Did you hear about the attempt robbery at the museum?
They had run out of gas a few blocks away when the police caught them, and they said, “We didn’t have the Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.”
Made you go “ha ha?” Sure made me laugh like a maniac! I’m not saying it would have done the same for each and every one of my readers. Some of you might have just smiled, others giggled and others still might have guffawed and rolled over! I’ll never know for sure, but if I managed evoke even one of these reactions, then my purpose of posting it here is served. Wondering what that is? Will let you know in just a moment.
Imagine a world without joy, where there is no humor. How dreary and melancholic it would be without even a single burst of laughter. This cacophony of hysterics is what we all thrive on and our very existence depends on it. It is the oxygen to our soul and we would all perish into oblivion in its absence.
Since my current series of artworks is all about emotions, that’s exactly what this intro was meant for…to invoke a new emotion in all you wonderful people…the emotion of joy.
So, today’s blog post is all about “Hasya Rasa”, a portal into the delightful world of humor, laughter, happiness and contentment. The word “Hasya” is derived from the Sanskrit word “Hasyam” which means laughter, mirth, comedy or comic. The nature of this rasa is a reflection of the nature of response to it as well as its aftermath. If the consequence is harmless, it leads to Hasya or simple laughter, but if it is intended to hurt emotionally, it becomes satire or sarcasm.
Hasya is the rasa used to express joy or mirth. Pure, unadulterated Hasya is true happiness, a joy that comes from within. Hasya can represent simple happiness, riotous laughter and everything in between. The term “Hasya” itself means laughter. It gives one relief from tensions and worries. Hasya is self-focused when one makes fun of oneself and it is focused on others when fun is made of others.
So how is Hasya rasa depicted through art? In Indian art, the rasas become apparent, for example in the color in which a certain deity is depicted which hints at the predominant character trait associated with this deity, or in the color of the aura of a person. For instance, a black aura indicates a frightened person, and a red aura indicates that the character is angry. Hasya symbolizes pure joy and is aptly represented by the purest of all colors, that is white. Now that’s the conventional take on Hasya rasa but my take in terms of colors associated with it is a little different. But I’ll delve into that a little later.
When Hasya is associated with art and aesthetics, it is perceived as a sense of heightened delight or, a kind of spiritual bliss. Hasya Rasa is joy that comes from the soul, when we feel that life is good. Humor is its most typical expression and may also cause joy to others. But the minute the intellect starts intervening, real humor is impossible. Then innocent laughter transforms into mockery or ridicule.
Hasya has always been one way through which Hindus have related to their gods and goddesses. In fact, for most Hindu traditions, the philosophy and expression of bhakti (devotion) is actually incomplete without humor (hasya).
For instance, the most hilarious take on hasya rasa has to be the one by the artist Makhan Saha about Hanuman’s tail — one when Ravana refuses to offer a seat to him in the court and Hanuman makes a spiral chair for himself from his tail as he laughs at the circumstances. Another when Pandavas are proceeding heavenwards, Hanuman decides to play the fool with them and lies down in their path. Bhim gets very incensed and rebukes him to remove his tail saying that he was obstructing the mighty Pandavas’ path. Hanuman challenges him to remove his tail as he is a mere “vanar”(monkey). When Bhim goes to do that the tail becomes so heavy that he is unable even to move it. Hanuman reveals his true self.
Another rare depiction that explores the hasya rasa is the comic emotion between a hero and a heroine in Bengal’s perception of Hara Gauri lila. It says “returning from a tavern, there comes Hara Shiva upon the bull in drunken revelry. Seeing such condition of Bhava, Bhavani loses her calm and twangs her brows as a command to her pet Lion. The Lion gives a great roar and chases the Bull Nandi as a result of which the drunken Shiva is dumped on the floor. At such a scene the Mother Gauri jumps giggling like a little girl clapping her hands and throttling shouts -how does it feel? Strange and adorable are the ways of this divine couple free from all conditionings. May the devout always meditate on this auspicious vision.”
