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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a basic category of ancient Indian poetics. In a broad sense it denotes aesthetic enjoyment and perception. The treatise Natyasastra (approximately second to fourth centuries) formulated the ways to achieve aesthetic enjoyment during a theatrical performance. The Natyasastra defines erotic, comic, angry, heroic, and sorrowful rasa, as well as rasa of fear, revulsion, and wonder.

In his treatise Abhinavabharati the philosopher Abhinava-gupta (tenth to 11th centuries) formulated a doctrine that correlated rasa with the basic emotional complexes in the subconscious mind. These complexes generally manifest themselves as simple feelings, such as love, anger, or grief, but under the influence of an aesthetic object, which is incapable of evoking egoistic desires and emotions, the complexes are transformed into rasa and provide only enjoyment. According to Abhina-vagupta, a prerequisite of rasa is the involuntary identification of the aesthetic subject (the reader or viewer) with such aesthetic objects as the protagonists of a narrative poem or drama. The aesthetic object is then perceived independently of specific individuals and events. The chief means of arousing rasa is considered to be dhvani, and the concept of dhvani-rasa became a cardinal doctrine of medieval Indian poetics.


Istoriia estetiki: Pamiatniki mirovoi esteticheskoi mysli, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962.
Grintser, P. A. “Teoriia esteticheskogo vospriiatiia (“rasa”) v drevnein-diiskoi poetike.” Voprosy literatury, 1966, no. 2.
Anandavardkhana: Dkhvan’ialoka (“Svet dkhvani”). Translation from Sanskrit, introduction, and commentary by lu. A. Alikhanova. Moscow, 1974.
Gnoli, R. The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Rome, 1956.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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