Suman Bhattacharya

Sitarist from Imdadkhani Gharana


Nava Rasa in Indian Classical Music

Posted by suman-bhattacharya on February 11, 2012 at 1:55 PM

Indian art evolved with an emphasis on inducing special spiritual or philosophical states in the audience, or with representing them symbolically. Of particular concern to Indian drama and literature are the term 'bhava' or the state of mind and rasa (Sanskrit रसlit. 'juice' or 'essence') referring generally to the emotional flavors/essence crafted into the work by the writer and relished by a 'sensitive spectator' or sahṛidaya or one with positive taste and mind. Rasas are created by bhavas. Rasatheory blossoms beginning with the Sanskrit text Nātyashāstra (nātyameaning "drama" and shāstra meaning "science of"), a work attributed to Bharata Muni where the Gods declare that drama is the 'Fifth Veda' because it is suitable for the degenerate age as the best form of religious instruction.

A rasa is the developed relishable state of a permanent mood, which is called Sthayi Bhava. This development towards a relishable state results by the interplay on it of attendant emotional conditions which are called Vibhavas, anubhavas and sanchari/ vyabhichari bhavas. The production of aesthetic rasa from bhavas is analogous to the production of tastes/juices of kinds from food with condiments, curries, pastes and spices. Vibhavas means karana or cause. It is of two kinds: Alambana, the personal or human object and substratum, and Uddipana, the excitants. Anubhava,as the name signifies, means the ensuants or effects following the rise of theemotion.

Nava Rasa

Bharata Muni enunciated the eight Rasas in the Nātyasāstra,an ancient work of dramatic theory. Each rasa, according to Nātyasāstra, has a presiding deity and a specific colour. There are 4 pairs of rasas. Forinstance, Hasya arises out of Sringara. The Aura of a frightened person is black, and the aura of an angry person is red. Bharata Muni established the following.

Śringāram (शृङ्गारं Love, attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. Colour: light green

Hāsyam (हास्यं Laughter, mirth, comedy. Presiding deity: Pramata. Colour: white

Raudram (रौद्रं Fury. Presiding deity: Rudra. Colour: red

Kāruṇyam (कारुण्यंCompassion, mercy. Presiding deity: Yama. Colour: grey

Bībhatsam (बीभत्सं Disgust, aversion. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: blue

Bhayānakam (भयानकं Horror, terror. Presiding deity: Kala. Colour: black

Vīram (वीरं Heroic mood. Presiding deity: Indra. Colour: yellowish

Adbhutam (अद्भुतं Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow

A ninth rasa was added by later authors. This addition had to undergo a good deal of struggle between the sixth and the tenth centuries, before it could be accepted by the majority of the Alankarikas, and the expression Navarasa (the nine rasas), could come into vogue.

Śāntam Peace or tranquility. deity: Vishnu. Colour: blue

Shānta-rasa functions as an equal member of the set of rasas but is simultaneously distinct being the most clear form of aesthetic bliss. Abhinavagupta states it to be the string of a jeweled necklace; while it may not be the most appealing for most people, it is the string that gives form to the necklace, allowing the jewels of the other eight rasas to be relished. Relishing the rasas and particularly shānta-rasa is hinted as being as-good-as but never-equal-to the bliss of Self-realization experienced by yogis.

In addition to the nine Rasas, two more appeared later:

Vātsalya (वात्सल्य Parental Love

Bhakti (भक्ति Spiritual Devotion

However, the presiding deities, thecolours and the relationship between these additional rasas have not been specified.

Rasa & Spirituality

Rasa is a Sanskrit theological concept specific to Krishna-centered bhakti traditions, such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The theological use of the word can be found early, about two thousand years before the Nimbarka or Chaitanya schools of bhakti, in a phrase that Chaitanya traditionsfrequently quote: "Truly, the Lord is rasa". This statement expresses the view that God is the one who enjoy the ultimate rasa, or spiritual rapture and emotions.

