Rasa the aesthetics pleasure is accepted as the highest value of Sanskrit Kavya in Sanskrit the world kavya includes both sravya and drsya i.e. all form of poetry and drama. The Rasa is a very old concept and is found in the Upanisad in the sense of pure consciousness or the highest reality. In the field of literary criticism Bharata, the author of the Natyasastra is the first known Acharya of the rasa theory and Abhinavagupta in his commentator Abhinavagupta hailing from Kashmir was one of the greatest philosopher and thinkers in the field of Kashmir Shaiva philosophy and literary criticism. He explained the rasa theory propounded by Bharata on the philosophical plain and raised the experience of rasa i.e. Rasasvada similar to the experience of the Highest Bliss, i.e. Brahmasvada. Abhinavagupta’ rasa theory had a great impact on the whole of rasa school of Sanskrit poetics.
The present anthology of twenty-two well researched papers representing the outcome of a national seminar hosted by Indian Institute of Advance Study Shimla sheds welcome light and presents fresh perspective on the concept of rasa.
It is hoped that the book will be as interesting to the critical readers as it will be informative to the students and scholars of Sanskrit poetics.
Prof. Suresh Chandra Pande (b. 1934 at Almora U.P now in Uttrakhand) retired as Professor and Head Sanskrit Department University of Allahabad in 1995 after a distinguished academic career of about thirty-nine years.
He was appointed Professor of Prakrit language in Parshvanath Vidyapith, Varanasi in 1995 for about two years and Visiting Professor in Indian Institute of Advance Study (IIAS) Shimla for three years in 2002.
Prof. Pande’s branch of specialization is Sanskrit poetry drama, poetics and dramaturgy. His first research work was on ‘Dhvani School and its Criticism’ and was awarded the D. Phil degree in 1965.
Prof. Pande has received many awards including the Certificate of Honour from the President of India in 2001. Sanskrit Mahamahopadhyaya from Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad, Certificate of Honour from Sampurananad Sanskrit University and Rashtriya Sanskrit Sanathan , New Delhi and Vishishta Puraskar from Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Sansthanam.
He has published many books and research papers and participated in several national and international seminars. His latest book Alankarakosh (the project work done during the stay at IIAS) is under publication
Rasa (aesthetic pleasure) is accepted as the highest value of poetry (kavya) hence it is called the soul of Kavya. The rasa is a very old concept and is found in the Upanisad wherein it is equated with or the synonym of Brahman the highest bliss. In the field of dramaturgy Bharata the author of the Natyasastra is the first known Acharya of the rasa theory and Abhinavagupta in his commentator. Acharya Abhinavagupta has been one of the most profound thinkers of India in the 10th century AD. He Kashmir Shaiva philosopher his contribution in the field of literary criticism is remarkable. He was the celebrated author of two commentaries – Abhinavagupta Natyasastra and Locana on the Dhvanyaloka. In both the commentaries he ahs presented a scholarity and philosophical exposition of the rasa experience in the light of the Dhavni theory of Anandavardhana. There is undercurrent of spiritually in all his writings. According to him the rasa experience though never identical with but similar to Brahmasvada because at the time of rasa realization the aesthete or the connoisseur goes beyond the limitations of the ego-centric experience. Abhinavagupta theory’s of rasa though not accepted in toto by some of the later writers on poetics particularity the anti-dhavni theorists still holds ground.
So keeping in view the importance of the rasa theory and Abhinavagupta Prof. G.C Pande the then chairman of the governing body of the Indian Institute of Advance Study, Shimla thought of making a fruitful discussion on this important subject. He asked me to organize a seminar by inviting the scholars of literary criticism from different states of India as far as possible. The present book is the outcome of that seminar.
I express my deep sense of gratitude to Prof. G. C. Pande and Prof. Mrinal Miri, the then Director of IIAS, who provided all the facilities for the smooth conduct of the seminar. I am also grateful to the present dynamic director Prof. Peter R. deSouza and also Dr. Debarshi Sen the Publication Officer and Mr. Ashok Sharma the Pro at the IIAS for expediting the long awaited publication of the book.
The Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, organized a three-day National Seminar on “The Concept of Rasa with Special Reference to Abhinavagupta” on June 7, 8 and 9, 1999. About thirty Sanskrit scholars from different states of India were invited but only seventeen could ultimately participate. The seminar was marked by insightful presentation by the speakers and lively and enthusiastic participation by the audience.
S. Ranganath presented his paper on “Abhinavagupta’s Concept of Santarasa in the Light of his Commentary on the Bhagavadgita”. After giving Abhinavagupta’s justification of the Santarasa, he quoted eight stanzas of the Bhagavadgita wherein Abhinavagupta justified the Santarasa as the supreme Rasa and concluded with the statement that Santa as a Rasa runs throughout the Bhagavadgita if the commentary of Abhinavagupta be studied carefully.
Kamalesh Datta Tripathi in “Rasa and Bhavanukirtana Complementarity of two concepts” said, “Natyasastra offered the central concept of Indian Aesthetics, i.e. Rasa in its sixth chapter and another concept of Bhavanukirtana, compatible to it appears even before it in the first chapter. Both the concepts are complementary to each other and form one grand theory.” He made special effort for understanding the concept of Bhavanukirtana as distinguished from the concept of anukirtana. He concluded by saying that Rasa expericence in the spectator depends upon-the glorious re-telling of bhava. Traditionally Indian theatre and in fact the entire traditional work of art, may be ultimately defined as Bhavanukirtana in terms of creative process and it may be seen as Rasa in terms of aesthetic experience. The interdependence of each other explains the complementary nature of both the concepts.
Radhavallabh Tripathi in his paper “Theory of Rasa: A Secular Approach” said that Rasa originated from Atharvaveda, which has preserved various traditions belonging to the tribes in India. Rasa is basically linked with such traditions and also two types of worldview as delineated through the myths of Indra and Varuna imbued in the aesthetics of Rasa. All Rasas do not culminate into the same invariable experience. Rasas like Bibhatsa, Raudra and Bhayanaka require aesthetics quite different from Srngara, Adbhuta, etc. Owing to their monistic outlook, acaryas like Abhinavagupta and Visvanath overlooked the plurality and diversity of creative process and aesthetic experience.
V.N. Jha in his paper “Epistemology of Rasa Experience” says that, “The universe of our experience is partly given by God and partly created by man. A tree is given, a chair is created, the mud is given, a pitcher is created, flowers are given, garland is created, voice is given, music is created and language is given, poetry is created.” The literary artist gives an aesthetic shape to the given, world through a beautiful arrangement and rearrangement and thus transforms an ordinary world into a world of art. It is clear that Bhattanayaka and Abhinavagupta take the help of Advaita philosophy to explain the Rasa theory, but the comparison does not go too far. The rasa experience cannot be equated with the experience of the ultimate reality - the Brahman- because the aesthetic experience is by a connoisseur who has not transcended his jivahood whereas the experience of the Brahman is when the experience has transcended the jivahood too. Rasa can be a visaya of experience but the Brahman cannot. Hence, Rasasvada is not Brahmasvada but Brahmasvada- sahodara.
In ‘Acharya Abhinavgupts Nirupit rasprkriya’ Dashrath Dwivedi discussed in detail the nature of Rasa experience and process of Rasa-realization as expressed by Abhinavagupta in his Abhinavabharati and Locana commentaries. The paper indicated that Dwivedi had sufficient command over the text of the commentaries of Abhinavagupta. While tracing the history of the rasa theory right from the Natyasastra, Bhamaha, Rudrata, Dandi, Udbhata, he threw light on the question as to how the concept of rasa developed in the work of Bhattanayaka and culminated in the commentaries of Abhinavagupta and was brought to the area of Kashmir Saivism.
Rajendra Mishra in his insightful paper entitled ‘Aanandvardhan ki Rasdrishti ke Veyakhyakar Acarya Abhinavgupt’ explained many passages of the Locana and Abhinavabharati pertaining to the rasa theory very critically and meticulously with many illustrations, and gave his own interpretations wherever necessary. He emphasized Abhinavagupta’s viewpoint that rasa is the real and ultimate sense of the poetry which pervades throughout the body of the aesthete like the fire spreading all over the dried wood. So the capacity of the learned aesthete to enjoy the poetry, i.e., Sahridyata is the prerequisite for rasa experience. Rasa as interpreted by Abhinavagupta is basically experienced in drama but it can also be experienced in poetry provided it is properly dramatized by the aesthete in his mind while reading it. Apart from rasa, Mishra also referred to bhavdhvani, bhavprasham, bhavodye, as is explained by Abhinavagupta, and critically examined all the minute points relating to rasa experience as referred to in the commentaries of Abhinavagupta.
