Navarasa: The Nine Human Expressions

Navarasa: The Nine Human Expressions

The Navarasa, in the scriptures refer to the nine expressions that humans show. 

These are the nine emotions that are known to evoke an audience during an experience of a dance, music or drama performance according to the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit text on performing arts.

The navarasas are the emotions that make us lively because without them we would be lifeless, devoid of any emotions. Many of us have a higher emotional quotient and we are comfortable to let them flow freely. We all go through all of these emotions at various points of our lives. We all at some point experience the feeling of love, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, courage, aversion and peace. 

Stories are created when these navarasas flow, history is made and life lessons are learnt. The 9 rasas are said to be born out of Bhavas or conditions from which a particular emotion is born. Our reaction to these conditions are the subjective experience of these feelings that might last only for a few seconds. However their impact on our emotional body will last as long as the memory of the body lasts.

Navarasa: Human Expressions

1. Rasa: Shringara: Romantic Love

Meaning: Love & Beauty

A crowning emotion that has the capability to heal anything. An egoless state that is everywhere and inherent in everything. This rasa connects and allows us to experience divine love.

2. Rasa: Hasya Humour

Meaning: Joy & Laughter

This emotion connects us to joy, laughter and a sense of humour. Happiness makes us forget everything and relieves us of any stress. It is a state of mind that keeps us content, a joy that comes from within.

3. Karuna – Compassion

Meaning: Sorrow, Pity, Empathy

An emotion that is invoked by anguish or pain or sorrow, Karuna is also associated with sadness.It is a bridge that connects us all helping us relate to each other’s life situations and empathise with each other. The feeling of tragedy and despair, heartbreak, sorrow caused by parting with a lover, the suffering caused by the death of a loved one are all karuna.

4. Raudra – Rage

Meaning: Anger

Literally meaning a loud roar due to rage, this emotion can lead to irritation, hatred and violence. It is a property of fire, and just a moment of anger has the ability to destroy a lifetime of goodwill. The wrath of the kings, the fury caused by an offense, the anger evoked over injustice and the feeling of general disrespect, are all forms of Raudra Rasa.

5. Veera – Valour

Meaning: Heroism, Courage

Embedded with the feeling of a heroic attitude, this rasa is associated with an emotion of valour. It is associated with bravery, confidence, determination, self-assurance and courage. The veerya rasa can awaken the brave from dormancy and can in-still a strong, vibrant force within. Boldness in battle, the attitude with which warriors go to war, and the attitude with which they die are all aspects of this rasa. 

6. Beebhatsa – Disgust

Meaning: To detest

This rasa characterises a judgemental mind, that indulges in self-pity, loathing and self-hatredness. The emotion of disgust or dissatisfaction with oneself and others are felt when one experiences this rasa. Vulgar and uncivilized acts, using of bad words and manners evokes an unpleasant feeling which is Beebhatsa.

7. Bhayanaka – Fear

Meaning: Fear

An Emotion that is associated with fear, worry, insecurity, self-doubts etc.  Bhayanaka is a feeling evoked while facing something that is more powerful than oneself. It’s also a feeling of despair and helplessness we could feel in a situation beyond control. 

8. Adbhuta – Wonder

Meaning: Surprise

Meaning wonder, amazement & surprise, this rasaIt depicts our innocence and the child that is alive within. It is an emotion that makes us feel an awe of those little things around us. It fuels our fascination and pushes us to experience life as an adventurer. The feeling when one comes across something divine and supernatural, something never seen or imagined before is Adbhuta.

2. Shanta – Peace

Meaning: Bliss 

This rasa reflects deep calmness and relaxation, while we are at peace. It means to be peaceful, tranquil or contented. Shanta represents complete harmony between the mind, body and universe. 

While the Navarasas are primarily emotions that are depicted through artistic experiences, it’s real state is established due to bhava which is the cause of all emotion. Every rasa corresponds to a particular bhava and is all about the human state of mind. A Rasa encompasses not just emotions but also the various things that cause that emotion.

In the real life, the emotions we experience are defined as Sthāyibhāvas or permanent emotions that lie embedded in the human system birth after birth. The Indic scriptures talk about the nine Sthāyibhāvas corresponding to the nine rasas. 

They are:

 

1.Rati (Love)

2.Hasa (Humour)

3.Ṡōka (Sorrow)

4.Krōdha (Anger)

5.Utsāha (Energy)

6.Bhaya (Fear)

7.Juguptsa (Disgust)

8.Vismaya (Wonder)

9.Vairāgya/Ṡama/ Nirvēda (Detachment)

 

These rasas or sthayibhavas, are the essence of human communication and understanding. Knowing more about them will help us cultivate greater awareness and take control of our emotions. It will also allow us to embrace life and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it, no matter how good or bad the situation is.

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