Indian Aesthetics Syllabus

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Aesthetics Notes Sem 3
Bharata’s Rasa- Bharata defines ‘Rasa’ in an aphorism in the sixth chapter of Natya-Shastra. It runs as follows: ‘Vibhava-anubhava-vyabhichari bhava-samyogaat-rasa nishpattihi‘.
The rasa is established by the combination of the determinants (vibhava), consequents (anubhava) and transitory emotions (vyabhichari bhava)’.
Let us explain this further – In the definition we find terms like vibhava, anubhava and vyabhichari bhava that commonly have the word ‘bhava’ with different prefixes. So, let us try to understand the term ‘bhava’ first. Bhava, is generally translated as ‘expression’; that is, bhava is that which conveys a particular rasa through various techniques. The vi+bhava, is the determinant, that is, the rasa to be conveyed is expressed in the form of stage-settings, character’s costumes etc. The anu+bhava, is the consequent, that is, the rasa to be conveyed is further expressed by gesticulation at the physical, verbal levels. The evoked rasa is further sustained by the vyabhichari+bhava or the transitory emotions. Bharata classifies about 33 vyabhichari bhavas also known as sanchari bhavas. The three combined, that is vibhava+anubhava+vyabhichari bhava constitutes in the establishment of rasa.
Further, Bharata says that the unexpressed emotion at the mental level (known as sthaayi-bhava) alone when expressed results in rasa. Thus, there is a kind of cause-effect relation between the sthayi bhava and rasa. (STHAYI-BHAVA = unexpressed emotion at the mental level, RASA = the experience of expressed emotion through gesticulations etc.)
Bharata enumerates eight sthayis and its corresponding eight rasas.
RATI SHRINGAARA (Sentiment of Love)
HASA HAASYA (Sentiment of Laughter)
UTSAAHA VEERA (Sentiment of Valour)
VISMAYA ADBHUTA (Sentiment of Wonder)
KRODHA RAUDRA (Sentiment of Anger)
SHOKA KARUNA (Sentiment of Pity)
JUGUPSAA BEEBHATSA (Sentiment of Disgust)
BHAYA BHAYAANAKA (Sentiment of Fear)
The meaning of the words under the Sthayi bhava means the same as that of rasa, the difference is that the sthayi is unexpressed at the mental level and rasa is the experience of the expressed emotion.
Further, Natya-Shastra conveys nine rasa (popularly known as “navarasas”), wherein ‘Shaanta’ is the ninth rasa and its sthayi is identified as ‘nirveda’. Later, number of Aestheticians added to the number of rasas, ‘bhakti’ (devotion), ‘vaatsalya’ (motherly love) etc., that are more or less off-shoots of Shringaara rasa and we have schools that enumerate of more 6 than 41 rasas.
But, the two distinct schools of rasa ( school of thought) are -
1. eight rasas (excluding Shaanta as a rasa) and
2. nine rasas (inclusive of shaanta as a rasa).
Let us try to apply the definition in an art-form, say, visual gesticulation (acting).
If the rasa proposed to be conveyed is, say, Bhayanaka (fear), then the stage-settings and light systems create a fearful condition – this is known as vibhava, which prepares the audience to the rasa that is going to be conveyed. Hence, vibhava is said as the determinant. The consequent or anubhava is carried by the actors; their physical movements expressed in the face, limbs etc., convey the fear. The vyabhichari bhava helps to sustain the bhayanaka rasa that is evoked.

Shadanga – The Limbs of Art

  • The limbs, through which , art gets life and stand completely as a creative creation by an artist

  • Shad = 6, anga = part

  • Elaborated in ChitraSutra, a part of the third Khanda of Vishnu Dharmottara Purana.

“Roop-Bheda Pramanani BhavaLavanya –Yojnam

Sadradhyam Varnika-Bhanga, ItichitraSadangkam”

The meaning of this shaloka is as follow; Roop-Bheda (distinction of form), Pramanani (proportion), Bhava and Lavanya-Yojanam(the infusion of emotion and grace), Sadradhyam (likeness or verisimilitude), Varnika-bhanga(division of colour). 

