Author: Krishna Chaturvedi, Bharathanatyam Dancer, Bostwana, South Africa
Rasa is the essence of all performing arts and all poetry. It is this quality that connects the performer and the spectator. Rasa is what artists try to generate in many ways, and this is the main objective of any performance or scene. Rasa is produced from the true perception of a bhava. Bhava, being the emotional aspect of any situation or condition.
Initially, rasa was subdivided into eight primary moods, as mentioned in the nATya SAstra:
SRngArahAsyakarunA raudra vIra bhayAnakA
bIbhatsAdbhuta sangyo cetyaSTau nATye rasAh sMRtA (Chap 6 verse 16)
Shringara, hasya, karuna, raudra, vira, bhayanaka, bibhatsa and adbhuta are the eight rasas as described in nATya. Later, the great artists and knowledgeable preceptors of the artforms added the ninth rasa – shanta to the primary rasas. And these collectively are known as navarasas. Numerous emotions can be expressed or felt by these rasas either individually or in a combination. Just like thousands of colours are produced by the three primary colours, in the same way, myriad of rasas can be generated by the nine primary rasas. Our classical artforms have their roots in the Vedas, puranas and shatras. Each part of the artforms has been individually elaborated in many ways by our scriptures.
This article features the navarasas as they have been mentioned in the Ramacharitamanasa of Goswami Tulsidas ji which is commonly known as the Tulsi Ramayan. In consists of seven kanDas or cantos and is mainly composed using three types of poetry namely doha, chaupai and chhand. One of the most honoured scripture of Tulsidas ji, composed in 1631 AD, this Ramacharitamanasa is a lake brimming with the magnificent pastimes, leelas and exploits of Lord Sri Ramachandra. Generally, in any leela of Sri Hari, the portrayal of the navarasas is prevailing. In this composition of Tulsidas ji, there has been direct mention of some of the rasas where they are mainly used for comparison purposes. This article features shall explore such parts of this great piece of poetry whereby the rasas have a direct mention in word-form.
In BaalkaanD, when Tulsidas ji describes the glories of this scripture, he compares it to a very relaxing and soothing lake. The lines describe that all the elements of poetry are present here and the navarasas are compared with the beautiful water-entities that live in the lake.
Navarasa japa tapa joga biraga, te saba jalachara ruchira tadaga
(BaalkaanD doha 36 chaupai 5)
The beauty of any pond is incomplete without the presence of water animals like fishes, swans and ducks. Thus the navarasas that emerge from this wonderful piece of scriptural poetry are like the water animals in the lake.
When Sri Ramachandra leaves his city Ayodhya for exile, Tulsidas ji describes the situation with the predominance of Karuna rasa. The sthayibhava of karuna is shoka or distress. The entire population becomes overwhelmed with distress and sorrow as Sri Ramachandra sets forth for the forest. It is described that even the flora and fauna became sorrowful at that moment and the following comparison is done:
Manahu karuNa rasa kaTakaI utari avadha bajAI
(Ayodhyakand doha 46)
“It appeared as if karuna rasa personified together with its army, announced its arrival, attacked and conquered Ayodhya. It spread its characteristics throughout the city.”
At the moment when Lord Rama leaves the city, the complete kingdom entered into a phase of ultimate distress. This is the bhava from which karuna rasa emanates. In this way, karuna rasa broadened to cover the kingdom of Avadh.
The dynasty of Raghu was well-known for their valour. Sri Ramachandra himself is the source of all energies and powers. His brothers are non-different from him in terms of qualities. In the forest, as Sri Lakshmana observes Sri Bharata approaching Sri Rama’s cottage with the army, he gets agitated. Assuming that this was a planned attack on the Lord, he immediately arises, ready for war. Tulsidas ji describes:
uThi kara jori rajAyasu mAgA, manahu vIra rasa sovata jAgA
(Ayodhyakand doha 229 chaupai 1)
“He instantly stood up and asked for the order of war. And it showed up like the vIra rasa personified arose from sleep”
Sri Lakshmana was calm before he had the view of the army of Ayodhya and he suddenly stood up for war hence the comparison of arising from sleep is done here. The sthayi bhava of vIra rasa is utsAha or enthusiasm. In order to go for war, one needs to be extremely enthusiastic and willing. This bhava of enthusiasm was always present in Sri Lakshmana who was the embodiment of valour and keenness. Thus he represented vIra rasa in every manner.
