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Hasita in Hinduism – Various Types Of Laughter

Hasita, literally means smile, and is one of the six varieties of comic sentiments called hasya. In dramaturgy as well as in literary criticism, rasa (sentiment) plays a great role. They are said to be nine in number, such as erotic, comic, pathetic, anger, wonder, etc. Hasya is divided into six. These are smita (gentle smile); hasita (smile); vihasita (laughter); upahasita (ridicule); apahasita (mocking) and atihasita (boisterous laughter).

In drama, the first two of these belong to the first order characters, the next two to the middle order, and the last two to the low order. Smita is such a gentle smile that even the teeth are not visible. In hasita, eyes expand and cheeks swell to such an extent that teeth are visible.

Very often smita and hasita are treated alike. Many deities are portrayed sporting mandahasa (a pleasant expression on their faces). Shiva, on the other hand, is known for his atihasita or boisterous laughter. Sage Valmiki says in the Ramayana that Rama’s speech is always preceded by smitapurva-bhasi, or a gentle smile. Many stone sculptures wear a pleasant smile on their face, thereby reflecting the skill of the artisans. Many icons, worshiped inside the temples, have their charm enhanced by sporting hasita.

When it exceeds the limit, smile becomes laughter which may be mistaken for mockery. In the Mahabharata, when Duryodhana entered mayasabha, he mistook the shining floor to be a pool and a pool to be the floor and fell into the pool of water. Draupadi laughed so much that her laughter made Duryodhana swear vengeance on her for mocking him.