It is believed Rupa Goswami developed, under the direct guidance of Chaitanya, the articulated andf ormulated theology of rasa as "the soul's particular relationship with the divinity in devotional love".

Rupa's text draws largely from the foundational theory of rasa formed by Bharata Muni, the originator of NatyaSastra. These relationships with the divinity in devotional love, rasa,can closely resemble the variety of loving feelings that humans experience with one another, such as beloved-lover, friend-friend, parent-child, and master-servant.


Bhakti Rasa

Bhakti is a Sanskrit term that signifies an attitude of devotion to a personal God that is similar to a number of human-human relationships (difference is that in bhakti relationships is soul-Supersoul, soul-God) such as beloved-lover, friend-friend, parent-child, and master-servant.

The Bhagavata Purana teaches nine primary forms of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada

(1) śravaṇa("listening" to the scriptural stories of Kṛiṣṇa and his companions)

(2) kīrtana("praising," usually refers to ecstatic group singing)

(3) smaraṇa ("remembering"or fixing the mind on Viṣṇu)

(4) pāda-sevana (renderingservice)

(5) archana (worshiping animage)

(6) vandana (paying homage)

(7) dāsya (servitude)

(8 ) sākhya (friendship) and

(9) ātma-nivedana(completesurrender of the self)

These nine principles of devotional service are described as helping the devotee remain constantly in touch withGod.

The Narada Bhakti Sutra is a well known sutra venerated within the traditions of Hinduism, purportedly spoken by the famous sage, Narada. The text details the process of devotion (Bhakti), or Bhakti yoga and is thus of particular importance to many of the Bhakti movements within Hinduism. Firstly bhakti itself is defined as being "the most elevated, pure love for God" which is eternal by nature and through following which one obtains perfect peace and immortality (release from samsara). The symptoms of such devotion are that one no longer has any selifsh desires, nor is affected by the dualities of loss or gain for himself being fully content with (and experiencing ecstacy through) the process of bhakti itself. Naradad escribes that lust is absent in one who executes bhakti purely because they naturally have no personal desires to fulfill. An important point is made inverse 30 in regard to the relationship between bhakti and knowledge:

"But the son of Brahma [Narada] says that bhakti is its own fruit".

In hiscommentary, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada further describes in regard to this verse that "bhakti is not dependent on anything else for nourishment" being complete in itself, without dependence on the paths of either knowledge or renunciation.


Rasa Lila

The Rasa Lila is part of the traditional story of Krishna described in Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana, where he dances with Radha and her sakhis. The term, rasa meaning aesthetic/s and lila meaning act, play or dance is a concept, which roughly translates to "play (lila) of asthetics(rasa)," or more broadly as "Dance of Divine Love".

The rasa lila takes place one night when the gopis of Vrindavan, upon hearing the sound of Krishna's flute, sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Krishna throughout the night, which Krishna supernaturally stretches to the length of one Night of Brahma, a Hindu unit of time lasting approximately 4.32 billion years. In the Krishna Bhakti traditions, the rasa-lila is considered to be one of the highest and most esoteric of Krishna's pastimes. In these traditions, romantic love between human beings in the material world is seen as merely a diminished, illusionary reflection of the soul’s original, ecstatic spiritual love for God, in the spiritual world.

The emotion of Bhakti as a feeling of adoration towards God was long considered only a minor feeling fit only for Stothras, but not capable of being developed into a separate rasa.In the tenth century, Aacharya Abhinavagupta mentions Bhakti in his commentary on the Natya Shastra, as an important accessory sentiment of the Shanta Rasa. Shantha Rasa attained a state of primacy that it was considered the Rasa of Rasas. Bhakti Rasa also soon began to loom large and had the service of some distinguished advocates, including Tyagaraja. It is the Bhagavata that gave the great impetus to the study of Bhakti from an increasingly aesthetic point of view.

- From various sources

Categories: Music, Spirituality

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