Infinitely Curious

Seeking a Renaissance in San Francisco

Nine years, Nine emotions

On September 11, 2010, Priyanjali Dance performed a production of “Navarasas” at CounterPULSE studio in San Francisco, CA.  The performance was in benefit of the charity, Artists for World Peace.  Below is a write up on the Navarasas.  The post was created for the CounterPULSE blog on 9/8/2010 by Priyanjali’s Artistic Director, Priya Ravindhran.

Nine years, Nine emotions

By Priya Ravindhran

Nine years ago, events occurred that changed the way many people looked at the rest of the world. On September 11th, 2001, the whole world watched in horror at the catastrophic events that changed the meaning of this day for many people, especially Americans. As time moved on emotions and memories of this day still exist, and people have learned to cope with life and find happiness again. Psychologists found many patterns to the human emotional behavior. Tragedy resulted in shock, anger, grief, and eventually acceptance. As a country grappled with moving on, one can explore the emotional journey that many faced. From another perspective, the impetus behind the attacks may be led to emotional origins by the terrorists. Can they be explored as human natural tendencies as well? Human nature has a tendency to emote and produce action as a result of emotion. Can the emotions that led up to 9/11 just be as important to remember? Yes, they can and should be considered.

Human life is an entity that is given shape by events that occur throughout our lifetime. What makes life interesting is how extraordinary happenings create opportunities while balancing good and bad. The one thing that is common to all beings in this life is what is evoked as a feeling within us, how we respond to them with our emotions, and how that subsequently becomes a part of our internal life. Indeed, life can be thought of as a continuous sequence of emotions that arise in various contexts and circumstances. These emotions, or rasas, are what give life different hues, shades and colors.

Thus it is not surprising that most performing art, which tries to present to the viewer a slice of human life focuses precisely on these rasas, or emotions in order to appeal to the audience. That rasas are the mainstay of performing art, or natya, is a fact that has been well-recognised for centuries now. The NatyaShastra is an ancient Indian text dated between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD which analyses all aspects of performing art. It is often called the fifth veda because of its importance. In it one finds a thorough exposition on the rasas, or emotions that characterise Life as well as Art. The NatyaShastra describes nine rasas or NavaRasas that are the basis of all human emotion. It is useful to keep in mind that a rasa encompasses not just the emotion, but also the various things that cause that emotion. These two things go hand in hand and are impossible to treat separately. This duality is part of every rasa to varying degrees.

These ideas are explored through a performance this Saturday at CounterPULSE. Bharata Natyam, a classical Indian dance form, utilizes a very important aspect of it’s art form, called Abhinaya, to relate to the audience. Through facial expressions, story telling, and drama, Bharata Natyam seeks to give the audience various rasas (taste) of the experiences that have unfolded in our history and mythology. Nava Rasas refers to the nine emotions that are glorified in Bharata Natyam. During this performance, Priyanjali dancers will present the nine emotions or navarasas as they are known. They are:

(In Sanskrit)

Sringaram – Love in any form. Love of a mother, husband, wife, sister, friend. Attractiveness and Beauty. This is the emotion used to represent that which appeals to the human mind, that which one finds beautiful, that which evokes love. This is indeed the king of all rasas and the one that finds the most frequent portrayal in art. It can be used for the love between friends, the love between a mother and her child, the love for god or the love between a teacher and his disciples.

Arputham– Wonder and curiousity of the world, marveling at nature, mankind, and the environment. In awe of news. The curiosity of man regarding the creation of the world and all its wonders, the astonishment caused by seeing something unusual and magical. The appreciation of a marvel that goes beyond the routine and the mundane.

BeebathsamDisgust and loathing, nausea. The emotion evoked by anything that nauseates us, that revolts or sickens us. When something comes to our notice that is coarse and graceless, beneath human. Not surprisingly, this emotion is usually represented fleetingly. It usually acts as a catalyst for higher and more pleasant emotions.

Rhoudhram – Anger and destruction. Anger and all its forms. The self-righteous wrath of kings, outrage over audacious behaviour and disobedience, the fury caused by an offense, the rage evoked by disrespect and anger over injustice are all forms of Rowdra, probably the most violent of rasas.

Bhayanhakam – Fear and sadness in fear. The subtle and nameless anxiety caused by a presentiment of evil, the feelings of helplessness evoked by a mighty and cruel ruler, and the terror felt while facing certain death are all aspects of bhaya. The fear for one’s well being and safety is supposed to be the most primitive feeling known to man. Bhaya is the feeling evoked while facing something that is far bigger and more powerful than oneself and which is dead set on one’s destruction. Bhaya is the feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless. Dread, cowardice, agitation, discomposure, panic and timidity are all aspects of the emotion of fear


Viram – Pride and heroism. It represents bravery and self-confidence. Manliness and valiance are the trademarks of a Veer or a fearless person. Courage and intrepidity in the face of daunting odds is heroism. Boldness in battle, the attitude with which martyrs go to war, and the valour with which they die are all aspects of heroism.

Karunam – Compassion and empathy for people, animals, the environment. The feelings of unspeakable tragedy and despair, utter hopelessness and heartbreak, the sorrow caused by parting with a lover, the anguish caused by the death of a loved one are all Karuna. So also, the compassion and empathy aroused by seeing someone wretched and afflicted

Haassyam – Laughter, mirth, joy, and playfulness. All is well with the world, there is joy all around and all are of good cheer.


Shantam – Peace from within and practicing peace in life. Serenity and peace. It represents the state of calm and unruffled repose that is marked simply by the lack of all other rasas. Because all emotions are absent in Shanta there is controversy whether it is a rasa at all. According to Bharata, the author of NatyaShastra, the other eight rasas are as proposed originally by Brahma, and the ninth, Shanta, is his contribution. Shanta is what the Buddha felt when he was enlightened, when he reached the higher spiritual plane that led him to salvation or nirvana and freed him from the cycle of life and death. Shanta represents complete harmony between the mind, body and the universe. Sages in India meditate for entire lifetimes to attain this state. In music it is often represented through a steady and slow tempo. Shanta is a clear and cloudless state. Shanta is untroubled steadiness. Shanta is the key to eternity.

Please join us as we celebrate life by exploring the rasas and pay tribute to our loved ones on September 11th.


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This entry was posted on September 24, 2010 by in 9/11, Bharatanatyam, CounterPULSE, Dance, Navarasas, Priya Ravindhran, Priyanjali Dance.

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