Breath and Rasa: the explicit and implicit in the Natyasastra

Nair, Sreenath (2011) Breath and Rasa: the explicit and implicit in the Natyasastra. In: International Nātyaśāstra Conference, 8-10 March 2011, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
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The Natyasastra has implicit and explicit layers of meaning. There are unsaid and unspoken in the text, which are equally unambiguous, corresponding to a more explicit level of structure, methodology and techniques (Vatsyayan, 2008). The aim of this paper is to extent this discussion while investigating the link between breath and rasa; the ways in which the Natyasastra integrates, explicitly and implicitly, the aesthetics, philosophy and practice of human respiration. In the VIII Chapter of the Natyasastra, Bharatha categorized six nostril movements and further discussed their applications into rasa acting with specific examples (VIII-123-128). Elsewhere, in Chapter Eleven, Bharatha emphasises actors strengthening their breath in order to accomplish perfection in physical movements (XI-85). Based on these textual evidences, and a range of examples that I bring further from Kudiyattam, in this paper, I argue that rasa is embodied breath that forms the performative discourse between the actor and the audience. Beyond the level of explicit techniques and application of breath in acting, I will discuss a number of ways in which breath has been integrated implicitly in rasa as a concept of aesthetic experience: i) metaphysical understanding of breath as the basis of the unification (Samyoga) of mind and the body ii) philosophical understanding of breath as a correlative to time and experience iii) evidence of implicit breath derived from some exclusive yogic practice clarifying the primacy of breath in understanding the implied meaning of rasa in the Natyasastra. The paper argues that breath as a philosophical concept and a system of practice is central to Indian thoughts, performance and other bodily traditions such as medicine and martial arts. It is, therefore, a key tool in understanding the implied meaning of the Natyasastra-the Santarasa.

Keywords:Rasa theory, Indian theatre, The Natyasastra, Practice as research, Indian aesthetic theory, Sanskrit studies, Intercultural theatre
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:4057
Deposited On:22 Feb 2011 18:00

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