Indian Dance

Indian Dance

All dance forms are artistic expressions of the body. Such artistic expressions are incomplete without emotional content. How does one bring emotional content to the surface or how or where does one look for emotional content? The answer lies in Rabrindanath Tagore’s lines –

“Our emotions are the gastric juices which transform this world of appearance into the more intimate world of sentiments. On the other hand, this outer world has its own juices, having their various qualities, which excite our emotional activities. This is called in our Sanskrit Rhetoric, Rasa, which signifies outer juices having their response in inner juices of our emotions. And a poem, according to it, is a sentence or sentences containing juices, which stimulate the juices of emotion. It brings to us ideas vitalized by feelings, ready to be made into the life-style of nature.”

Natya Shastra

Rasa is the dynamic experience between the artist, expression, and the audience who receive it. The artist feels an emotion and is so consumed by it that he seeks a medium through which he can express those feelings. This emotion is transferred to the person watching the artist and he experiences the same emotion that is felt by the artist. The degree to which the person watching the artist experiences the emotion felt by the creator depends on the artist’s ability to feel and convey and the person’s aptitude to receive it.

Natyashastra, the Textbook on Drama, authored by Bharata Muni is the key text that deals with the emotional theory of Rasa. There are those academics who are of the opinion that Natyashastra is more likely to be a compilation of the works of many authors. Bharata has said that drama descended from the gods and considered it to be a fifth Veda. The Natyashastra for the most part is about theatre, dance, and musical performance. According to this Textbook on Drama, during a performance, dance, drama, ritual, and poetry must act like catalysts. They should be able to give rise to emotions already present in members of the audience. The many elements of an artist’s performance, come together to create a sympathetic response in the audience who is experiencing them. If anyone in the audience has cultivated their own aesthetic response, they may experience a transformation of their own emotion into a purely aesthetic, transcendental feeling – an experience of divine bliss. This is the transformation of Bhava (“mood”) into its essence – Rasa.

The Components of Rasa

According to Bharata’s Natyashastra there are eight fundamental which can be experienced by human beings. These feelings or mental states are referred to as Sthayibhavas –


  • Delight (Rati)
  • Laughter (Hasya)
  • Sorrow (Soka)
  • Anger (Krodha)
  • Heroism (Utsaha)
  • Fear (Bhaya)
  • Disgust (Jugupsa)
  • Wonder (Vismaya)


  • The Erotic (Srngara)
  • The Comic (Hasya)
  • The Pathetic (Karuna)
  • The Furious (Raudra)
  • The Heroic (Vira)
  • The Terrible (Bhayanaka)
  • The Odious (Bibhatasa)
  • The Marvelous (Adbhuta)
  • The Peaceful (Shanta) [was added later]

The realization of Rasa is said to result from the union of inter-related elements.

  • Vibhava
  • Vyabicaribhava
  • Rasa
  • Anubhava
  • Sthayibhava

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