For a person who is going to create something as a painting or sculpture should have knowledge of form, Proportion, Expression, Aesthetic Scheme, Similitude and Colour scheme. The present researcher studied the lotus motif and its application in the ornamentation of Mughal buildings according to the six limbs of Indian painting. During the time of Mughal the craftsmen and painters did not have the modern theory of art; it may be possible that they had the knowledge of old theory of Indian paintings. Here the present researcher studied the lotus form according to the rules of old Indian aesthetic theory of “Shadanga” (six limbs of Indian painting) as follow:

Roopa-Bheda (Knowledge of Form or Form Impact) Roopa means shape or form and Bheda means mystery. In the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata sixteen types of forms have been mentioned as, small, long, thin and angular etc. There are several types of forms but they are different from each other due to their chief characteristics. The forms can be perceived by eye and soul. However, they can be judged by their individuality. First of all it is the eye that sees the Roopa but after that it is introduced to the soul. Roop is an intrinsic natural beauty of visual appearance and it is brought out by skillful manipulation of line or modulation of colour which effects Bheda, differentiation of form.
e.g.: the Mughal artisans knew about roopas a visual as well as mental aspect of form with different attributes. Herewith they also knew what they should use to depict the place which they decorate. Frequently they used lotus motifs according to the lotus position and placement where they wanted to place it in many ways i.e. bud shape, full bloomed lotus form and inverted lotus form and so on. In the decoration lotus buds have been used by Mughal artisans on the spandrel of arches as a garland. These above statements reveal that Mughal artisans were keen observers of Roopa Bheda.

Pramana (Proportion) In Indian art, “measurement and proportion are indispensable for strength and beauty, and measurement is considered the soul of all arts”.Pramana means correct knowledge of the proportion of different forms. Pramana gives us strong theory of proportion and measurement with logical calculation. There should be harmonious division in the composition and measurement of the form drawn.
e.g. During the Mughal period, craftsmen had keen vision and awareness about Pramana. They used lotus form as a chief decorative and enchanted creative aspect with full awareness of where it should be placed and what should be the size. Therefore, they didn’t cover whole dome with lotus form, they used it according to right measurement. Another example of this is the arches. The craftsmen used lotus motifs on both sides of arches but in a proper size. It is quite appreciable that they depicted lotus in same size on each arch. We can get evidences of right proportion in Mughal monuments.

Bhava (Expression) Beauty and grace cannot be imparted to the image by any cut and dried rule. It must come from the heart of the artist and sculptor. Bhava is the representation of sentimental grace in posture and is the action of feeling of form. The expression of sentiments has been taken as one of the most important things in painting. Our eyes see the emotions and the same are expressed by graceful distortion of face. But the deepest expressions of the same are felt by heart only. Thus showing of disposition or posture only is not enough in a painting.
The Bhava is an expression of inner sensation which comes naturally through visual representation of object. We can easily see the overt expression of sentiment by our eyes, but only heart can feel its covert form. It is invisible action of visible condition which creates inner delight to the spectator. In Indian theory of art Bhava is the essential aspect of artifacts. E.g. - Ajanta paintings became famous in the world only because of the beauty of expression of Bhava in them.

Lavanya-Yojnam (Aesthetic Scheme) enhances the beauty and grace of artefacts. The painting will look monotonous if beauty or grace is not there. “Bhava is the expression of inner beauty and lavanya is the making manifest of the outer beauty by adding grace and charm to it. Lavanya-Yojnam gives gleam to beauty” As the food without salt is tasteless, in the same way a painting is tasteless without Lavanya-Yojnam. But as the improper use of salt makes a meal bitter and tasteless in the same way the un-proportionate Lavanya could not make a good painting, so only balanced Lavanya-Yojnam should he there in a painting or work of art. e.g. Mughal art and architecture is well recognized for its attractive designs and unique style. In this context, lotus has been used as a divine symbol from ancient time which displays different aspects of life as well as grace through its visual image. It can be said that despite knowing the existence of lotus in mythology, it has been adopted by Mughals emperors as an element of design and decoration in Mughal paintings, art and architecture. It may be in the fitness of things to say that the Mughal artisans wanted to present more and more through a small image. That’s why they depicted lotus in both simple and complex forms in attractive and aesthetic manner. Figures are given below to justify the role of Lavanya-Yojna in the architectural decoration of Fatehpur Sikri; in one picture the façade without the ornamentation looks dull and empty. Artisans added the lotus motifs into this to add beauty and Harmony and to generate visual interest among the viewers.

