NatyaShastra & Bhava-Rasa Theory of Bharata

                                                  Nav Ras / The Nine Melows or Moods


    NatyaShastra and the Bhava-Rasa Theory of Bharata Muni emphasizes that the success of a performance is measured by whether or not the audience has a specific experience called RASA. Rasa is the internal enjoyment which is relished by the audience which are nine in number.


    The Natyaśāstra, is the oldest surviving Indian compendium on the knowledge of performing arts. It primarily deals with theatre, dance & musical performance. The text, which now contains 6000 slokas, is believed to have been written during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE by Sage Bharata.

    The NatyaShastra itself is based upon the much older Gandharva Veda (appendix to Sama Veda) which contained 36000slokas. However, its most complete exposition in drama, songs and other performance arts is found in the works of the Kashmiri Shaivite philosopher Abhinavagupta (c. 1000 CE).

















    Vibhavas : Vibhavas means Karana or cause

    Bhav : The term bhava means mental state or emotion. These can be of three types.

    A.  Sthayi bhavas (Primary emotion)

    B.  Vibhichari or Sanchari bhavas - (Transitory states)

    C.  Sattvika bhavas - (Temperamental states)

    Anubhav : The “Consequent” (anubhava) of a particular bhava is a specific behavior exhibited by the actor as he portrays the character which will cause the audience to feel a specific rasa corresponding to the bhava felt by the actor.

    Rasa : Rasa is the emotional response the bhavas inspire in the spectator. It is an emotional state (in relation to sthayi bhavas) experienced by the spectator. Rasa is that internal enjoyment which is relished not only by the audience but also the actors who perform it. These are 9 in number corresponding to sthayi bhavas.

                                   "Chinnamasta"......Perfect Coordination of two Odissi Dancers. Chinnamasta is an aspect of Dasamahavidya form of Maa Adishakti. 

    The Natyasastra of Bharata Muni consists of thirty-six chapters in all. The first three chapters respectively deal with the origin of drama, the erection of theatre and the worship of the stage. Chapter 4 deals with the varieties of dance. Chapter 5 is devoted to the conduct of purvaranga or preliminary rites. 6th and 7th chapters relate to rasas (sentiments) and bhavas (emotions) known as the Rasadhyaya and Bhavaadhyaya respectively and together bring out the concept of the Bhava-Rasa theory of Bharata.

    THE AIM, the text states, of art is manifold. In many cases, it aims to produce repose and relief for those exhausted with labor, or distraught with grief, or laden with misery. The primary goal is to create rasa so as to lift and transport the spectators. This Rasa experience will entertain and enlighten the spectator who hence becomes the 'Rasika'. According to Natya Shastra, bhavas by themselves carry no meaning in the absence of Rasa.

     THE REALISATION of Rasa is said to result from the union of three interrelated elements – Determinants (vibhava), Consequents (anubhava) and Transitory States/ Complementary Psychological States (vyabhicaribhava). Vibhava, anubhava and bhava are thus intimately connected with one another.

     Vibhava (determinants or catalysts). The means (the conditions and objects) by which an emotion is activated is termed Vibhava or Determinants. There are two kinds of Vibhava

    a.   The Alambhana Vibhava – the person or the object in respect of whom the emotion is experienced and whose appearance is directly responsible for the bringing forth of the emotion;

    b.   and the Uddipana Vibhava – the situation in the environment in which that person or object is placed.

     Bhava : The term bhava means mental state, feelings, psychological states, and emotions. In the context of the drama, bhavas are the emotions represented in the performance.

    1.      Sthayi bhavas (Which are 8+1). The Sthayibhava (permanent mood) or Durable Psychological State is a major emotion which is developed by a number of minor feelings referred to as Vyabicaribhavas.

    2.    Transitory states - Vibhichari or Sanchari bhavas (Which are 33). The ‗vyabhicāribhāvas‘   are the Complementary Psychological States which exist temporarily in a performance but contribute to the overall emotional tone of the play.

    3.   Temperamental states - Sattvika bhavas (Which are 8) (Ultimate perfection of performance requires peculiar mental effort for their presentation).

     Anubhava : Anubhava is the consequent physical reaction through action, word and facial expression that follows as the impact of the vibhava. They are the outward manifestations brought forth as a result of the Vibhavas.   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 anubhāvas‘ include the performer‘s gestures and other means to express the emotional states. Anubhavas communicate to the audience, the emotions being felt by the characters onstage. The anubhava, if properly executed, will cause the audience to feel a specific rasa corresponding to the bhava felt by the actor.

    Abhinaya : 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. Bharata says in his Natyasastra, that there are four kinds of abhinaya. The four types are angika(―physical), vacika(verbal), sattvika(emotional) and aharya(make-up and costumes or material).

