The RASA Transaction(Notes from an essay by B.N. Goswamy, "Another Past, Another Context: Exhibiting Indian Art Abroad" included in "Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display," edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, Smithsonian Institution Press)
- Rasa (roughly, "aesthetic delight") is a key to Indian art and is datable to the early centuries of the Christian era.
- The term has been used most often in the context of the arts of performance -- theater, dance and music -- even though it has been extended to all the arts.
- Among the most refined discussions of the theory of rasa are those by rhetoricians of the medieval period.
- Generally, the average listener, viewer, or reader in India has often seen art as being intimately connected with rasa and even as being valid only to the extent that it leads to a rasa experience.
- The average viewer feels at home with the concept even if the subtleties and theories are beyond his or her understanding.
- At the physical level it means sap or juice, extract, fluid.
- In its secondary sense it means the best or finest part.
- In its subtlest sense it denotes taste, flavor, relish; but also a state of heightened delight that can be experienced only by the spirit (ananda).
- The experience of a work of art is like the tasting of a flavor.
- The taster is the rasika, the tasted is the rasavanta.
- In the singular it is used with reference to the act of tasting flavour unparticularised.
- In the plural it is used relatively with reference to the eight or nine emotional conditions that the listener or viewer may experience:
- erotic (shringara)
- comic (hasya)
- pathetic (karuna)
- furious (raudra)
- heroic (vira)
- terrible (bhayanaka)
- odious (bibhatsa)
- marvelous (adbhuta)
- quiescent (shanta)
- Rasa is thought to be a unity that comes within reach of the viewer through the medium of one of these sentiments. It is, at the same time, an experience and does not inhere in the object but belongs to the viewer or listener who alone can experience it.
- Each rasa has its counterpart in a bhava, a dominant feeling or mood (enduring psychological state) that belongs to the object or work.
- The erotic sentiment (shringara) has love (rati) as its bhava. The comic has mirth or playfulness.
- The performer of the work, or maker of the object, can aim to make this bhava come into being through determinants (apparatus of representation).
- The bhava transmutes itself into rasa if the viewer is receptive and capable of receiving. Rasa is said to be "tasted".
- A viewer may have the experience from the same object or performance at one time and not another. One viewer's experience may be different from another's.
- The experience belongs to the viewer, the work of art is a vehicle.
- Bhava = flower
Rasa = fruit
- Each rasa has an equivalent color:
shringara (erotic) = blue-black
hasya (comic) = white
raudra (furious) = red
bhayanaka (terrible) = black