The cottage of Lord Rama in the forests of Chitrakut was totally tranquil and calm. The scripture says that this residence was like a sea which was filled with the waters of Shanta rasa.
ASrama sAgara Santa rasa pUraNa pAvana pAthu
(Ayodhyakand doha 275)
The hermitage of the Lord, who is the repository of all calmness, tolerance and tranquility, ought to be calm by nature.
During the war with Ravana, Sri Lakshman was hurt by the life-taking weapon of Indrajeet. Hanuman was sent to bring the medicinal herbs from the Himalayas before sunrise. As the time passed by that night, Sri Rama became more and more distressed and mournful. Looking at this state, the army of monkeys also became plagued with grief. On the arrival of Hanuman with the sanjeevani herbs, the situation rapidly changes. This condition is described with a comparison to rasas.
Prabhu pralApa suni kAna, bikala bhaye bAnara nikara
Ayi gaye hanumAna, jimi karunA mahA vIra rasa
(Lankakand doha 61)
“Hearing the weak words of the Lord, the army of mokeys became very restless. At that moment, Hanuman arrived with the herbs just like personified vIra rasa would plunge into an atmosphere of karuna rasa to dominate it.”
As Sri Rama cried helplessly for his brother, an atmosphere of immense karuna rasa was created from the sthayi bhava of shoka due to immense tension and worry. As soon as Hanuman appears with the herbs, vira rasa dominates the atmosphere since Hanuman symbolizes vira rasa by performing such valorous tasks. A sudden enthusiasm emerges in everyone’s hearts on the sight of Hanuman, and this is the sthayi bhava, utsAha, which gives birth to vira rasa.
A beautiful description using the Shringara rasa arises when Sri Rama lovingly embraces his younger brother Bharata after returning from exile.
Janu prema aru singAra tanu dhari mile bara sushmA lahI
(Uttarkand doha 4, chhand 1)
“When the two brothers embraced each other, it felt like prema (love) and SRngAra had taken human forms and were confluencing with each other with all beauty.”
Here, the rasa shringara is used together with its sthayi bhava – rati/ prema (love). When the two Lords met, it appeared as though rasaraja shringara is meeting with its sthayi bhava of love. Rati (love) is a bhava that can be experienced in many relationships other than that of the commonly understood male-female relation. The relation between Lord Ramachandra and Bharata is not merely of a brother. Sri Bharata considers himself to be a loving servant of Sri Ramachandra, this relation leads to the mood of Bhakti Shringara. In this situation, Bharata represents the unflickering, pure love of Godhead. The Vedas say, where there is love of Sri Hari, he appears there. Thus as the fruit of his love, Sri Ramachandra appears to His brother. Just like shringara rasa emerges from the bhava of rati, in the same way, Sri Rama, who is Shringara personified appears to emerge from Sri Bharata’s bhava of love for Him.
In many such ways, Goswami Tulsidas ji has used the Rasas in connection with Sri Ramachandra for comparison and has thus enhanced their glories. Not all the rasas have been elaborated specifically in the scripture. Preference is given to karuna and vira rasas. This is because the life of Sri Ramachandra is mainly pre occupied with these two rasas. Another aspect is that Tulsi Ramayan was composed for the benefit of the common folk. Hence intense specification on all the rasas is not present here.
Navarasas have been an integral part of our visual and performing classical arts. They have found a special place in the scriptures and contemporary poetry. This above information has highlighted just a few nuances where some of the navarasas are mentioned in the Ramacharitamanasa.
(Writer is Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi artist from Varanasi; currently residing in Southern Africa for pursuing Electrical and Electronics engineering degree at University of Botswana)