    Rasa: Rasa is the emotional response the bhavas inspire in the spectator (the Rasika or Sahrudaya). Rasa is thus an emotional state experienced by the spectator. Rasa is that internal enjoyment which is relished not only by the audience but also the actors who perform it.

    According to Bharata, the playwright experiences a certain emotion (bhava). The director (Sutradhara) 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.

    The Sthayibhava-s evoke corresponding Rasas:

    1. Rati evokes Sringara (the Erotic - romance, love).

    2. Hasa  evokes Hasya (the comic - laugh, humor.

    3. Shoka evokes Karuna (the pathetic - compassion, sadness).

    4. Krodha evokes Roudra (the furious - indignation, anger).

    5. Utsaha evokes Veera (the heroic - valor).

    6. Bhaya evokes Bhayanaka (the terrible - fear, horror).

    7. Jugupsa evokes Bibhasa (the odious - disgust, aversion, repugnance).

    8. Vismaya evokes Adbhuta (the marvelous - wonder, astonishment,    amazement).

    9. Shant   evokes shant  ( Peace & tranquility).



    1.         Rati (Pleasure) - Smiling face, sweet words, contraction of eye-brows, sidelong glances and the like.

    2.         Hasa (Joy) - Smile and the like, i.e., laugher, excessive laugher.

    3.         Shoka (Sorrow) - Shedding tears, lamentation, bewailing, change of color, loss of voice, looseness of limbs, falling on the ground, crying, deep breathing, paralysis, insanity, death and the like.

    4.         Krodha (Malice) - Extended nostrils, unturned eyes, bitten lips, throbbing cheeks and the like.

    against enemies - knitting of the eye-brows, fierce look, bitten lips, hands clasping each other, touching one’s own shoulder and breast.

    when controlled by superiors - slightly downcast eyes, wiping off slight perspiration and not expressing any violent movement.

    against beloved woman - very slight movement of the body, shedding tears, knitting eyebrows, sidelong glances and throbbing lips.

    against one’s servants - threat, rebuke, dilating eyes and casting contemptuous looks of various kinds.

    artificial - betraying signs of effort.

    5.         Utsaha (Courage) - steadiness, munificence, boldness of undertaking and the like.

    6.         Bhaya (Fear) - trembling of the hands and feet, palpitation of the heart, paralysis, dryness of the mouth, licking lips, perspiration, tremor, apprehension of danger, seeking for safety, running away, loud crying and the like.

    7.         Jugupsa (Disgust) - contracting all the limbs, spitting, narrowing down of the mouth, heartache and the like.

    8.         Vismaya (Surprise) - wide opening the eyes, looking without winking of the eyes and movement of the eye-brows, horripilation, moving the head to and fro, the cry of ‘well done’ and the like.


    1. The Erotic - Sringara – (1) in union – The Anubhava-s to be represented are clever movements of eyes and eye-brows, soft and delicate movements of limbs, sweet words, etc.; whereas those to be represented (2) in separation – are despondency, weakness, apprehension, envy, weariness, anxiety, yearning, sleep, dreaming, awakening, illness, insanity, epilepsy, inactivity (temporary) death and other conditions.

    2. The Comic - Hasya – It is to be represented by throbbing of the lips, and the cheeks, opening of the eyes wide or contracting them, perspiration, color of the face and taking hold of the sides. Hasya is self-centered when a man laughs himself and it is centered in others when he makes others laugh. This two-fold division of Hasya relates to its infectious nature. In the verses of the Anubhavas of the six types of Hasya are given.

    ‘smita’ (gentle smile): slightly blown cheeks, elegant glances, teeth not visible;

    ‘hasita’ (smile): blooming eyes, face and cheeks, teeth slightly visible;

    ‘vihasita’ (gentle laugher) – laugher suitable to the occasion; slight sound and sweetness, face joyful, eyes and cheeks contracted;

    ‘upahasita’ (laugher of ridicule): the nose expanded, squinting eyes, shoulder and head bent;

    ‘apahasita’ (vulgar laugher) – laugher on unsuitable occasion: tears in eyes, shoulders and the head violently shaking;

    ‘atihasita’ (excessive laugher) – eyes expanded and tearful, loud and excessive sound, sides covered by hands.

    Smita and hasita should be employed in the case of superior characters, vihasita and upahasita in the case of middling ones and apahasita and atihasita in the case of the inferior types.

    3. The Pathetic - Karuna – This is to be represented by shedding tears, lamentation, dryness of the mouth, change of color, drooping limbs, being out of breath, loss of memory and the like.

