Vibhatsa – The Web of Disgust


Hello everyone! This post is extremely special as the artwork I am sharing today is the culmination of my Navrasa Series of works. For the uninitiated, Navrasas are the 9 emotions that form the foundation of Indian classical dance and music, theatre, art and literature, essentially the traditional Indian performing arts. These are the basic emotions, moods or sentiments that figure in the daily lives of every human being. (Click on the following link to learn more about these 9 emotions and the concept of Navrasas –

Coming to the emotion I am covering today, that is, Vibhatsa Rasa. The word “Vibhatsa” is a Sanskrit word that means “disgust” and is traditionally represented by the color blue in Indian art and literature. It is a feeling of Disgust or dissatisfaction with oneself and others. Vulgar, uncivilized, and perverted actions, using bad words and manners, and showing bad intentions to others are all manifestations of the Vibhatsa Rasa. All creative arts, dance and theatre to fine arts and literature and poetry are replete with imagery that pertains to Vibhatsa.

In today’s post, I am sharing my depiction of the Vibhatsa rasa through my artwork titled Vibhatsa – The Web of Disgust. This painting is an expression of how much a woman detests being considered as an object of gratification by the society and is disgusted by its countless atrocities. She loathes the unending discrimination and is sickened by the web of deceit and immorality that has been spun around her by the social order. She is so outraged by the incessant delinquency of the world around her that she is absolutely repulsed by it, just like the spindly gossamer of a spider that clings to the skin until it evokes a feeling if disgust. The medium I have used to create this artwork is oil paints and the color palette mainly consists of warm earthy tones of the likes of cream, off-white, browns etc. This of course is a deviation from the traditional color of blue that has been designated to the emotion in question, but I have always been one to break the norm. Here’s an image of the artwork followed by links to a couple of videos displaying the making of the artwork and some behind the scenes snippets:

Vibhatsa – The Web of Disgust

As is visible in the painting, it depicts disgust through the lacy spindles of a spider’s web which portrays within itself the various atrocities and injustices that the feminine gender endures. Apart from this, I have also used symbolism in the form of the eye and the eye ball to represent the objectification of the fairer sex and the claw-like hands to signify the society preying on her.

When it comes to a subject like emotions, their portrayal and in turn their interpretation becomes a matter of perspective, not just for the artist but for the viewers as well. What may seem positive to the artist may be perceived as negative by his audience or vice versa. Moreover, it also depends on the mindset of the person, hence emotions in art are a totally subjective prospect.

Vibhatsa being a negative emotion in itself ideally comes across negatively in art but it has been my sincere attempt to bring it out as positively as possible through this painting. I intend it to be thought provoking and serve as an eye opener to the society with an aim to bring in the winds of change. I hope that this message emanates loud and clear through this artwork and is interpreted positively rather than negatively.

DISCLAIMER – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational and educational purpose only. Some images and data 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. Other data is based on my personal experiences and opinions.

Sources and Credits


Inspiration Calling!

Inspiration Calling!

Ever got inspired by a book you have recently read to create art? I am sure we all have, but ever felt inspired enough by art mentioned in the same book?

Read on if you want to know more!

We all wonder where artists get all their inspiration from. Well, as is true for all creative fields, when it comes to finding inspiration, sky is the limit. One good source of inspiration though for most artists is books. I firmly believe that it’s very important for every artist to delve into books as not only do they light up that creative spark in them, but also help keep it burning. The key to making good art consistently lies in extracting the right amount of inspiration from the literary sources at hand. So don’t just read books, let them spur your imagination and awaken the artistic streak!

Being an avid reader myself, I am on a constant mission for artistic revelation in whatever I read. It doesn’t matter what genre it belongs to, as long as it creates ripples in my imagination and brews up a creative storm, it works for me.

As an artist, there are times when I hit a dead end and it is in such periods of creative drought that I turn to books to jump start my imagination. Moreover, books help me evolve and develop my artistic skills in new and different ways. Books are like that breath of fresh air that helps me tide over my creative hypoxia. Besides, reading is my second most favorite activity next to art!

