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Resonating in Rasa
- Sunil Sunkara

August 8, 2019

Abstract: This essay looks at the manifestation of Rasa and its resonance with Bhava, keeping in mind the tenets of the Natyashastra. In context of Kathak, Bhibhatsa rasa has been studied with respect to compositions composed by maestros and an analysis of the Vyabhicharis involved when resonating within this seldom depicted rasa.

The journey of dance begins with first imbibing the aangik vocabulary of the dance into the body or the sthul sharir, which connects with sagun saakara (both quality and form). The next step is the transference of the effects of these movements into the physiological inner space or the sukshma sharira, which connects with sagun nirakaar (with quality but no form). This then transfers to the kaarana sharira or aatma that has no form or quality. What is absorbed into this formless space within us is an intangible imprint (sanskaar) that can best be described as 'bhaav'. These sanskaaras translate over lifetimes and are truly the only aspect of a human life that one can take forward from one lifetime to the next.

This is where that intangible imprint or sanskaar connects with Nritya (Nrityam Rasabhavashrayam). Nritya, a combination of the movement vocabulary and emotional states, when practiced as a sadhana, develops these sanskaras in the sadhakas of dance who become the medium for rasa to resonate between the dancer and the rasika.

Interrelation between Rasa and Bhava
In his book Ekadash Natyasangraha Aur Prayoktagan, Dr. Puru Dadheech presents few lines written by Benikruta on the interrelation between Rasa and Bhava.

Sthayi Ras Ko Mool Hai, Atal Roop Tehi Jaan
Prati Ras Ik Ik Hota Hai, Kahahi Sukavi Gunavaan
Ya Ras Ko Thayi Ju Hai Tahi Ras Mein Hota
Achal Sada Vhai Jaat Ras Thai Bhaav Udot
- Navarasa Tarang, Benikruta

Trans: The sthayibhava is the starting point of the Rasa, and it is present in permanence
Each Rasa has its own unique sthayibhaav, says the auspicious and learned poet
The sthayi is unique to the Rasa
When the sthayibhaav manifests, it transforms into the Rasa

As described by Radhavallabh Tripathi, rasa is that which is lying at the core, and also percolating within the art form. If Kaavya is a tree, rasa is the seed from which the roots of the tree sprout, and rasa is its flowers and fruits as well. Based on Abhinavagupta and other commentators like Maatragupta and Raaghavabhatta, categories of rasa are defined according to the types of abhinaya, Vaachika Rasa is the aesthetic experience resulting from the dialogues of a dramatic text, nepathyaja or aahaarya rasa manifests where there is a proper arrangement of external means for beautification, and svabhaavaja rasa manifests through the inner qualities of the characters of a play (Rasastuta trividha jeya vaangnephathyaswabhavaja). Thus like the naatya rasa (rasa in the structure of theatre performance), and kaavya rasa (rasa in literary structure) there can be nritya rasa (rasa in dance form) and sangeeta rasa (rasa in music). Vishnudharmottara Purana and Bhoja discuss chitra rasa (rasa in painting) and its varieties. Thus rasa is both the source as well as the outcome of any artistic creation. While understanding the stylizations in various Indian art forms, one has to keep in mind, 'Rasa is that which is REAL'. Thus whether a portrayal is close to life is not decided based on its tangible similarities to reality but the ability of that piece of art to invoke the sentiment in the observer. This is how a viewer can be an observer to tangibly different art forms like Kathakali and Kathak, but leave the performance taking with him or her 'rasa-swada' or enjoyment of the same rasa.

Another aspect to be considered is that Bharata Muni was opposed to viewing rasa in isolation. He said that rasa actually emerges in rasa-vimarda (rasas crushing and overpowering each other) or rasavyatikara (mixture of rasas) and that no rasa should be allowed to come alone. For example, at a recent concert, Saswati Sen performed the thumri 'Yaad piya ki aye' sung by Kaushiki Chakrabarty, at Xaviers College, Mumbai. The deliberate inclusion of a happy flashback based on sambhog shringara, heightened the baseline sentiment of viyogshringara.

Many shlokas from the Ramayana, transcended from the katha vachaks into proscenium Kathak through the teachings of the gharanedaar gurus of the Awadh Kathak parampara. A Sanskrit shloka depicting the navarasas as experienced by Lord Ram, was an iconic piece performed by Pt Birju Maharaj in his solo concerts shringaram kshiti nandini virahane (looking at Sita with love), viram dhanur bhanjane (heroic when breaking the bow to marry Sita), karunyam balibhojane (pity and compassion at the burning away of Kakasura, the demon who attacked Sita), hasyam shurpanakha mukhe (laughter at Shurpanakha's attempt to entice him), bibhatsam anyamukhe (disgust at other woman's approach to him), adbhutam sindhaugiristhapane (wonderment at the monkeys building the bridge on the ocean), raudram ravana mardane (furious at killing Ravana), bhayamaghe (fear at the approach of sin) , and munijane shantam (quietude while offering prayer to the sages).