    4. The Furious - Roudra is to be represented by red eyes, knitting of eye-brows, defiance, biting of lips, throbbing of the cheeks, pressing one hand over the other and the like.

    5. The Heroic - Veera – This is to be gesticulated by firmness, heroism, charity, diplomacy and the like.

    6. The Terrible - Bhaya is to be represented by trembling of the hands, the feet and the eyes, horripilation, change of color and the loss of voice.

    7. The Odious - Bibhatsa is to be gesticulated by contraction of all the limbs, narrowing down of the mouth and eyes, vomiting, spitting and (shaking the limbs in) disgust and the like.

    8. The Marvelous - Adbhura – This is to be represented by wide opening eyes, looking with fixed gaze, horripilation, tears. Joy, perspiration, uttering words of approbation, making gifts, crying (incessantly) ‘ha, ha, ha’ waving the end of dhoti or sari and movement of fingers and the like.

    9. Abhinavagupta went on to expand the scope and content of the rasa spectrum by adding the ninth rasa: the Shantha rasa, the one of tranquility and peace. Abhinava explained that Shantha rasa underlies all the other mundane rasas as their common denominator.



    These are thirty-three in number. Sthayi bhava-s are accompanied by thirty-three Vyabhicari-bhavas, called “Complementary” or “Inconstant” modes, which may be seen as “Conditioning Forces” of a scene. Emotions have many shades and are characterized by different levels of intensity.

    1. Nirveda - weeping, sighing, deep breathing, deliberation and the like.

    2. Glani - week voice, lusterless eyes, pale face, slow gate, want of energy, loss of color of the body and the limbs, change of voice and others.

    3. Sanka - constantly looking about, hesitating movement, dryness of the mouth, licking the lips, change of facial color, tremor, dry lips, change of voice and the like. Concealment of appearance to be characterized by adoption of clever gestures according to some authorities.

    4. Asuya - finding fault with others, decrying their virtues, casting glances in jealousy, downcast face, knitting eyebrows, disregard and abuse in public.

    5. Mada -

    In case of superior persons – sleeping

    Middling ones – laughing and singing,

    Low ones – crying and using coarse words.

    Stages of Mada –

    (i) light smiling face, pleasant feeling, slightly faltering words, delicately unsteady gait.

    (ii) medium drunken and rolling eyes, arms drooping or restlessly thrown about, irregularly unsteady gait.

    (iii) excessive loss of memory, incapacity to walk due to vomiting, hiccup, tick protruding tongue and spitting. When there is panic, grief and increase of terror due to some cause, intoxication is to be stopped by effort.

    6. Srama - gentle rubbing of the body, deep breathing, contraction of the mouth, belching, massaging of the limbs, very slow gait, contraction of the eyes, making hissing sound.

    7. Alasya - aversion to any kind of work, lying down, sitting, drowsiness, sleep, etc.

    8. Dainya - want of self-command, headache, dullness of the body, absent-mindness, giving up of cleansing (of the body), etc.

    9. Cinta - deep breathing, sighing, agony, meditation, thinking with a down-cast face, thinness of the body, etc.

    10. Moha - want of movement, excessive movement of a particular limb, falling down, reeling, dazed condition.

    11. Smrity - nobbing of the head, looking down, raising up the eye-brows, etc.

    12. Dhriti - enjoyment of objects attained, absence of regret for the unattained, impaired or lost, etc.

    13. Vrida - covered face, thinking with down casting face, drawing lines on the ground, touching cloths and the ring, biting the nails, etc.

    14. Capalata - harsh words, rebuke, beating, killing, taking prisoner, goading, etc.

    15. Harsa - brightness of the face and eyes, using sweet words, embracing, horripilation, tears, perspiration, and the like.

    16. Avega -

    (a) due to portends - looseness of all the limbs, distraction of the mind, loss of facial color, sadness, surprise, etc.

    (b) due to violent winds - veiling the face, rubbing the eyes, collecting the ends of the clothes worn, hurried going, etc.

    (c) due to heavy rains - lumping together the limbs, running, looking for some cover of shelter, etc.

    (d) due to fire - eyes troubled with smoke, contracting all the limbs or shaking them, running with wide steps, flight, etc.

    (e) due to elephants - hurried retreat, unsteady gait, fear, paralysis, tremor, looking back, etc.

    (f) due to having something - getting up, embracing, giving away cloths and ornaments, tears, horripilation, etc.

    (g) due to unfavorable news - falling down on the ground, rolling about on a rough surface, running away, bewailing, weeping and the like.

    (h) due to calamity - sudden retreat, taking up weapons and armor, mounting elephants and horses and chariots, striking, etc.

