The Navrasas and their importance in Indian Classical dances

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“We dance for laughter,

we dance for tears,

we dance for madness,

we dance for fears,

we dance for hopes,

we dance for screams,

we are the dancers,

we create the dreams.”

  • Albert Einstein.

The above famous quote echoes the emotions of completeness that a dancer can emote so that an audience can experience the full beauty of vivid sentiments expressed through gestures and movements in the dance. Before I start discussing the Navrasas and how they are connected to the Classical dances, you might wonder what a Rasa is.

Rasas are perhaps known in the whole artistic world, since the beginning of cultures. In the Indian cultural tradition they are analyzed, and codified.

Rasa originates from the Sanskrit word ‘रस’, which means taste, juice or an essence. Basically it stands for a concept in Classical dance where the dancer can evoke the various emotions in the audience through the aesthetic dance movements, so that the spectators, the people who have come to appreciate the performance can feel the emotions which are otherwise hard to describe!

As stated in his book, “A Dancer on Dance”, Mr V.P Dhananjayan mentions that Rasa means that which is being tasted or enjoyed. Hence the word Rasika is employed to denote connoisseurs. Hence Rasa is nothing but the state of mind and from the facial expression or the Bhava created by the dancer, the audience can experience many emotions. This is known as the Rasa-abhinaya which is an integral part of the Indian Classical dance.

There are nine types of rasas, known as Navrasas. Yes, all the dance forms are basically created around the nine rasas or sentiments and they follow certain hand gestures.

Now let’s have a look at these nine rasas.

They are basically emoted through the eye and face gestures, body movements and muscle shifts. Different deities and colors are attributed to each of this.

  1. Hasya – Humour: This is the most common expression which we all know. This rasa is attached to the deity Pramatha and is indicated with white color.
  2. Raudra – Anger : Hurt ego results in anger. It is connected to the Rudra, indicated by Red.
  3. Bibhatsa – Disgust: It stands for bad manners, vulgarity, dissatisfaction. This rasa is connected to the Mahakal, a form of Shiva, indicated by Blue colour.
  4. Bhayanaka – Fear: As there are many types of desires in this world, so are the fears. This rasa is connected to the Kala and the colour is Black.
  5. Shringara – Delight, erotic: The meaning of Shringara is love and it often means having a deep and loving romantic relationship with the opposite sex. This rasa is connected to the Vishnu and indicated by the pale light green colour.
  6. Veera – heroic, Courage: It is nothing but the confidence, fearlessness, self-assurance and heroism. This rasa is connected to the Indra and shown with Golden colour.
  7. Karuna – Pity, sorrow: The highest form of Karuna is compassion. This rasa is connected to the Yama and it is shown with Grey colour.
  8. Adbhuta – Wonder: Since the dawn of the prehistoric times, the human species have been curious, trying to understand things. And they have always wondered about the things they didn’t comprehend. This rasa is connected to the Gandharva and indicated using yellow.
  9. Shanta – Serenity- Don’t we all search for it? The peace, the ultimate inner relaxation and the feeling of serenity which is hard to find in today’s turbulent world? This rasa is connected to the Narayan and is shown with White Colour.

The research says that Shringara, Raudra, Veera and Bibhatsa are the primary Rasas and other five rasas are originated from them.

Sometimes people think that each of these rasas are separate and can be classified. However, in a dance performance, each of these Navrasas overlaps each other, they blend, interconnecting and creating a fine framework that can touch the audience hearts. As a tasty cuisine can be prepared with balancing different tastes in an appropriate manner, in the same way, a dancer can use all the rasas in a creative manner to evoke the feelings of her audience.

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