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Mahesh Dattani and Indian

Poetics: A Study of His

Selected Plays in the Light of
Rasa Theory
The seeds of Indian drama can be traced
back in Bharatmuni’s Natyashastra, a
treatise on dramaturgy.
Drama is the nectar of all the four Vedas-
the Rigveda, the Samveda, the Yajurveda,
and the Atharvaveda and is called as the
Fifth Veda which has the characteristic
qualities of other Vedas.
• It has served a folk entertainment in
different forms like:
• Bhavai in Gujarat;
• Yakshagan in Karnataka;
• Tamasha in Maharashtra;
• Jatra in Bengal;
• Bhaona in Assam;
• Ramlila and Raslila in Northern India.
In this way, India offered a fertile soil to the
drama. It has a very splendid and richer
tradition of dramatic literature than any
other country or culture. Even before over
2,000 years, it had its own systematic and
elaborative dramatic theory.

“True art is never made to order; it comes as

a result of an irresistible inner urge.”
Indian theory of Rasa explains Indian
poetics on broader canvas.
Rasa theory has been propounded by
Bharatamuni in Rasadhyaya of
This theory has its relevance in present
time as it deals with the emotions evolved
during a dramatic performance.
• Though, western theorists have also
talked about emotions but in a different
• Athenians confined the role of emotions to
mere sorrow-pathos.
• Plato thought these emotions weaken the
reason of the citizens of ideal state, so
they had to be banished
• Aristotle, a disciple of Plato, deviated
himself to a certain extent from his master.
He believes that tragedy is an imitation
(mimesis) and he defended poets and
tragic sentiments.
• But Aristotle has talked about only two
sentiments- pity and fear.
What is Rasa?
 In Rig Veda, it is used in context with
water, juice of a plant, liquor, drink, cow’s
milk (Gorasa) and the flavour.
 In Yajur Veda, it is used in the sense of
 In Sam Veda, it is used in the sense of
 Atharva Veda extends the sense to the
sap of grain and taste, the latter becoming
very common.
• There are six main kinds of Rasas
discussed in Natyashastra and these
are—Bitter, Spicy, Acrid, Sweet, Salty and
Sour. These Rasas can only be
experienced by the sense of taste.
• This idea is applicable to food but the
same idea is applied to drama and poetry.
Thus drama and poetry is supposed to
have the same ‘tastefulness’ and have
A combination of Vibhava, (determinants)
Anubhava,(consequents) and Sanchaari
Bhava (surging emotions) form Rasa.
Thus Vibhava, Anubhava and Sanchaari
Bhava leads to the formation of Rasa as
the different tastes like bitter, spicy, sour,
sweet etc. produce tasty food.
• Feelings of anger and happiness are
treated as dharma of mind and are also
known as bhaavas.
• These bhaavas exist in the minds of all
human beings and the moment they get
stimulation, they appeared like a drop of
oil on water and take over the entire mind.
• There are some definitive nouns that are
to be understood before analysing the
process of Rasa:
• Sthayi Bhaavas (The Latent sentiments)
• Vibhaavas (Determinants)
• Anubhavas (Consequents):
• Vyabhichaari Bhaavas (Surging
• Bharatmuni enunciated the eight Rasas in
Natyashastra with their presiding deity and
a specific colour. These Rasas have an
accompanying Bhaava.
• Rasa Deity Colour
• Sringāram (Erotic) Vishnu Light Green
• Rati Bhaava (love)
• Hāsyam (Comic) Pramata White
• Hasya Bhaava (Mirth)
• Rāudram (Furious) Rudra Red
• Krodha Bhaava (Anger)
• Kārunayam (Pathetic) Yama Grey
• Soka Bhaava (Compassion)
• Bibhatsam (Odious) Shiva Blue
• Jugupsa Bhaava (Aversion)
• Bhāyanakam (Terrible) Kala Black
• Bhaya Bhaava (Fright)
• Virām (Heroic) Indra Yellowish
• Utasha Bhaava (Bravery)
• Adbhutām (Marvellous) Brahma Yellow
• Ascharaya Bhaava ( Amazement)

• Later on more Rasas were added by later authors. However, the presiding
deities, the colours and the relationship between these additional Rasas
have not been specified. These are:
• Sāntam or Shanta Rasa (Peace or tranquility)
• Vātsalya (Parental Love)
• Bhakti (Spiritual Devotion)
About Author

• Mahesh Dattani is the first Indian

playwright who has been awarded the
prestigious Sahitya Akademy Award.
• “A playwright of world stature”
• There are sixteen plays published in the
two volumes entitled Collected Plays and
Collected Plays-Volume II.
Major Themes
• He has dramatized problems and issues of the modern
urban Indian society ranging from communal
tension, homosexuality, child sexual abuse, gender
discrimination, marriage and career, conflict
between tradition and modernity, patriarchal social
system, constraints of eunuchs, women, child
labour, interpersonal relationship, workings of
personal and moral choices, identity crisis, revelation
of past and the problems faced by HIV positives.