Not just in paintings, Hasya rasa has also been depicted through sculpture as well, specifically the one called “Hasya Mask” by Anuja Aggarwal. It is the face of a man made out of clay with acrylic on it. The artist describes him by stating that “happiness defines him. He spreads colors as he goes.
Wearing single eye spectacles of colours, he sees the world with the humorous perspective. And also with a rational human eye to judge between the right and the wrong, the happy and the sad.
The big moustache that decorates as well as dominates his face is something that represents his pride in being a happy man.
Always and forever.”
Apart from gods and goddesses, there have been several other takes on Hasya Rasa by various renowned Indian artists. Glimpses of this rasa can also be found in the act of Lord Krishna in the “keli Gopal Naat” and also in “Rukmini Haran Naat” written by the Great Vaishnavite Saint. Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite artworks for your viewing pleasure (click on the thumbnail to view full image).
Hasya Rasa has also been represented by artists in other parts of the world, but in a more literal sense, that is, laughter.
“Rarely have more humorous paintings been produced than in the Dutch Golden Age. Naughty children, stupid peasants, foolish dandies and befuddled drunks, quack doctors, pimps, procuresses, lazy maids and lusty ladies — they figure in large numbers in Golden Age masterpieces,” – Written about the exhibition “The Art of Laughter: Humour in the Golden Age” on the Frans Hals Museum web site.
The Dutch painting of that period abounds in smiles and laughter. Elegant ladies and gentlemen smile to spectators and each other, playing children trill with laughter, revelers guffaw at a dirty joke… In those distant years, elusive laughter was the desired goal for great masters and amateurs: it was depicted by the Utrecht Caravaggists, countless masters of gallant scenes, portrayers of tavern life, and also Rembrandt, Vermeer and Brauer. Though, the great Frans Hals was the best to paint laughter.
A painting by Dutch master Rembrandt titled Rembrandt Laughing, painted in around 1628, one of only a handful of paintings made on copper, is thought to be a self-portrait of the 17th Century Dutch master.
Here’s a small gallery of some more paintings from the Dutch Golden Age.
My personal favorite is a painting called The Laugh by Julia Pappas. A mixed media on canvas, the expression of happiness on the face of the child has been brought out beautifully by the artist. The closed eyes and the hand covering the face depict the pure innocence of the little one and the happiness on the face seems to be a consequence of either some mischievous feat or maybe it’s just pure, unadulterated laughter!
I love colors and like to make my art as vibrant as possible. It’s for this very reason that an acrylic painting titled Colors Laughter by the artist Uma Bharathi inspired me. I feel she has spoken my mind when she says, “When colours laugh, they spread the happiness.”
Another unique and unconventional depiction of laughter is the acrylic painting titled The Last Laugh by Kundan Mendake. This is how the artist describes the artwork – “His exuberant laughter echoed the room. He had held it inside him for a while now, but everything about their depravity was so funny, he broke all barriers and laughed. The worst was over, it was their worst and it had saved him. And then, he laughed a little more. ARTIST’S NOTE – I was stuck with the fragments of this image in my head until I brought it to paper and colors. We all create from our impressions of the world. Sometimes they are personal sometimes they are universal. To me his laughter belongs to every individual who has managed to see humor and irony in his failures and who has managed to rise above reality of his helpless in a given moment.”
Yet another wonderful depiction of laughter and happiness is a painting titled Colorful Painting African Portrait of a Little Girl Laughing, “Smile”. A little girl in a hooded coat dissolves into giggles, closing her eyes in mirth. Her sweater is unbuttoned, her necklaces crooked, yet nothing deters her enjoyment of the moment. “The smile on her face puts a smile on mine and makes me feel happy,” artist Kwesi Botchway says. “I hope the painting puts a smile on your face, too.” He works in a palette of colorful acrylics to create this charming portrait.
