Rasa theory and neural mechanism

Nair, Sreenath (2013) Rasa theory and neural mechanism. New Zealand Online Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 1 (2). pp. 1-27. ISSN 2253-1998

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Abstract

The essay explores the neural mechanism underpinning the theory of rasa presented in the Natyasastra. Perception and its subsequent psychophysical reactions are neural functions of sensory phenomenon caused by genetically mediated persistent neural
connections causing cross-wiring between brain maps. Aesthetic and emotional responses to sensory inputs depend on hyper connectivity between the cortices and limbic system, selectively, fusiform gyrus and angular gyrus. There is no literal translation of the word rasa. A closer understanding of the term appears as the very essence of something. According to Bharata, the mythical author of the Natyasastra, rasa is the very essence of the aesthetic experience of plays, performance and other artistic means such as music and poetry. In the Origin oftheatre, the first Chapter of the Natyasastra, while explaining the Vedic origin of the art of theatre, Bharata explains the origin of rasa that it has derived from the Adharva Veda, one of the four Vedas dealing with occultism. In Sanskrit, the word is used for juice, milk, water, essence and a tasteful liquid. Once again Bharata offers a clear definition of the term as the combination of Determinants (vibhava), Consequents (anubhava), and Transitory mental states (vyabhichari bhava) It is just the elaboration of this statement that makes the entire discussion in the Natyasastra in thirty six extensive chapters explaining various textual, physical and psychological elements that create rasa. The primary element is Determinants, the pure force of external stimuli that create rasa: it is the basis of emotional and aesthetic responses. It is potentially emotive causing rasa experience. These vibhavas are of two kinds: objective world including persons in which all the emotional experiences are based on (alambana) and specific environmental factors that stimulate emotions (uddipana).Characters are the repository of latent emotional tendencies (bhava) and the mimetic interactions (anubhava) of a character with other dramatic persona and situations creates a series of transitory physical and mental states in a performance. The rasa experience is the essence of these vivid and complex dramatic events in a performance perceived and experienced by the audience. The second element in Bharata’s definition of rasa is Consequences that are the elements of verbal and physical re-actions of the characters involved in a dramatic situation. Transitory mental states, which are the third component of rasa, are the varying emotional responses accompany physical reactions in a performance; sadness underpinning happiness and vice versa, for instance. In fact, rasa is about awakening of latent emotional tendencies and transiting them onto mimetic level of perceptible sensations through the means of acting (abhinaya) predominantly based on the body. The intention in this essay is to demonstrate a range of possibilities explaining the biological bases of aesthetic experience in performance practice consisting of mimetic expressions, perception and meaning, the discourse that had long been dominated by phenomenological theories of perception.

Keywords:Psychology, performance studies, indian theatre, The Natyasastra
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W310 Musicianship/Performance studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:7556
Deposited On:18 Feb 2013 15:08

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