The study of emotions and emotional experiences has a history that takes us to the fascinating accounts of Charles Darwin in the West and Bharata Muni (1st c. CE) in the East. While Bharata Muni focused on multiple and complex levels of emotions in a theatrical context, the observations made during his voyages formed the crux for Darwin’s theory. These accounts together present to us the cultural and natural expressions of human emotions. This paper will particularly focus on the Natyasastra account of emotion.
Nātyaśāstra, authored by Bharatamuni, is the foundational text of Indian dramaturgy The available form of the text comprises 5600 verses coupled with prose. The original version is said to have had more than 30,000 verses. It is a complete treatise on Indian dance, drama and music. The text has a comprehensive thematic structure since it deals with a complex conception of drama (nātya) consisting of objective and subjective features. There is elaborate discussion, on the one hand, of the characteristics of the playhouse, different kinds of plays, different and complex gestures and movements, rules of prosody, metre and music, use of language, style of characters, costumes and ornaments. On the other hand, there is also discussion on emotions and causal mental states, mutuality of emotions and mental states, rapport between actor and spectator, mental and physical nature of the actor and the spectator, preliminary mystic rituals for effective representation, and the ultimate goals of drama. There is a structural rigidity as to the epistemology, and openness about the subjective expression of the actor , relationship between the actor and the spectator and the goals of drama.
More in: Menon, S. 2011, A first-person approach to aesthetic emotions in Natyasastra
In: R Narasimha and S Menon (Eds.), Nature and Culture, PHISPC and Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, pp. 259-270
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