There are so many such marvelously beautiful representation of hasya, therefore laughter in works of art all over the world but if I start talking about all of them, it would take me centuries!
Hasya – My version
Diving into a vibrant ocean of colours,
I transform my thoughts into reality.
Each creation an expression of my life’s journey,
My dreams and aspirations, my fears and tribulations.
What I was yesterday, is history that I have etched onto my canvas.
What I want to be tomorrow,
I bear patiently on my palette.
My creations are a glimpse of my soul,
For each piece I create is a part of me.
Passion runs deep through my veins,
When I put my brush to the canvas.
Emotions fuel my skills, as I speak with my brush strokes.
I say things with colours and shapes,things I couldn’t put in words.
Hues and tints become my syllables, light and shade my vowels.
My mind and spirit become one, as my hands systematically create my identity.
And that is when my spirit smiles,my soul is happy and my mind healthy.
For my art can cure ailments medication never will.
Hasya or laughter in its purest form is not created by an event or an act. Pure Hasya is real happiness, a joy that comes from within for no apparent reason. It may come when we feel that God or life is kind. This Hasya or Joy is a divine Rasa, an expression of divine bliss.
Humor is a very powerful tool against Sadness, Fear, and Anger. All one can do to increase the occurrence of Hasya in life is to love life and others, release tensions, maintain a healthy body and attitude to life, and be uninhibitedly open to laughter when it comes.
I personally believe in the theory that for a sound body and mind, one needs to feel joy deep down within the soul. This joy trickles down to each and every particle of our mortal existence and rejuvenates us with renewed strength and vigor. It is only when the mind and spirit are healthy and happy that the body can be fit and fine. But how does one achieve this? It’s simple….by doing what you love doing the most. It can be your job, a hobby or even a small act of kindness. What we love doing is what we are passionate about and it is this passion that fuels our soul, acting as the elixir with the power to heal any infirmity.
My representation of Hasya Rasa in my artwork titled Hasya – Joy to the Soul revolves around this very concept. As an artist my passion is my art which has therapeutic effects on me like no medicine can. My love for colors is reflected in my painting and each color symbolizes anything and everything that makes my soul happy.
My illustration of Hasya represents sense of humor in the form of laughter, happiness and contentment. When we laugh, it is easier to slip into a carefree state, because the mind has been freed from its usual workload of thoughts, and we can simply be open, free and happy in that moment.
These myriad hues form the vibrant palette of an artist that helps him to bring out the best in himself. Similarly, the palette of one’s life, when filled with colors of joyful acts, makes one a better human being, not just in body but also in mind. That is when true happiness or joy emerges from within and is reflected on the face in the form of the most radiant smile ever seen or the sound of the most divine laughter ever heard. So don’t let go of your passion, for that is what will cure all ills and make your spirit smile.
The striking color palettes I have displayed in my painting are all symbolic of the various acts that give us joy until these vibrant hues seep deep into our mind, eventually transforming it into a brilliantly hued palette itself, each color symbolizing our happiest thoughts.
In terms of techniques, I have explored to a great extent with impasto in this artwork so as to impart each and every color its own individual character by giving it a subtle textural effect. I have once again taken the help of my trusted friend, the hot glue gun, to enhance the outlines of each color palette in the painting and then executed the usual drill of gesso and paint over it. The medium of choice for this and the rest of the painting is once more my favorite oil paints.
This is my individualistic approach towards the emotion of laughter and happiness and one that I like to apply in my life as well. On that positive note, I promise to return next week with yet another emotion. Until then, Ciao adios amigos!
DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. While there may be copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner, I have only made it available with the sole effort to stimulate artistic progress. However, some images may have been taken from the links included below and I give full credit to these websites/pages, thereby in no way claiming them to be my own. I have also used these links for reference purposes and collection of data for this post, therefore I give full credit to the respective web pages for their data. Most of the data in this post is based on my personal experiences and opinions and I am not responsible for any material that is found in the links at the end of this post.
Sources and Photo Credits –