What are the Navarasas?

- October 10, 2020


ccording to India’s performing arts traditions, the navarasas are the nine emotions evoked in an audience during their experience of a dance, music or drama performance. The Natyashastra, a Sanskrit text on performing arts by Bharata Muni, mentions only eight – Shringara, Hasya, Karuna, Raudra, Veera, Beebhatsa, Bhayanaka and Adbhuta. The ninth rasa, Shanta, was later taken from the Abhinaya Darpana by Nandikeshwara.  

Shringara – Romantic Love
Title: Malavika | Illustration: P.B. Kavadi

Malavika, the princess of Vidarbha, had won the heart of King Agnimitra, disguised as the queen’s maid in his kingdom. During a dance performance in the court, Malavika reciprocates his feelings through her performance, a performance that very clearly vocalises her romantic intentions to the reader as well.

Hasya – Humour
Title: Raman of Tenali | Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Raman of Tenali used to be quite the lazy young man. Once, when a sadhu told him to find some work, he lied saying that his ill health forbid him from working. The sadhu then taught him a mantra to invoke Kali and seek her blessings. Raman reached the temple and began to pray. When the goddess appeared before him, she was amused by his witty charm and granted him the title ‘Vikatakavi’, a palindrome in Telugu for ‘clown-jester-poet’. Tenali’s exploits are the very definition of hasya.

Karuna – Compassion
Title: Savitri | Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Princess Savitri married Satyavan who was destined to die within a year of their marriage. On a fateful day, when they were in the woods collecting firewood, a sharp pain pierced through Satyavan’s limbs and he fell down unconscious, invoking in the reader a sense of compassion for the now-widowed Savitri.

Raudra – Rage
Title: Babasaheb Ambedkar | Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Babasaheb Ambedkar was born in a Mahar family, a caste that was treated as untouchable. When he joined school, he was treated differently from his peers who belonged to the upper castes. He was made to sit on the floor, while his classmates sat on benches. He was also not allowed to touch the pot of water that was kept for the students, instead was forced to sip it from his hands as the teacher poured the water out for him. All of this deeply hurt young Ambedkar and angered him, and angers the audience in turn.

Veera – Valour
Title: Param Vir Chakra | Illustrations:......

Comic of The Month


Dasharatha, the prince of Ayodhya, was out hunting when he heard the sound of an elephant drinking water. Aiming his bow, the prince shot in the direction of the sound. Tragically, the arrow killed a youth who was filling water in a pitcher for his old and blind parents. The anguished father cursed Dasharatha that one day he would die grieving for his son. Dasharatha's son was the valiant and unparalleled, Rama.

20 Minute Read