It was during one such recent literary sojourns that I came across inspiration for my artistic endeavors.  I have just finished reading the third book in the fast-selling Ram Chandra Series by the Indian author Amish Tripathi – Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta. This book is part of an ongoing mythological-fiction series about the life of Lord Ram, Lady Sita, and Ravan and the third book chronicles the life of Ravan in particular.

Through this book, the author has not only presented Ravan as the darkest villain in Indian literature by reinventing his evil, but has also put forth deep-rooted philosophies through his portrayal as an artist. One such excerpt from the book describes a painting made by Ravan that is not only a character sketch of himself but also a logically befitting portrayal of the concept of “dharma” or the “righteous path”. Here’s the excerpt I am talking about:

What inspired me the most in this excerpt was the beautiful artwork created by Ravan. I felt it was the most innovative and intelligent description of Ravan as the ten headed demon, encompassing all his greys and whites in the form of the nine emotions (navrasas), which also symbolize the emotions that control us during various phases of our lives. It is also a profound portrayal of our struggle to attain the right direction through the “moral compass” called dharma.

The artwork has been so beautifully described by the author that I can literally picturize it in my mind. I am so inspired by this imagery that I have added it to my wish list and I can’t wait to create my own version of this beautifully explained philosophy onto my canvas! Will share the final outcome here whenever I get down to doing it so, watch out for it!

Disclaimer – All the information, data and imagery in this blog post is for informational purpose only. Though the images included in this post have been quoted from the book title provided below, I give full credit to the original author, Amish Tripathi for this creation in its entirety, thereby in no way claiming it to be my own. Other data is based solely on my personal experience and opinions.

Sources and Credits –

Raavan: Enemy of Aryavarta (Book 3 of the Ram Chandra Series by Amish Tripathi).


Adbhuta – The Emotion of Wonderous Amazement

Hey folks! After a really long hiatus, I’m back with another post. Apologies for being M.I.A! Will try not to disappear for too long in future!!

Today’s post is a continuation of my Navrasa series of paintings, where I am depicting each of the “rasas” (i.e., emotions or sentiments) through my art. Just to recap, in Indian philosophy, there are nine rasas, hence the title Navrasa, where “nav” means nine. Till now, I have depicted 7 of these emotions – “Shringar” (beauty), “Shanta” (peace), “Hasya” (happiness), “Veer” (bravery), “Karuna” (compassion), “Raudra” (anger) and “Bhayanaka” (fear).

The emotion portrayed in the artwork featured here today is the “Adbhuta rasa” or the emotion of curiosity, astonishment and wonder. To understand this sentiment better, let’s delve a little deeper into it.

Adbhuta rasa deals with wonder. It is the sentiment of mystery, astonishment and curiosity. The feeling of wonder comes when one recognizes one’s own ignorance. Since Adbhuta rasa depicts the feeling of wonder, it is also referred to as the “marvelous sentiment”. The predominant color of Adbhuta rasa is yellow which also evokes the same emotion of the human mind. According to Indian philosophy, the element of wonder or astonishment is aroused when one experiences the unimaginable or the unexplainable like seeing heavenly beings, gaining one’s desired object, or seeing a flying chariot or a magic show, etc.

Coming to my artwork. I call this one Adbhuta – The Tree of Life. As is evident from the title, this painting depicts the aesthetics of the feeling of amazement and wonder about the most miraculous aspect of life – the creation of life itself. Here’s an image of my artwork along with a small video of its making:

Adbhuta – The Tree of Life
The evolution of the portrait of evolution….

From the dawn of civilization, human beings have tried to understand everything about the birth of life. It’s this element of mystery surrounding the miracle of life that arouses our curiosity and consequently evokes a feeling of amazement. It makes us wonder and ask ourselves the most basic questions – Where do we come from and Where are we going?

