Rasa: The Transcendental And Immanent Reality

The evolution of the subjective and objective meanings of Rasa as “essence” and “taste” and their re-integration into the Supreme Reality (रसो वै सः) has a deep significance for the theories of rasa that followed. The word came to be applied to all the stages in the process of contemplative and creative activity from its emer­gence in the poet to its consummation in the reader. The following table gives an analysis of all the processes connected with rasa and gives the subjective meanings with their corresponding objective equivalences.


  1. Taste; the artist’s seership or vision.
  2. The various attitudes project­ed by theseer towards the ob­ject: Rati, Hasa, etc.
  3. The fugitive emotions of the artist.
  4. The contemplative and crea­tive delight of the artist.
  5. The artist’s reconstruction of narrative or dramatic action contained in the theme so as to convey his attitude fittingly, by employing his system of tastes and abilities.
  6. The reconstruction of the theme so as to accommodate his secondary modes of con­sciousness.
  7. The emotions aroused in the artist in the process of creation.
  8. The producer’s, reciter’s or actor’s apprehension of the signi­ficance of a work of art.
  9. The Rasika’s interior act of tasting flavour un-particularised.
  10. The Rasika’s aesthetic delight arising from an apprehension of art.


  1. Essence; the potentiality in the object.
  2. The specific potentiality in the object arousing a particu­lar attitude (vastu ākāratā).
  3. The secondary potentialities of the object.
  4. The theme chosen by the artist for an expression of his essential attitude and delight,
  5. The form of the work of art, the entire action, the “consequents” or deeds of the character or characters and the characters them­selves.
  6. The expression of these modes in outstanding scenes, epi­sodes, descriptions, character-types and particular beau­ties of utterance.
  7. The technical triumphs sur­mounting the difficulties in the theme.
  8. The interpretative role of one or all of them.
  9. Ideal beauty of flavour con­tained in any element in poetry contributing to our experience of chamatkara.
  10. The embodiment of that de­light in the enriched andheightened culture of the life of humanity

There is a passage in Abhinavagupta’s work, where Lochana sums up the theories of rasa prevalent in his time; it shows how several meanings of the word recorded above were prevalent at that time.

“ ….तन्नाट्यमेव रसाः । अन्ये तु शुद्धं विभावम्, अपरे तु शुद्धमनुभावम्, केचित्तु स्थायिमात्रम्, इतरे व्यभिचारिणम्, अन्ये तत्संयोगम् , एके अनुकार्यं , केचन सकलमेव समुदायं रसमाहुरित्यलं बहुना॥
….tannāṭyameva rasāḥanye tu śuddhaṃ vibhāvam, apare tu śuddhamanubhāvam, kecittu sthāyimātram, itare vyabhicāriṇam, anye tatsaṃyogam , eke anukāryaṃ , kecana sakalameva samudāyaṃ rasamāhurityalaṃ bahunā।”

It has thus been maintained that:

  1. histrionics alone is rasa;
  2. vibhavas or objects alone are rasa;
  3. anubhavas or consequents alone are rasa;
  4. sentiments or permanent moods alone are rasa;
  5. fugitive emotions alone are rasa;
  6. integration of permanent moods, fugitive emotions, objects and consequents is rasa;
  7. characters are rasa; and
  8. the synthesis of all the foregoing is rasa.

Bhoja also maintains that rasa resides in the poet as well as his plot; in the work of art as well as in the spectator and actor. The seat of rasa has thus been a bone of contention in Sanskrit literary criticism.

It is our endeavour in this paper to show that rasa is a many-throned power and that its imperial sway extends from the con­sciousness of poet to that of the rasika or reader; and to relate the various meanings of the word rasa to the entire process of aesthetic experience and fit them into their relative positions. The main aim is, of course, to present a fresh statement of the meaning and scope of rasa. This will incidentally serve to show how the various mean­ings of the word are justified in their context.



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