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Bhava - the exposition of emotion!


यतो हस्त ततो दृष्टी, यतो द्रष्ष्ट ततो मनः,

 यतो मनः ततो भाव, यतो भाव ततो रसः

 – Abhinaya Darpanam 

In this blog, I wish to explain the concept of Bhava and its role in the context of Indian classical dance. To begin with, let me explain the term Bhava. In simple terms, Bhava is the emotion expressed by the artiste. In other words, Bhava is that particular state of mind attained by the performer during an enactment. In Natyashastra, Bhavas are classified into three broad categories - Sthayi, Sanchari (Vyabhichari), and Sattvika. There are eight Sthayi bhavas, thirty-three Sanchari bhavas, and eight Sattvika bhavas. Hence there exist forty-nine bhavas. 



Sthayi Bhava – The permanent emotion! 


Sthayi Bhava is the permanent mood of the act. In order to attain this permanent mood, there are various other factors which contribute. However, it is Sthayi bhava which gets translated as Rasa in the spectator. The eight Sthayi bhavas as depicted in NatyaShstra is as follows - Rati(love), Hasa (Laughter), Shoka (sorrow), Krodha (Anger), Utsaha(energy), Bhaya(fear), Jugupsa(disgust), and Vismaya(astonishment). 


Sanchari Bhava – The auxiliary emotions!


The Sanchari bhavas are the transitory moods, the auxiliary state of emotions that strengthen the permanent mood (the Sthayi). They serve as the building blocks for the establishment of Sthayi Bhava in an act. 


For Example, to establish Rati Bhava (love) in the Nayika (Heroin), who is expecting her beloved’s arrival, the following situations can be used. We can portray a beautiful Nayika, decorating her room with flowers, adorning herself with ornaments and admiring her beauty in the mirror. In the above-described scenes the Nayika goes through various temporary emotions such as joy, desire, shyness, eagerness, and anxiety. These transitory emotions are called Sachari Bhavas through which the Sthayi bhava is developed. Such established Sthayi bhava in the protagonist gets translated as Rasa in the audience. Natyashastra advocates thirty-three Sanchari bhavas.


Sattvika Bhava – The true inner emotions!


Sattvika Bhava is the involuntary physical response to an emotion. For Example, change in facial colour while expressing Anger, experiencing horripilation while emoting fear and shedding tears of joy during ecstasy, etc. Any mental emotion can be physically manifested only when the actor emotes with the utmost involvement and concentration. By emoting through Sattvika abhinaya, an emotion gets conveyed to the spectator easily. 


The eight Sattvika bhavas enlisted in Natyashastra are - Stambha (Stupefaction), Sveda (Perspiration), Romancha (Horripilation), Swara-bheda (Affliction in the voice), Vepathu (Tremor), Vaivarnyam (Changing of the colour of the face), Ashru (Shedding tears) and Pralaya (Unconsciousness).



Rasa and Bhava - the serene relationship!


In the context of Indian classical dance, Rasa and Bhava are two terms often used interchangeably. Are Rasa and Bhava the same? Is there any connection between them? 

As we have understood, Bhava is the emotion expressed by the actor. And, Rasa is the aesthetic flavour of the Bhava experienced by the spectator. In other words, Bhava emoted by the actor is translated as a blissful experience of Rasa in the spectator. 

When the Sthayi Bhava is created in a play, adequately supported by Sanchari Bhavas and emoted with Sattvika Bhava, it will get translated as Rasa in the spectator.

Natya-Shastra advocates eight Rasas(sentiments) corresponding to eight Sthayi bhavas. They are - the Erotic (Sringara), the Comic (Hasya), the Pathetic (Karuna), the Furious (Roudra), the Heroic (Vira), the Fearful (Bhayanaka), the Odious (Bibhatsa), and the Marvellous (Adbhuta). Later, philosophical and aesthetic theorization by Abhinava Gupta has resulted in the inclusion of the ninth Rasa - the Shanta Rasa. Thence the expression “Navarasa” came into existence!


In a nutshell, we have understood that both Bhava and Rasa maintains a strong bond between them. Natya-Shastra says, If Bhava emoted is not translated to Rasa, that act is meaningless. At the same time, no rasa is devoid of Bhava. Hence, Rasa-Bhava points to the serene relationship established between the spectator and the actor in Indian aesthetics. 






Sangita Ratnakara of Saranga Deva  - Translated by Dr K. Kunjunnu Raja and Radha Burnier, Published by Adayar Library

Natya Shastra, by Board of Scholars
Natya Shatra,  by N.P Unni

Courtesy – School of Performing Arts, Reva University

Picture Courtesy –

Author: Anju Peter, Nrityankanam


In the blog “Bhava” Indian Classical Dance Mohiniyattam, and Mohiniattam.




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