Sadradhyam (Similitude) According to Avanindra Nath Tagore, to express the Bhava of any form with the help of any other form is the function of Sadradhyam . Sadradhyam means the ascertainment or determination of the real form or resemblance or similarity in form and ideas. The painting should be clear. If lotus is painted it should look like lotus and not like any other flower. In the decoration of Mughal buildings the artisans created an effect of beauty and sometimes they depicted the lotus motif in highly stylized way. This stylization created confusion in understanding the lotus motif. When they used lotus in Indian style it looked like a lotus but when they used it in Persian or Chinese style it lost its originality. The reason behind this may be that this form came from Persia and China, and their craftsmen were not aware of this flower’s form or they had never seen this flower earlier. There is one more reason behind this, in Islamic religion the artist could not depict anything in natural way so they used this flower in this way and also they had no knowledge of the theory of Indian cannons so they were free to use any form in their own way.

Varnika-Bhanga (Colour Scheme) The combination of two words Varnika and Bhanga is called Varnika-Bhanga which conveys the knowledge of colour scheme. It means the use of colour in an artistic style for creating an aesthetic sense. There should be appropriate colour scheme to express the idea and atmosphere in a painting. Opposite or wrong colours should not be used otherwise the painting will be unattractive. For this the painter should be versatile and dexterous in the application of colour. He should have keen knowledge about colour and the ways to handle it. He should have the knowledge of what colour scheme can make a definite atmosphere lively. Each and every colour has its own intensity and identity which reflect the prominent mood of human behaviour. Varnika-Bhangahas been placed in the last of limbs of Indian painting so that after the completion of a picture the colours may in properly added. It is written in. During the time of Mughals, The craftsmen had great knowledge of the colour but they were also bound by the limitation of material. Red sandstone was the largest medium of ornamentation in Mughal buildings and they chose lotus as the best element because they didn’t have to colour it and according to Chitrasutra that a painter should try to make a painting only in one colour it is also “considered to be focused on primary colours obtained as pure or unmixed and not the three basic colours from which all other shades can be produced” . So, the lotus forms are carved in red sand stone on a large scale. But sometimes artisans worked in other techniques too, such as inlay, painted murals and stucco , but in these other methods they followed the proper colour scheme as per rule of Sastras.

Elements of Art – Five Schools of Indian Aesthetics

Alankarwad – Bhamaha

Riti Siddhanta – Vamana
Dhvani Siddhanta – Anand Vardhan
Vakrokti Siddhanta – Kuntak
Auchityawad - Kshemendra


  • the words we use to enhance the simplicity and beauty of the language are Alankar, elements used to decorate a Kavya.

  • Figure of speech that adorns a literary composition

  • Two types – Shabda Alankar, Artha Alankar


Vamana called the first section (Adhikarana) of his work as Sarira-adhikaranam – reflections on the body of Kavya. After discussing the components of the Kavya-body, Vamana looks into those aspects that cannot be reduced to physical elements. For Vamana, that formless, indeterminate essence of Kavya is Riti.

Then, Vamana said; the essence of Kavya is Riti (Ritir Atma Kavyasya); just as everybody has Atma, so does every Kavya has its Riti. And Riti is the very mode or the act of being Kavya. Thus for Vamana, while Riti is the essence of Kavya, the Gunas are the essential elements of the Riti. The explanation offered by Vamana meant that the verbal structure having certain Gunas is the body of Kavya, while its essence (soul) is, Riti.
Riti represents for Vamana the particular structure of sounds (Vishishta-pada-rachna Ritihi) combined with poetic excellence (Vishesho Gunatma). According to Vamana, Riti is the going or the flowing together of the elements of a poem.
The language and its structural form lead us to the inner core of the poetry. And when the language becomes style (Riti), it absorbs into itself all the other constituent elements of poetry. It allows them, as also the poetic vision, to shine through it. Vamana, therefore, accorded Riti a very high position by designating Riti as the soul of Kavya- Ritirnameyam atma kavyasya – Riti is to the Kavya what Atman is to the Sarira (body). Here, it is explained that in his definition of Riti, Pada-rachana represents the structure or the body while Riti is its inner essence. Through this medium of Vishishta Pada Rachna the Gunas become manifest and reveal the presence of Riti, the Atman.
Riti is a theory of language of literature. Though it was described for the first time in Bhartmuni’s Natyasastra itself under the rubric of Vrtti. It is Vamana who developed it into a theory as the theory of “Vishista Padracana” . Riti is a formation of or arrangement of marked inflected constructions.
Two other words used for riti are Marga and Vrtti. Dandin uses the term Marga and talks of two Margas. Mammata designates the different modes as Vrttis.

In general sense, we all have same behaviour but we are thinking differently. In this creation of poetry creator involved his characteristics or himself. In general way, we can say that -

“ Every writer has own style to write with own originality.” So, this Self- identification also known as Riti.

Riti correlate with Themes, Effect on the viewers, Sentiments.

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