Life has come a long way from miniscule single cells to the human frame. Isn’t it simply amazing how diverse it is, from the tiny microscopic organisms to the fungi and algae, plants, insects, birds, marine life, reptiles, amphibians, animals and finally the most advanced form – us, the humans? Most of us wonder how it all happened. Was there really a big bang that gave birth to life or was it divine intervention? Hence the first question – Where do we come from? No matter what one believes in, be it God or the theory of evolution, both are equally amazing and wonderous.

That brings us to the next question – Where are we going? What’s next in this amazing chain of existence? With so must advancement in science and technology, what is it that the future holds for the human race and more importantly life itself? Are we going to see an amalgamation of artificial intelligence with organic intelligence and end up with a new species? Super humans, androids or will it be a hybrid of both – humanoids?  Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

I have made use of the most basic unit or building block of organic life – the DNA double helix to represent the tree of life. It is this seed of life that has germinated and established its roots on the surface of our planet, eventually developing into the tree of life.

I have attempted to symbolically depict each stage in this story of the evolution of life with the help of basic imagery for each respective stage. For instance, I have rendered the algae and fungi in the form of mushrooms, insect life as butterfly wings whereas aquatic life is a collage of skin textures and patterns of the likes of a snake, crocodile, frog, turtle, lizard, fish, etc. Similarly, animal life is symbolized by tiger and zebra stripes, leopard and cheetah spots, giraffe spots, etc. A human fetus was my obvious choice for representing us homo sapiens.

The background of the painting displays the vast universe towards the lower part and the digital world in the form of the circuitry on a motherboard in the upper part of the painting. Both seem to be merging into each other, hence my attempt to depict the gradually fading boundaries between the material world and the virtual one.  

I felt that just the use of the conventional color designated to the emotion of wonder, i.e., yellow, does not do justice to a concept as diverse as life . So, I have extended my color palette to various other hues of the color spectrum.

The primary medium I have employed for the painting is acrylic paints, blending it with modelling paste wherever required in order to impart a 3D effect, specifically the wood-like texture for the DNA double helix tree, the roots spreading out on planet earth and the circuit board. Apart from this, I have also used alcohol markers, micro tip pens and gel pens for the finer details of the painting.

This one has been a huge challenge for me as it’s not easy depicting an emotion as profound as wonder. It is something that we feel and express on a daily basis and it knows no bounds. Anything and everything can become a cause of wonder for the human mind. So, the question I asked myself while working this one out was what is the greatest wonder for the human race and this is the concept I came up with. I hope it appeals to your element of wonder as well. Looking forward to your inputs and comments!    


My First Mind Map

Last week I had published a post about mind mapping. This one is an extension of that, wherein I have delved into the intriguing world of mind maps and attempted to organize the whirlwind of ideas storming my brain into something meaningful.

The mind map displayed in this post is a precursor to my next painting which is part of my long pending Navrasa Series covering the 9 basic human emotions (refer to previous posts to view the series). The emotion I will be depicting next is called “Adbhuta Rasa” which in simpler terms means “wonder” and “amazement.” This one has been a huge challenge for me as it’s not easy depicting an emotion as profound as wonder. It is something that we feel and express on a daily basis and it knows no bounds. Anything and everything can become a cause of wonder for the human mind. So the question I asked myself while working this one out was what is the greatest wonder for the human race?

Without going too much into detail about the concept behind this artwork, here’s a draft of my thoughts and ideas that I have plotted graphically using an online mind mapping app called Ayoa (  So let my mind map do the talking! (Click on the link below the image to view the map in detail)

My mind map for “Adbhuta Rasa” (Wonder)Click on link below to view in detail

Hasya – Joy to the Soul

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.

Hasya through Hanuman

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.”

Bengal’s perception of Hara Gauri lila

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.”

Hasya Mask

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.

Rembrandt Laughing

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!

The Laugh by Julia Pappas

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.”

