A brief Note about Rasa Theory

Rasa Theory is about the qualitative shades and textures of emotions aroused in the personalities appearing in a work of art or literature as also the emotions that are aroused in the viewers or readers of such works. The nuances of such arousal of emotions as also the bodily and behavioural symptoms of such ecstatic states are the subject matter of Rasa Theory.

Classical Rasa Theory of critical appreciation of art and literature recognizes eight moods of a woman in love:

Such as when she eagerly hopes to meet him (utkanthitaa), when she goes to meet him secretly or has him visit her secretly (abhisaarikaa), when she invites him then decorates her house and herself and waits for him (vaasakasajjaa), when he cheats on her (khanditaa), when he doesn’t come when promised (vipralabdhaa), when she quarrels with him then repents in solitude (kalahaantaritaa), when he is gone on a journey (proshitabhartrikaa), when he is obedient and agreeable (svaadhiinapatikaa).

Krishna is considered dhiirlalit. He is light-hearted, youthful and free of anxieties. He is amorous, sporting, charming and graceful. He is vidagdha. He is clever, shrewd, sharp, subtle,…, intriguing.

The five rasas in devotional context are: shaanta (neutral), daasya (servitude), sakhya (friendship), vaatsalya (filial affection) and maadhurya (conjugal) rasas.

The Sakhi is in a combination of dasya and sakhya rasas. The “Five Songs of Rasa” give us a taste of all the five rasas in different degrees and different ecstatic admixtures from the versatile genius of Vyasadeva himself. “Conjugal Fountainhead” (Gita Govinda) is about attachment between Radha and Krishna in the madhurya rasa. “The Jewel-Box of Highest Secrets of True Love” is esoteric and pure madhurya rasa. The predominant rasas in “Vrindavan Diaries” are sakhya and madhurya.

Radha, Krishna and their associates are called aalambana vibhaava. All things that are stimuli for ecstatic love of Krishna are called uddiipana vibhaava. These may include: His transcendental qualities, His uncommon activities, His smiling features, His apparel, His garlands, His flute, His buffalo horn, His leg bells, His conch shell, His footprints, His place of pastimes (such as Vrindavan), His favourite plant (tulasi) and His devotees.

The bodily symptoms that are manifested by one in love are called anubhaava. These include: dancing, rolling on the ground, singing very loudly, stretching the body, crying loudly, yawning, breathing very heavily, neglecting the presence of others, drooling, laughing like a madman, wheeling the head and belching.

There are eight other ecstatic symptoms known as saattvik bhaavas. These are: becoming stunned, perspiring, standing of the hairs on the body, faltering of the voice, trembling of the body, changing bodily colours, shedding tears, and devastation. These may appear in combinations in a person in love with Krishna. Yet all of them are known to appear simultaneously only in Radharani.

There are other expressions of ecstatic love called vyabhichaari. These may include: disappointment, lamentation, humility, guilt, fatigue, intoxication, pride, doubt, apprehension, intense emotions, madness, forgetfulness, disease, confusion, death, laziness, inertness, bashfulness, concealment, remembering, argumentativeness, anxiety, thoughtfulness, endurance, happiness, eagerness, haughtiness, envy, impudence, dizziness and alertness.

Indeed, attachment takes on an unending variety of subtle shades.

The inquisitive reader is encouraged to refer to authorities on Classic Rasa Theory such as:
Bharat Muni’s “Natya Shastra”
Rupa Goswami’s “Ujjvalanilamani”