Indian aesthetics is a unique philosophical and spiritual point of view on art, architecture and literature. In Indian aesthetics, a rasa (Sanskrit: रस lit. ‘juice’ or ‘essence’) denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work.
Although the concept of rasa is fundamental to many forms of Indian art including dance, music, musical theatre, cinema and literature, the treatment, interpretation, usage and actual performance of a particular rasa differs greatly between different styles and schools of abhinaya, and the huge regional differences even within one style.
The theory of rasa is attributed to Bharata, a sage-priest who may have lived sometime between the 1st century bce and the 3rd century. It was developed by the rhetorician and philosopher Abhinavagupta (c. 1000), who applied it to all varieties of theatre and poetry. The principal human feelings, according to Bharata, are delight, laughter, sorrow, anger, energy, fear, disgust, heroism, and astonishment, all of which may be recast in contemplative form as the various rasas: erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, heroic, terrible, odious, marvelous, and quietistic. These rasas comprise the components of aesthetic experience. The power to taste rasa is a reward for merit in some previous existence.The theory of the rasas develops significantly with the Kashmiri aesthetician Ãndandavardhana’s classic on poetics, the Dhvanyāloka which introduces the ninth rasa, shānta-rasa as a specifically religious feeling of peace (śānta) which arises from its bhāva, weariness of the pleasures of the world.
Experience of rasa (rasanubhava)
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. This is explained by the quote below: 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 the emotion.