In the words of the iconic Prof Manomohan Ghosh, the sentiments (rasa) are imbued with a quality of universality (Yortho hridayasanvadi tasya bhavo rasodbhava). The psychological state (bhava) proceeding from the thing which is congenial to the heart, is the source of the sentiment and it pervades the body just as fire spreads over dry wood (Natyashastra 7.7).

Bhibhatsa in Kathak

Jugupsa (disgust) is the sthayibhaav of Bhibhatsa (the odious sentiment). The Vibhava or determinants of jugupsa are hearing and seeing of unpleasant things. The Anubhava or consequents are contracting all the limbs, spitting, vomiting, narrowing down of the mouth, heart-ache and the like. For example, walking on the road and seeing a dead rat would be the alambana vibhaav or primary determinant for jugupsa. Seeing a crow come tear it open and its inner organs spill on the street would be the uddipana vibhaav or excitant, which would manifest in the bodily reactions.

Bhibhatsa is said to be of two kinds ksobhaja (born out of anguish) and udvegi (generated by uneasiness). The former would lead to disillusionment and ultimately to liberation (moksha). Through the aesthetics of Bhibhatsa rasa, the spectator undergoes the experiences of anguish and disgust which will make him liberated from the mundane and the earthly. Thus Abhinavagupta suggests than the experience of Bhibhatsa rasa would lead to Shanta and salvation. The Natyashastra gives three varieties of Kshobhaja bhibhatsa nauseating (sight of stool and worms), simple and exciting (blood and other objects) - bhibhatsa kshobhaja shuddha udvegi syat tritiyaka, vishtakrumibhirudvegi kshobhajo rudhiradheej.

Dr. Puru Dadheech describes the same concept as found in Kathak parampara through the depiction of 'shuddha bhibhatsa' i.e. that which leads on to the path of liberation. Hence the auchitya of bhaav or propriety in Kathak is to show the bhibhatsa arising out of ksobhaja. The intra-form parmelu was first found in the rasadhari parampara, from where evolved the darbar form of Kathak. In the words of Pt Birju Maharaj, the parmelu bols are the ones that connect with spirituality. Thus it is of interest to note that Dr. Puru Dadheech has composed a kavitt based on the Bhibhatsa rasa, based on the traditional rasadhari parmelu bols 'tat tat ta draga dan dan'. He bases it on the scene of battle between Ram and Ravan in Lanka.

Tat Tat Tan Ko Guman, Ta Na Tu Kar Ajaan
Driga Lakh Yeh Rakta Maansa Majja Ki Dheri Hain
Dan Dan Din Ek Eha, Nocha Khaiyhe Cheel Kaaga
Jhijajhijakata Na Jarat Chita, Laage Kachu Deri Hain
Tho Thudanga Simati Ang, Naak Bhoha Ko Chadhaye
Mukh Pheri Kari Hi Ghina, Teri Piya Cheri Hain
Tak Thuna Thun Meri Sun, Toda Sakal Moha Jaal
Raghubar Ko Dharahu Dhyan, Shesh Jagat Bairi Hain

Trans: Tan ko guman - ego within the body, Ajaan- ignorant, Driga, Lakh- see, Rakta, Maansa, Majja ki Dheri- A pile of blood, fat and bones, Nocha khaiye cheel kaaga- The crows and eagles peck on the bodies, na jarat chita, laage kachu deri hain - there are so many dead bodies, it is a task to keep the pyre going, Tho thudanga simati ang, naak bhoha ko chadhaye, Mukh pheri kari hi ghina, teri piya cheri hain The same one who was your beloved now has an expression of disgust on her face and body , toda sakal moha jaal - break the bonds of this illusion, Raghubar ko dharahu dhyan, shesh jagat bairi hain - remember only Lord Ram, the rest of the world can't save you now.

Wars have been a recurring theme in literature in the depiction of Bhibhatsa. A traditional Sadra composition written by Bindadin Maharaj (Shesh Phan Dagmagyo) highlights this aspect in the stanza, 'Chalata Shara, Ladata Bhara, Katata Binu Munda Bhaye, Shrunita Sarita Chale' - As the war progresses, the battlefield is decorated with severed heads and rivulets of blood stain the sands of Lanka. The patra depicting this could be the sutradhaar as a description and Mandodari as her observations of the battle which lead her to believe that her side would lose the war (Jeet Na Sakoge, Ram Sangh Jangjhor).

While all the 8 sattvika bhavas can manifest in the development of Bhibhatsa, stambha (paralysis), pralaya(fainting), romanca(horripilation), sveda(sweating), vaivarṇya(change of color), vepathu(trembling), aśru(weeping), vaisvarya(change of voice), the complimentary psychological states or vyabhicharis that are prominent are epileptic fit (apasmaara), delusion or distraction (moha), weakness (glaani) due to sickness, agitation (avega) due to hearing a very bad news and death (marana). A few of these are depicted in the below poetry based on the episode of Sanjay narrating Duryodhana's death on the battlefield. Dhritarashtra gets an epileptic fit while Gandhari overcomes her weakness and rushes to the battlefield.