Colours Laughter by Uma Bharathi

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.”

The Last Laugh by Kundan Mendake

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.

Colorful Painting African Portrait of a Little Girl Laughing, “Smile” Kwesi Botchway

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 –

The Navrasa of life

The Art of Emotions

Ever wonder what evokes feelings inside us? Feelings of love surprise, anger, sadness, fear, courage, aversion or peace? These feelings, that are born deep down inside the core of our bodies, namely our soul, are what we call Emotions. They are the ways we express our reactions towards various activities and happenings in our lives. They make life lively, rich, colorful and interesting, even though some of those colors may be bright and others darker.

The artist in me would describe emotions as the light and dark hues, shades and colors that paint the ultimate mortal canvas that is life.  As a designer, I would say they form the warp and weft of the fabric called life. Infact, I believe life and emotions have a symbiotic relationship and one cannot exist without the other. Can you imagine life without emotions? If they didn’t exist, how different would we be from robots and machines?

Emotions can be both positive as well as negative depending upon our perspective towards life and how we perceive situations. They are also displayed in varying degrees from person to person, depending upon his or her intensity of reaction to a particular situation. In psychology and philosophy, emotion is defined as a metaphysical experience displayed in the form of a psychological expression of our mental state as well as the biological reactions of our body.

Emotions form the foundation of Indian classical dance and music, theatre, art and literature and are recognized as the 9 Rasas among these traditional Indian performing arts. Popularly known as the Navrasa, they are translated into the nine emotions, moods or sentiments that figure in the daily lives of every human being. However, Rasa, a Sanskrit word, has multiple meanings as it can denote emotions as well as taste or flavor. The word Navrasa is also of Sanskrit origin, where Nav means nine and Rasa means taste or essence.

Not just the performing arts, the fine arts too (specifically drawing, painting and sculpting), have been a medium of expression for the Rasas.  Evoking the rasas in the audience through their art work is the primary objective of every artist, hence artworks are created solely with this aim.

 Come to think of it, every artist’s work evokes a certain emotion or a combination of emotions.  Rasa exists in each and every object, event or action. Not just that, everything that we do has Rasa. Depending on the individualistic nature of an object or person, some rasas hold a place of higher importance than others and at the same time may be extrinsic or innate. Rasa is the true “essence” of life itself.  

The nine emotions included in Navarasa are Shringara (love/beauty), Hasya(laughter), Karuna (sorrow), Raudra (anger), Veera ( heroism/courage), Bhayanaka (terror/fear), Vibhatsya (disgust),  Adbutha (surprise/wonder), and Shantha (peace or tranquility).

The “Color Spectrum” of Emotions

In the performing arts, specifically Indian classical dance forms, the “emotional color spectrum” consists of seven colors, just like the rainbow. Each emotion is designated a different color – rage(red), greed(orange), fear(yellow), will power(green), hope (blue), compassion(indigo), and love(violet). However, it also represents the absence of color (black), which is death, and the combination of colors (white) which is life. Similarly each rasa is also depicted with a different color, as listed below:

  1. Shringara – Green.
  2. Hasya – White.
  3. Karuna – Grey.
  4. Rudra – Red.
  5. Veera – Orange.
  6. Bhayanaka – Black.
  7. Vibhatsya – Blue.
  8. Adbhuta – yellow.
  9. Shanta – White.

These guidelines are being followed as a general rule to portray the rasas in Indian classical dance forms, but for us artists, the sky is the limit. So, don’t let it stop you from thinking out of the box and innovating!

Depiction of Navrasas in Art

The early 20th Century saw the rise of an art movement called “Expressionism,” in which the artist wanted to express an emotional experience rather than depict a scene realistically. Some artists would attempt to capture what they were feeling at the time of making the artwork and it would eventually reflect in their final finished piece. Others would create an image with the hope of awakening an emotional response in the viewer. 

