Rasa Theory (Indian Aesthetics); Summary & Analysis


Rasa Theory asserts that entertainment (in the drama/performance) is expected to evoke Rasa or joy (artistic) but that is not the primary goal. The primary goal is instead to create parallel life in front of the audience to experience a sense of one’s own (i.e. Consciousness, spiritual and moral question).

Bharatamuni believes that the dramatic form of aesthetic experience is the most perfect fruition of aesthetic activity because drama is the synthesis of all arts.

According to Abhinav Gupta (one of the famous critics of Natyashastra), Rasa is the simplest and most we bewildering expression in the Sanskrit language. Anyone can experience it but cannot define it precisely.

Features of Rasa Theory

  1. Rasa means aesthetics, juice, essence, taste in performance. 
  2. Rasa is an undefinable realization and intense feelings with detachment.
  3. It is the flavor (general) or aesthetic emotion (metaphorical). 
  4. It is the soul of poetry. 
  5. Rasa is an emotion and cannot be described in opposition to Aristotle.
  6. Originally, Rasa means juice, essence or elixir. 
  7. It is the pleasure experienced by each class of people. 
  8. No other word can define Rasa completely. 
  9. It is the impression created on the mind of the sympathetic audience by the expressions of Bhavas (emotions) and it’s experienced by it. 
  10. Rasa is not experienced in common situations but only in the art form.

Rasa’s Foundation is laid upon a particular view of psychology that holds our personality and according to which a few primary emotions live in the conscious and subconscious state of our being.

These emotions are vast, amusing, pathetic, heroic, passionate, fearful, disgusting and wonderful. Later on peaceful, intellectual and devotional were also added.

  • These emotions are running in a permanent manner and may in the sense called dominant emotions. (Sthaibhavas).
  • These prominent states that determine particular internal temperaments are regarded as the dominant characteristics of those emotional states.

According to Bharatmuni, the realization of Rasa results from the Union of Vibhavas, Anubhavas, and Vyabhikaribhavas. When Sthaibhavas unite with others, the three Bhavas, one attains the quality of Rasa.

Bhavas in Indian Aesthetics


  • These are the permanent or dominant moods.
  • They are 8 in number- Rati (love), Hasya (humorous), soka (sorrow), krodha (anger), utsaha (enthusiasm), bhaya (fear), jugupsa (disgust) and vismaya (wonder). 
  • Later on, passiveness was added by Abhinavgupta and Anandvardhana.
  • Sthaibhavas are the basis of Rasa and are supreme among all Bhavas which are 49 in number.
  • Sthaibhavas constitute the principal theme of a composition.
  • They run all emotions like garland and cannot be overpowered by them. Rather the latter feed and strengthen them and help them emerge as Rasa.


They are the situations which are responsible to bring out Sthaibhavas. Vhibhavas have two aspects- Alambana and Uddipana. The person in whose mind Sthaibhavas run is known as Allambana Vibhavas.

The moonlit, spring, soft breeze, fragrance of flowers are Uddipanana Vhibahavas. In other words, they are stimuli.


They are their effect seen upon the character after the emotions arise in the actor(s). They make spectators feel or experience Abhinaya by words and gestures.


  • They are the transitory and temporary mental states.
  • They strike mind and become the cause of experiencing a permanent mood.
  • They are 33 in numbers. Some of them are a weakness, depression, anxiety, despair, etc.
  • They spring out of principal emotion and ultimately merge into it.
  • They are like waves and bubbles that appear and disappear as the mighty stream of dominant emotion flows on, smiling and replying and dancing.

The realization of Rasa is the result of the union of Sthaibhavas, Vibhavas, Anubhavas, and Vyabhikaribhavas. Rasa theory draws a clear distinction between real-life experience and art experience- unordinary. In order to realize Rasa that must possess an adequate degree of intellectual and emotional equipment.

Rasas in Indian Aesthetics

Shringara Rasa

  • It is given the highest honor ever since the beginning of Poetics.
  • Sthaibhava or emotion of this erotic sentiment is Rati or love. Hero and heroine are Alambana Vibhavas. Swam, youth, solitude, songs of cuckoo are Uddipana Vibhavas.
  • Sideglances, twisting of limbs, brows are Anubhavas.
  • Leaving aside, the fight is Vyabhikaribhvas.
  • Collectively they provide joy Shringara Rasa.

Karuna Rasa

  • It emerges due to Soka (grief).
  • It is pleasurable as it has the power to meet the human heart.
  • A deceased person is Alambana.
  • Reference to him is Uddipana.
  • Cursing destiny, stupefaction are the Anubhavas.
  • Disgust, anxiety and uneasiness are Vyabhikaribhavas.

Haysa Rasa

It is the comic elements. It happens by showing unseemly dress, ornaments, quarrels, defective limbs etc.

Rudra Rasa

  • Anger, rape, abuse, insult, threatening, jealousy etc ate Alambana Vhibhavas.
  • Beating, breaking, crushing, cutting are Uddipana Vhibahavs
  • Red eyes, knitting of eyebrows, biting of lips, determination, energy, restlessness and trembling are Vyabhikari Bhavas.

Other Rasas

  • Vira Rasa (zeal or utsaha)
  • Bhayanka Rasa (fear or Bhaya)
  • Adhbuta Rasa (Vismaya)
  • Santa Rasa (Nirveda)