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NAVA – RASA in Dance Forms

umd — Navarasas Emojis for Kathakali lovers! NavaRasas...

The nine basic moods are described in Nātyasāstra by Bharata Muni. Since our classical arts originated from the Hindu religion, each rasa or mood denoted a particular emotion and was bestowed with a particular colour with a particular deity presiding over it. These nine moods or ‘navarasa’ came to be associated with artistic expression in ancient Indian dance, music, drama, sculpture, painting and any mode of expression in art. If Bharatamuni’s Natyasastra comes clear on the navarasa denoting nine bhavas or emotions, similar emotions were also defined and expressed in certain ragas (musical notes) or lyrics (kritis) as in sculptures or picture paintings. In the domain of the arts, it is energy which consents to move from sound to word, word to poem, poem to music, music to dance and dance to painting.

The theory of navarasa forms the aesthetic underlining of all forms of Indian classical dance.

  • Śringaram ( Love )‘Shringara rasa’ denotes an encompassing love; hence a light green colour and Lord Vishnu as the presiding deity. Ragas – Behaag, Kamas, Kapi, Karaharapriya, Dwijavanthi, Yamankalyani, Brindavani and Neelambari to mention a few.
  • Haasyam ( Comic )The ‘Hasya rasa’ or mirth is supposed to be white in colour and Pramata is the deity. Ragas – Kuntalavarali, Navarasakanada, Janaranjani, Kadanakuthoohalam and Saranga to mention a few.
  • Karuna ( Pathos or Kindness )‘Karunya’ or compassion /mercy has Yama ruling over it with grey as its colour. Ragas – Sahana, Kanada, Mayamayavagowla, Mukhari, Punnagavarali and Shanmukhapriya to mention a few.
  • Raudram ( Anger )Lord Rudra presides over ‘Roudra rasa’ or fury whose colour is justifiably red. Ragas -Athana, Arabhi, Chalanata, Panthuvarali and Darbaar to mention a few.
  • Veeram ( Heroic )Lord Indra representes ‘Veera rasa’ or valour (saffron). Ragas – Athana, Nata, Mohana, Gambheeranata, Hamsanandi and Arabhi to mention a few.
  • Bhaya ( Fear )The emotion of fear ‘Bhayanaka’ is ruled by the deity Kala whose colour is black. Ragas – Revathi, Gowlipanthu, Dwijavanthi, Chakravakam and Sarasangi.
  • Bhibhatsam ( Obnoxious )Lord Shiva is the deity for ‘Bhibatsa’ or disgust depicted by the colour blue. Ragas – Rishabhapriya, Ahiri, Ghanta and Mayamalavagowla to mention a few.
  •  Adbhutam ( Wonderful or Marvelous)Adbhuta’ or          wonder has creator Brahma as its deity and yellow representing the emotion. Ragas – Bilahari, Mohanam, Mohanakalyani, Kedaragowla, Anandabhairavi, Vasantha and Malayamarutham to mention a few.
  •  Śāntam ( Tranquility ) Vishnu also presides over ‘Shanta’ or peace with a light blue to denote it. This rasa is perfectly represented by the raga Shama, Yadukula Kambodhi, Madhyamavathi and Surati to mention a few.
Interest-excitementJupiterAttraction (śṛñgāra)ViṣṇuGreen
Enjoyment-joyMoonPeaceful (śānta)White/Blue
Surprise-startleRāhuWonder (adbutam) BrahmāYellow
Fear-terrorKetuTerror (bhayānaka)KaalaBlack
Distress-anguishSaturnCompassion (kāruṇya)YamaWarm grey[
Anger-rageMarsRage (raudra)RudraRed
DissmellMercuryValour (vīra)IndraSaffron /Light brown
DisgustVenusDisgusted (bībhatsa)ŚivaBlue
Shame-humiliationSunLaughter (hāsya)PramathaWhite

 There is no denying that later, ‘Vatsalya’ (parental love) and ‘Bhakti’ (devotion) also came to be adopted as an important emotion in the scheme of artistic expression. 

Lord Shri Krishna makes a beautiful statement about the significance of bhakti or devotion in chapter 18 of the Bhagavad-Gita as,

haktya maam abhijaanaati yaavaan yas chasmi

tattvataha tato maam tattvato jnaatva vishate tad-anantaram (Bhagavad Gita 18.55)

“By devotion he knows Me in truth, what and who I am; and knowing Me in truth, he forthwith enters into the Supreme.”

In the 9th chapter Shri Krishna highlights the profoundness of true bhakti which pleases Him the most as:

patram pushpam phalam toyam  yo me bhaktya prayacchati

tad aham bhakty-upahrtam asnami prayataatmanaha

(Bhagavad Gita 9.26)

“Whoever offers Me with devotion and a pure mind (heart), a leaf, a flower, a fruit or a little water—I accept this as devotion.”

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