One of the best ways to depict an emotion is through facial expressions. And this is the element most artists have adopted while illustrating emotions in their art. Some artists have used eyes to achieve the same goal. As they say, eyes are the mirror to the soul! Apart from these, several other approaches have been taken by artists in order to depict emotion in their art, for instance hands and even the entire body. Infact, the subject’s hands have become a fundamental element for expressing emotion. Some of the greatest masters of modern art like Matisse, Picasso, Lichtenstein and Chagall have displayed emotion in their art.

But how do artists illustrate the Navrasas in their art? The most common way is through facial expressions, as is seen in the work of an Indian artist and a leading illustrator in Tamil magazines, Maniam Selvan. In one of his paintings, he depicts the rasas with joy at the centre, surrounded by love, sorrow, anger, courage, fear, disgust, wonder and peace.

The Navrasas by Maniam Selvan

He has also rendered the rasas individually in the form of facial expressions on a woman’s face.

Artist P.S. Jalaja’s work titled “Shringaram”, which is part of her ‘Navarasa’ series of works, is a close-up of a homogenous crowd in the grip of a telling emotion, rasa. Working further on her favorite motif of crowd, she has transformed her canvas into a cauldron of intensely individual emotions transferred to a think-alike mob. These personally political ‘navarasa’ series of paintings are remarkable for their social currency, satirical undertone and tremendous local appeal and are not easily conceivable.

Artist Annie Ravi has depicted the rasas in the form of a self-portrait, inspired by the nine Indian sutras of dramatics, the colors of pop art and expressions from Japanese manga characters.

Navrasa by Annie Ravi

Apart from this, Navrasas have also been displayed as facial expressions in Kerala murals paintings and Indian sculptures.Here’s some more imagery depicting the rasas in art.

Now that we have talked about direct portrayal of the Navrasas through art, how do you think artists expressing emotions indirectly in their work?

Let’s consider some examples:

  • Henri Matisse’s famous artwork “Dance II” can be interpreted as a display of joy.
  • Roy Lichtenstein’s “Frighten Girl”, is suggestive in itself owing to the title, for the look of fear in the subject’s eyes speaks volumes.
  • “The Weeping Woman” by Pablo Picasso seems to be an attempt to express sadness.
  • Marc Chagall’s “Birthday”, expresses love, which is seemingly evident in the gait and stance of the couple.
  • “Grrrrrrrrrrr!!”  by Roy Lichtenstein, is evidently displaying anger, but then again, it could also generate a feeling of fear in the viewer.
  • Francis Bacon’s, “Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X”, can be interpreted as anger as well pain.
  •  “The Promenade” is also a creation by Marc Chagall that depicts happiness.
  • Grant Wood’s, “American Gothic”, is a painting that I personally find difficult to interpret owing to the grim and serious looks on the faces of the subjects. But these two are expressions and thus emotions, in themselves.

These are the most universally accepted interpretations of the emotions portrayed in the above paintings, but then again, there is no hard and fast rule. For all you know, your emotional response to any of these paintings can be totally different from mine, so, to each his own!

My Interpretation of Navrasas

In the next few posts, I will take you on a journey into the world of these nine emotions or rasas that not only govern Indian performing arts and fine arts, but also constitute the very cosmos of human expression. So, join me as I plunge into the fascinating world of Navrasas! 

I will introduce you to each rasa individually and describe how I have interpreted it in my art. My approach to every rasa has been a combination of direct as well as indirect portrayal. In some of my pieces, I have used the conventional elements in terms of the face and eyes, but I have attempted to use them symbolically to either convey or to evoke an emotion with a moral or social message attached to it. At the same time, I have also tried to depict certain emotions indirectly without the aid of these elements.I have also not followed the conventional norms of the emotional color spectrum alone. Instead, I have chosen to use other colors as well, in combination with these.

Just to give you a sneak peak into my world of Navrasas, here are some of the artworks from my upcoming Navrasa series:

Want to know more about them? Then, keep following my blog and read the upcoming posts!

Sources and Photo Credits