Sunkar Vachan Sanjay Ka, Andhe Ankho Mein Basa Apasmaar
Kurukshetra Ke Bhoot Pisaacha, Bane Ghrunit Darbaari Aaj.
Pralayavastha Murchit Naresh, Ati-Glaani Mein Kuru Rani Aaj,
Kaise Tuuta Woh Vajra Shareer, Yeh Maran Hai Ya Koi Shrapit Bhram?
Avegako Rath Banakar, Chali Gandhari Chita-Bhoomi Oor
Rangbhoomi Par Dhoond Rahi, Apne Putro Ke Shavamurthy Woh
Achanak Yeh Ehsaas Hua, Bhutal Nahi, Hai Yah Kankal-Tal?
Khadi Humain Aaj Yahan , Apne Putra Ke Kankal Par!
Ati-Jugupsa Se Ghiri, Koose Apne Andhe Maatritva Ko
Mata Ke Ashruo Se, Suneel Nabh Par Chaya Andhakaar Saun
Sunkar Vachan Sanjay Ka, Andhe Ankho Mein Basa Apasmaar

Trans: Listening to the fateful words spoken by Sanjay, blind eyes turned epileptic
The ghosts and demons of Kurukshetra, became newfound courtiers
The king fainted as if never to recover, the queen tried to fight debilitating weakness that overcame her
Is it a curse or a delusion, that a diamantine body be broken?
Flying on the wings of agitation, Gandhari traveled towards the battlefield of dead bodies
She searched on that war-stage, the lifeless forms of her children
Suddenly she realized, it is not the ground but a carpet of bones
She stands today on the skeleton of her son!
Overcome with self disgust, she curses her blind motherhood
The tears that rained from her eyes, turned the blue sky black
Listening to the fateful words spoken by Sanjay, blind eyes turned epileptic

Another kavitt by Bharatendu has been documented by Pt Teerathram Azad in his book, Kathak Gyaneshwari:
Kahu Sulagata Kou Chita, Kahu Kou Jaati Bujhayee
Ek Lagayi Jaat, Ekki Rakh Bahayee.
Vividh Rang Ki Uthati Jwal, Urgandhini Mahakati
Kahu Charabi So Chatachati, Kahu Deha Deha Dahakati
Kahu Shringaal Kou Mrutal Aangpar Ghaat Lagavat
Kahu Kou Shava Par Baithi Giddha Chata Chonch Chalavat

Trans: Some burning pyres, some extinguishing
One pyre just being lighted, one turning to ashes
Each fire has a character of its own, a smell of its own
In some places the melting of flesh, in some the burning of bodies
Jackals and hyenas tear at the remains of some bodies
While vultures feast on the remains of others

In the above kavitt, designed from the perspective of the spectator, the cremation ground is the Alambana Vibhaav. The burning of bodies, the half burnt pyres, the smells, the melting fat, the vultures eating the bodies, etc are the Uddipana Vibhavas. The constricting of the nose, weakness in the body are the anubhavas which can be shown through use of vyabhicharis like Vishada (despair), Trasa (fright), Moha (delusion), Chinta (anxiety) etc.

In conclusion, in the words of Radhavallabh Tripathi, the variety and multifarious nature of rasa embraces not only whatever is supposed to be apparently beautiful, sweet or attractive, it equally subsists on whatever that is terrorizing hideous or ugly, and tends to encounter the issues that disturbs us that lead to abhorrence and detestation. The masters of Rasa theory give Mahabharata as an example, as it has an ending completely devoid of rasa (virasavasana), leaving the readers in state of vimanaskataa (a mind uprooted from everywhere, dismay). It is a state where we stand in aversion, repulsed by our own repulsion. But the ending that is devoid of rasa, leads to the fountains of real rasa. This leads to the other side of rasa discourse, where the concept of ugly, however disturbing and complicated it may be, is taken up for making aesthetic theory. Bharata muni therefore counts the odious and repulsive Bhibhatsa as a fundamental Moola Rasa.

Dadheech, Puru, 'Ekadash Natyasangraha aur Prayoktagan,' Madhya Pradesh Hindi Granth Academy, Bhopal, 1988
Deo, Manjiri, 'Kathak Nritya mein Kavitt Chand,' Shriganesh Nritya Kala Mandir, Thane, 2010
Ghosh MM, 'Natyashastra of Bharatmuni with Text, commentary of Abhinavabharati by Abhinavaguptacharya and English Translation Vol 1,' New Bharatiya Book Corporation, 2006
Maharaj, Birju, 'Ras Gunjan,' Popular Prakashan, 1990
Kothari, Sunil, 'Kathak: A Classical Dance Art,' Abhinav Publications, 1990
Tripathi Radhavallabh, 'Vaada in Theory and Practice', Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla & DK Printworld, 2016

A chemical engineer who has pursued his doctorate in biofuel research, Sunil Sunkara holds a masters degree in Kathak from Bharata College of Fine Arts and Culture, Mumbai, and Nritya Nipun from Bhatkhande Sangit Vidyapith, Lucknow. He performs regularly as well as pursues research in Kathak apart from curating dance events and regularly writing on various facets of dance through both print and online medium.

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