Navarasa – Nine States of Mind

I claim no special expertise in this element of South Indian culture, but I do admit to a longtime fascination and deep affection for elements of traditional Indian culture. I was introduced to Indian classical music and dance at an early age and remain fascinated by the traditional Indian ability to incorporate such a high degree of eloquence in dance and music. In turn, this has a cosmic and astrological dimension which would fascinate any passionate astrologer. What animates the body and how we experience various states of being is ultimately a mystical experience. As described in the scriptures, these are the nine primary emotions experienced by ‘Shiva’ the Lord of Dance.

Navarasa or the nine moods and expressions come from Southern India, including Tamil Culture, The system is useful for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most particularly  in the training of traditional dancers, Indian dancing is meticulous in detail and that includes attention to mudras, the movements of the eyes and what the hand, eyes and expressions. Hindu architecture has sometimes been referred to as sculpture, simply because much of it is carved. Every form in ancient Indian art is rich in significance, transcending simple beauty to evoke the divine and the cosmic.

Every Rasa corresponds to a particular Bhava. The Natyshastra have carefully described the Bhavas used to create Rasa. The following table shows the nine moods (Navarasa) and the corresponding Bhava. Every Rasa is identified with a specific colour for the use in performing arts. Presumably, Bhavas may be co-mingled in the same way that planetary energies can work together, but there is a great advantage in distinguishing each by itself.

The number nine holds a special place in ancient Indian culture and indeed in many world cultures, both Oriental and Occidental. Ranee Kumar writes “The ‘Fruit of the Spirit’ comprises nine graces: love, peace, suffering, gentle, good, faith, meek and temperance. The ‘gifts of the Spirit’ are 9 in number: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.”  (The Hindu 06 October 2011).


Shringar(Erotic) Rati Delight Pale Light Green
Hasya (Humorous) Hasa Laughter White
Karuna (Pathetic) Shoka Sorrow Grey
Raudra (Terrible) Krodh Anger Red
Veera (Heroic) Utsaha Heroism Pale Orange
Bhayanaka (Fearful) Bhaya Fear Black
Bibhatsa (Odious) Jugupsa Disgust Blue
Adbhuta (Wonderous) Vismaya Wonder Yellow
Shanta (Peaceful) Calm Peace White

Navarasa: Reimagined Photo by Kiran Mirsa

An anonymous Indian source confirms that these relate to the planets thusly:

Adbhuta : Surya (Sun)

Karuna : Chandra, (Moon)

Veera : Kuja, (Mars)

Hasya : Budha,  (Mercury)

Shanta : Guru, (Jupiter)

Shringara : Shukra, (Venus)

Raudra : Shani,  (Saturn)

Bhayanaka : Rahu and (North Node)

Bhibhatsa : Ketu. (South Node)

So, these nine ‘moods’ or states of representing the motions of the indestructible soul on Earth. The fact that each has a direct correspondence with a planet (Indian astrologer consider the Node as planets) reveals a core belief that these nine energies are interwoven into every element of life. You will also note that relating these states of being to planets, tells us more about the planet and the Bhava itself. The idea that so much may be conveyed through dance is a thing of great beauty.


10 thoughts on “Navarasa – Nine States of Mind

    • If I understand you correctly, the answer is that, first of all, nine is a mystical number. The number nine is held in high regard in Hinduism because it is considered a complete, perfected and divine number. Primarily this is because it represents the end of a cycle in the decimal system. The latter being established as early as 3000 BC. in the Indian subcontinent. So, the nine planets (the luminaries, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the Nodes, which are considered as shadow planets. I took a quick look at your own page and I get the impression that this isn’t new to you. Nevertheless, to go into a protracted discussion of the significance of number nine would be beyond the limits of time constraints. I’m curious, though, as to why you see musical theory or other such things as necessarily constraining if you intended that as a negative.

      • Hi! Sorry I was unable to convey my qtn properly. I was not concentrating on depths of 9. But, I was wondering, triggered by your post, as to wht the things are as they are in terms of numbers. Like in this case, 9 rasas exist. Hindus/Ancients “discovered” and not invented them. In this discovery, we see only 9 rasas. Similarly we discovered 7 colors. If we are asked to imagine, given our boast on greatness of human imtellect, a new color or rasa, can we? I can not! But in other hand, we can imagine infinite shapes to an object. So, what do you think drives this fixed number of certain entities? I wanted to know your views or approach to this, given your thorough grip on ancient esoteric subjects, as I perceived through your blog! Thanks!

      • There are many sacred numbers in traditional Indian wisdom. This includes 7, 10 and much larger numbers. It’s wheels within wheels. In part, it depends on the context. Nine as a number of completion and we also have the seven sacred planets etc. your question is thoughtful and intriguing and perhaps modern because limitation has a slightly negative connotation. It’s an apparent paradox. Limitations are required for liberation. We are free to experience a virtually infinite number of colours and we do. We can also imagine numbers of any magnitude, but the colours and numbers most prevalent in Indian systems are chosen for their particular power and effect. The musical theory of Pythagoras is in no small part mathematical. We could use systems opposed to Pythagoras and find ourselves trapped in discord. The way you ask is one that in no small part needs to be experienced.

  1. Hi, astrology has been a long time interest of mine. Rahu is given the colour dark blue by Parashara but since it appears as smoke grey is obviously applicable. Red is the colour of the Sun in Parashara; Saturn is usually the planet connected with fear; We cannot have two white colours and peace is usually associated with Venus and Venus has diamond or clear quartz as its gem. Furthermore the planet Jupiter is often linked with wonder or meditation. Taking what I have said into consideration, the colours you mention would thus correspond to the following

    Rasas and planets

    Rasa Bhava meaning colour planet (from colour)
    shringar (erotic) rati delight pale light green Mercury
    Hasya (humourous) Hasa laughter white the Moon
    Karuna (pathetic) Shoka sorrow grey Rahu
    Raudra (terrible) Krodh Anger Red the Sun
    Veera (heroic) Utsaha Heroism pale orange Mars
    Bhayanmaka (fearful) Bhaya Fear black Saturn
    Bibhatsa (odious) Jugupsa Disgust blue Ketu
    Adbhuta (wondrous) Vismaya Wonder yellow Jupiter
    Shanta (peaceful) Calm Peace clear Venus

    Hope you find this interesting
    Mike Dawson. (You can find other stuff on astrology and Shakespeare on my facebook page. Mike Dawson)

  2. Enjoyed the article very much. specially the correlation with the planets.
    Rasa is the essence, or still better the left over reaction left. The beauty of the Rasa it neither belongs to the creator nor the person who experience. Neither can the rasa be recreated, because the second time the see or experience an event, the anubhava or the experience colours it. so the Rasa anubhava is different.
    coming to Bhava and Rasa the natyashastra talks only about about ashta or eight. the 9th shanta is the contribution of Buddhism. It parallels Shunya,

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