Anupa Pande in her erudite paper “The Indian Aesthetic-Tradition and Abhinavagupta - Concept of Rasa” described the various stages of the development of aesthetic ideas in ancient India. While pointing out the importance of Bharata’s Natyasastra, she said that it sums up the sacred and popular notions of the Vedic and Janapada ages which had developed out of Vedangas and the Upavedas and which included the science of music, drama, sculpture and architecture. According to her, Natyasastra recapitulates the traditional notion of the sacred and invisible or transcendental value of art forms and activities and at the same time formulates the notion of art as entertainment and enjoyment. In Bharata, human reality has its focus in bhava and dramatic representation is its anukarana or anukirtana. Aesthetic experience is called Rasa, a unity of entertainment and enlightenment. The philosophical interpretation which Abhinavagupta gave of Rasa as Sanvidvishranti or Chamatkar underplayed the essentiality of the specific roles of different media and techniques in the different arts and converted Rasa into a universal aesthetic category comparable to beauty. The emphasis on beauty suggests something objective and hence promotes the danger of seeking it exclusively in specific art forms. Rasa, on the other hand, clearly emphasizes the subjectivity of art experience. The distinction of Rasa from any other psychological experience is clear in Abhinava where Rasa is transcendental, the return of consciousness to its own innate and universal but immediate ecstatic nature. By the philosophical genius of Abhinavagupta, Rasa, thus became the comprehensive principle of Indian, aesthetics.
Prakash Pandey in his article on ‘Abhinavagupta ka Swatantryavad evem Sadharanikaran ki Unki Avadharna’ started with the assertion that the process of universalization (Sadharanikaran), the prerequisite for the Rasa experience, has been explained by three acaryas in their own way. The first explanation is by Bhattanayaka, the Second one is by Abhinavagupta and the third by Panditaraja Jagannatha, the great Advaita Vedantin. He after going deep into the important philosophical texts of Kashmir Saivism has interpreted the concept of Sadharanikaran in the light of the Swatantryavad of Abhinavagupta. He successfully tried to solve all the problems and objections raised against the theory of universalization in the context of Rasa realization and established the fact that Sadharanikaran is intimately connected with aesthetic enjoyment.
Damodar Ram Tripathi in his paper ‘Rasas Aloukiktvyam’ took into account almost all the prominent commentators in general and Abhinavagupta’s commentaries in particular to present a clear picture of Rasa realization and its supra-mundane nature. His paper was mainly based on numerous Sanskrit commentaries. He gave his own interpretation wherever he disagreed with the commentators. Thus, his paper was entirely text-based and critical.
V. Kutumba Sastry’s paper is entitled “The problem of Santarasa”. He started with the observation that Santarasa has been subjected to a great deal of discussion. It comprises several problems within it: (i) the textual problems concerned with the question of authenticity of passage relating to Santarasa, found in the Natyasastra of Bharatamuni, (ii) practical problems concerned with the enactment of Santarasa on the stage and it appeal to the people, (iii) problem with regard to its Sthayibhava, (iv) doctrinal problems concerned with the explanation of the process of rasa realization, and (v) problems related with the illustrations of Santarasa in Sanskrit literature. He discussed the last two problems in detail. His arguments were absolutely convincing and hence appealed to the audience. He concluded with the statement that Abhinavagupta made a sincere attempt to put experience of Rasa at par with Savikalpasamadhi of Patanjali. Thus, he quotes Bhagavan Patanjali extensively. If this parallelism between Rasa realization and Savikalpasamadhi is accepted, then acceptance of Santarasa as the ninth and primordial rasa cannot be challenged. Seen from his philosophical background, it appears that Abhinavagupta's treatment of rasa theory and his arguments in favour of Santarasa are mutually supportive and interdependent.
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