    17. Jadata - not uttering any word, speaking indistinctly, aversion to all work, remaining absolutely silent, looking with steadfast gaze, dependence on others, etc.

    18. Garva - disrespect for others, harassing, not giving reply, not greeting others, looking to oneself, roaming, contemptuous laugher, harsh words, transgressing commands of the superiors, insulting others, etc. (In case of persons of inferior type, (boastful) movement of the eyes and the limbs is to be employed.)

    19. Visada - looking for allies, thinking about means, loss of energy, absent-mindedness, deep breathing and the like in the case of superior and the middling types; in case of the inferior type – running away, looking down, drying of the mouth, licking the corner of the mouth, sleep, deep breathing, meditation and the like.

    20. Autsukya - sighs, thinking with downcast face, sleep, drowsiness, desire for lying down.

    21. Nidra - heaviness of the face, rolling of the body, rolling of the eyes, yawning, massaging of the body, deep breathing, relaxed body, closing the eyes, etc.

    22. Apasmara - throbbing, sighing, trembling, running, falling down, perspiration, foaming in the mouth, motionlessness, licking (lips) with tongue and the like.

    23. Supta - deep breathing, dullness of the body, closing the eyes, stupefaction of all senses, dreaming, talking while asleep, closing eyes softly.

    24. Vibodha - yawning, rubbing the eyes, leaving the bed, etc.

    25. Amarsa - shaking the head, perspiration, thinking with downcast face, determination, looking for means and allies, etc.

    26. Avahittha - speaking otherwise, looking down words, break in speech, pretended patience.

    27. Ugrata - killing, imprisoning, beating, rebuking, etc.

    28. Mati - instructing pupils, ascertainment of meanings, removal of doubts, etc.

    29. Vyadhi -

    (a) fever with a feeling of cold - shivering of the entire body, bending the body, shaking the jaws, desire for heat, horripilation, movement of the chin, narrowing down the nasal passage, dryness of the mouth, lamentation, etc.

    (b) fever with a feeling of heat - throwing out cloths, the hands and the feet, desire to roll on the ground, use f unguents, desire for coolness, lamentation, dryness of mouth, crying.

    (c) other types of sickness - narrowing down the mouth, dullness of the body, downcast eyes, deep breathing, making peculiar sounds, crying, tremor, etc.

    30. Unmada - laughing and weeping without any reason, crying, irrelevant talk, lying down, sitting and rising up, running, dancing, singing, reciting, smearing the body with ashes and dust, taking grass and remains of flower-offering to deity, soiled clothes, rags, potsherd, and earthen tray as decorations of the body, many other senseless acts, imitation of others who are not present, etc.

    31. Marana -

    (a) from sickness - looseness of the body, motionless of the limbs, closed eyes, hiccup, deep breathing, not looking towards surroundings people, indistinct words, etc.

    (b) due to accidental injury -

    (i) wounded by weapons - suddenly falling down on the ground, tremor, throbbing, etc.

    (ii) snake bite or poison - gradual development of the following symptoms – thinness of the body, tremor, burning sensations, hiccup, foaming mouth, breaking of the neck, paralysis and death.

    32. Trasa - contraction of limbs, shaking, tremor of the body, paralysis, horripilation, speaking with choked voice, etc.

    33. Virtaka - various discussions, non-settling1 of problems, concealment of the counsel, movements of the head and eye-brows, etc.


    Temperamental states are expressed on the stage using Sattvika abhinaya. In fact, all the gesticulation of mental states may be designated as the Sattvika abhinaya. But the prominence given to the gesticulation of the temperamental states is due to the peculiar mental effort which is necessary for their presentation. Bharata has thus given first the gesticulation of temperament for, without it the real purpose of the performance would be lost.

     Sveda - taking up the fan, wiping off sweat, looking for breeze.

    Stambha - being inactive, smileless, being like inert object, limbs drooping.

    Kampa - quivering, throbbing and shivering, wiping the eyes of tears, shedding tear incessantly.

    Asru - wiping the eyes full of tears, shedding tears incessantly.

    Vaivarnya - alteration of the color of the face with effort by putting pressure on the artery.

    Romanca - repeated thrills, hair standing on end, touching the body.

    Svarabheda - broken and choked voice.

    Pralaya - motionlessness, breathing gently (unnoticed), falling on the ground.


                                         Nav Ras / The Nine Melows or Moods

    The ultimate goal, purpose of writing, presenting and viewing a play is to experience rasa realization. Rasa is associated with palate - that which can be relished – like the taste of food or an emotional state experienced by the spectator.

    The theory of Rasa-Bhava establishes a relationship between the performer and the spectator. The success of a performance is measured by whether or not the audience has a specific experience (rasa), the spectator becomes a vital participant in the play.


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