33 vyabhichari+8 sattwik) which promote the creation of Rasa in the minds of the sympathetic audience or sahrdaya audience (learned audience)

STHAYI BHAVA(dominant emotion) VIBHAAV





(Transitory emotions)



1.Rati- passion of love The season, spring, flowers, ornaments, beautiful and desirable elements Looking sideways, coy glance , sweet words, such subtle expressions Suspicion, jealousy, similar feelings Shringara


2. Hasa- mirth Peculiarities of dress or speech Mimicking, pouting Smile, snigger, laughter, ridicule Hasya      


3.Soka- sorrow Loss, death, calamity Tears, fainting, lamentation Sorrow, trembling, fear with sorrow, anxiety Karuna


4.Krodha- anger Anger, violence, treachery Red eyes, gnashing teeth, clenched fists, wringing hands Sweating, excitement, impatience Raudra


5.Utsaha- heroism Determination, strength Courage, generosity Decision and arrogance Vira


6.Bhaya- fear Frightful things, lonely nights Trembling, losing voice, sweating, parched throat Faint, hurry, stand rooted to the spot Bhayanaka



7.Jugupsa- disgust Bad news, unpleasant happenings, scenes of dislike Repulsion, spitting, turning away Fainting, illness nausea at seeing death Bibhatsa


8.Vismaya- astonishment Seeing unusual things, achieving the desired, magic Wide, staring eyes, thrill, exclamation Stunned, overjoyed Adbhuta


If Rasa is the purpose of Sanskrit Drama, then the tool, which is utilised to bring about Rasa, is Abhinaya. The word is derived from the root ‘ni’ which means ‘take ‘or ‘carry’ , with the preposition ‘abhi’ meaning towards. Hence, abhinaya means carrying the performance towards the audience. It involves bringing to the spectator, or, the different ways in which the actor brings the play with its meaning and feelings to the spectator.

Abhinaya, therefore, occupies the foremost place in Sanskrit drama. But for Abhinaya, the very purpose of Sanskrit drama, that is the realization of Rasa, will not be achieved.

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