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Karuna Rasa In Acting And Dance

Karuna Rasa is one of the nine sentiments in Hindu tradition. Karuna is defined as the sentiment of pathos or compassion. It is one of the nine rasas (rasa is the emotive experiences of actors and dancers transmitted to spectators witnessing their performance). Karuna grows from the sthayi bhava (permanent psychological state) of sorrow. The vibhavas (determinants) of this emotion could be the occurrence of various misfortunes in life.

Causes such as separation from dear ones, loss of wealth, or accidents give rise to this feeling. The emotion is physically represented on stage by the dancers and actors through anubhava (consequents) such as shedding tears, being out of breath or drooping limbs and the like. These are external manifestations of the emotion.

Other psychological states connected with karuna are anxiety, yearning, excitement, and sadness – these are sattvika bhavas, involuntary in nature and felt internally by the character while enacting a certain role.

The transitory feelings (vyabhicari bhavas) felt by the characters in a pathetic state are despair, stupor, indolence or depression. There are certain eye movements (drishti bhedas) used to express Karuna rasa. The upper eyelids are lowered, while the eyeballs are at rest owing to mental agony. The gaze is fixed at the tip of the nose.

The presiding deity of Karuna rasa is Yama and the color that represents this emotion is kapota (grey). The feeling that stands in opposition to karuna is hasya (the humorous sentiment). This rasa has two variations, feeling compassion for another’s misfortune (uttama) and self pity at one’s own misfortune (adhama).