Human Emotions

Rasa’s Human Emotions

The Rasas are the mainstay of Performing Art, which tries to present various phases of human life. The state of rasa is established due to bhava which is the cause of emotion. Every rasa corresponds to a particular bhava and is about human state of mind. Rasa encompasses not just emotions but also the various things that cause that emotion.

The Navarasas give dance completeness. ‘Nava’ means nine and ‘Rasa’ means emotions. The concept of rasa is fundamental to various forms of Indian Classical Dance and Music.

Rasa, “taste” or “essence”, refers to the sentiment that the bhava, manifested by the actor, should evoke in the audience.   According to Bharata, the actor-dancer should be able to elicit the rasa experience in the audience through the stahyi bhava or permanent emotion, which is supported by the determinants (vibhava) and stimulants (anubhava). These are further elaborated upon through different transitory states of mind.

If all goes well, the spectator then receives these various signals, which awake the particular sentiment in question in his or her mind. However, not everyone is able to experience it. In order to be able to recognise or receive the rasa, or the “essence”, the spectator should be a sensitive and cultivated person, a rasika.

Bhava and Rasa

Bharata says that which can be relished – like the taste of food – is rasa: “Rasyate anena iti rasaha (asvadayatva).”

According to Bharata, the playwright experiences a certain emotion (bhava). The director of the play should properly understand the idea and bhava-s of the character and convey his knowledge and understanding to the actors. The actors perform their parts using their own vision and experience, but they should follow the main idea and key bhavas emphasized by the director, Sutradhara. 

The term bhava means both existence and a mental state, and in aesthetic contexts it has been variously translated as feelings, psychological states, and emotions. In the context of the drama, bhavas are the emotions represented in the performance. 

Bhava is that which becomes (Sanskrit root “bhoo”, “bhav” means “to become”); and bhava becomes rasa. In Natya Shastra it is said, that bhavas by themselves carry no meaning in the absence of Rasa: “Nahi rasadyate kashid_apyarthah pravattate.” Forms and manifestations of bhavas are defined by the rasa. It is therefore said, Rasa is the essence of art conveyed. 

Rasa is the emotional response the bhavas inspire in the spectator (the Rasika or Sahrudaya). Rasa is thus an aesthetically transformed emotional state experienced by the spectator. Rasa is accompanied by feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. Such emotions tunes perception of the spectators, they create atmosphere of empathy, make people more sensitive, help to open mind and heart to understand the idea and message of the play. 

Rasa is associated with palate, it is delight afforded by all forms of art; and the pleasure that people derive from their art experience. It is literally the activity of savoring an emotion in its full flavor. The term might also be taken to mean the essence of human feelings. 

Rasa is sensuous, proximate, experiential. Rasa is aromatic. Rasa fills space, joining the outside to the inside. What was outside is transformed into what is inside.


The actors convey bhavas using Abhinaya. The Sanskrit root “abhi” means “to lead”, “to go together”. Abhinaya is the process by which the meaning of the play is “led toward” the audience. 

Human activity is divided into the physical, the verbal and the mental. Thus Abhinaya is four-fold – Sattvika (temperamental), Angika (physical), Vachika (verbal) and Aharya (dress, make-up, etc.). 

Mrinalini Sarabhai uses famous shloka from “Abhinaya Darpanam” to explain these four aspects: “Where the hands go the eyes follow [anubhava], where the eyes go the mind follows [sattvika abhinaya], where the mind goes the mood [bhava] follows, where the mood goes there is rasa born.” 

Sattvika abhinaya is very important kind of Abhinaya, showing the highest level of actor’s identification with the character . All of the components of abhinaya must be applied by the actor in order for him to bring the audience to the correct rasa, and thus to the enjoyment of the play, but sattva, which literally means ‘purity,’ however in dramaturgy is the psychological ability of the actor to identify with the character and his emotions, is the hardest to master and to understand. 

As Bharata asserts, “Sattva . . . is [something] originating in mind. It is caused by the concentrated mind. The Sattva is accomplished by concentration of the mind. It’s nature cannot be mimicked by an absent-minded man.” 

The Natya Shastra calls Sattvika abhinaya the “Spirited” modes of abhinaya, but the best explanations link it to Stanislavsky’s “Magic ‘If’” and “Sense of Truth.” This allows the actor to convince himself the circumstances are real to the character, even though, as the actor, he knows they are not. 

When executed properly, sattvika abhinaya allows the actor to exhibit the physical signs of the emotions the character’s feeling, such as tears, trembling, change of color, or horripilation (the hair standing on end, or goosebumps). For the audience to feel the correct rasa, the actor must manifest the outward expressions of the character’s emotion using all kinds of abhinaya, but especially sattva. The Natya Shastra insists, “The Histrionic Representation with an exuberant Sattva is superior, the one with the level Sattva is middling, and that with no [exercise of] Sattva is inferior.”

Vibhava and Anubhava

Actions and feelings are evoked in connection with certain surrounding objects and circumstances, called Vibhava-s. Different mental and emotional states manifest themselves and become visible through universal physiological reactions called Anubhava-s.

Thus Bhava, the emotion felt by the character, results from a “Determinant” (vibhava), or determining circumstance, such as the time of year, the presence of loved ones, the decor or environment, and so on. The vibhava affects the character so that he feels sorrow, terror, anger, or some such emotion (bhava).

The “Consequent” (anubhava) of a particular bhava is a specific behavior exhibited by the actor as he portrays the character such as weeping, fainting, blushing, or the like. The anubhava, if properly executed, will cause the audience to feel a specific rasa corresponding to the bhava felt by the actor:


This is precisely the process Stanislavsky describes for his actors. A character’s feelings arise from the circumstances of the scene, both those in effect at the moment and those that occurred before. The feelings, combined with the “given circumstances,” cause her to behave in a certain way–the “stage action.” Replacing the Sanskrit terms of The Natyasastra with Stanislavskian terminology, the diagram might look like this: