The Nine Affects and the Navarasa

The Nātyaśāstra of Bharata Muni (200 B.C.E.) lists eight rasa (emotional states). A ninth was added by the Tāntric scholar and aesthetic philosopher Abinavagupta. Actors and dancers were taught the facial characteristics of the nine emotions to be able to create an exaggerated face and therefore invoke emotion in the audience that correlated to the drama. The list of rasas are love/attraction, laughter, anger, compassion/sorrow, disgust, fear/terror, courage/valour, wonder/surprise, and the ninth is peacefulness.

Western science has found that there are nine root affects (though some scientists use only six). The nine affects are interest-excitement, enjoyment-joy, surprise-startle, fear-terror, distress-anguish, anger-rage, dissmell, disgust, and shame-humiliation. These affects show up in the facial expression of infants and are cross-culturally common to all humans. They correlate to the nine rasa (navarasa). In translation and correlation, the correct understanding of words is crucial, and a misunderstanding of particular terms can lose the inner meaning of what is being translated. Therefore, I explain the psychological terminology I am using to discuss the navarasa and the nine affects.

The English term affect means a biological pattern which triggers emotion and directs attention in a specific way.[i] For example, the affect of fear is experienced as the speeding up of the pulse and respiration, the face becomes cold, pale, sweaty, and immobile, there is a gripping sensation in the chest, the hairs stand, attention is amplified, and the eyes enter a fixed stare. That biological response is the affect of fear. These affects can be triggered by an experience as well as a memory, perception, an inner drive or a cognition.

A feeling is the awareness of an affect. An emotion is the subjective experience of an affect, or what is called the affect through the lense of our perception. An affect and feeling may last only a few second but an emotion will last as long as the memory lasts. A mood is a persistent state of emotion which remains for hours or days.          

Affect (Bhāva) Emotion (Rasa)
Pleasure (rati) Attraction (śṛñgāra)
to laugh (hasa) Laughter (hāsya)
Anger (krodha) Rage (raudra)
Sorrow (śoka) Compassion (kāruṇya)
Disgust (jugupsā) Disgusted (bībhatsa)
Fear (bhaya) Terror (bhayānaka)
Perseverance (utsāha) Valour (vīra)
Amazement (vismaya) Wonder (adbutam)
Peace (śānta) Peaceful (śānta)

The word rasa literally means the juice or sap of something. It also means the taste or flavour of something, and a sentiment or emotion. Rasa has many more meanings and is a very complex word. From the above definitions we would correlate its present use to emotion. The nine rasa are birthed from the nine bhāvas. Bhāva means a state or condition, as well as an occurrence or appearance. It is also a very complex word, but here we will correlate the intended use to mean affect. It is the condition from which the emotion is born. Affect is a communication, and through affective resonance others will begin to resonate with what we are experiencing.[ii] This was utilized since ancient times in drama and dance performance to take the audience on a journey through their emotions. If the actor or dancer can mimic the emotion they drag the audience in to the experience of their emotions.  

The first of the nine rasa, Śṛñgāra, means love or attraction and comes from the word śṛñga which means a horn, point or the summit. As the peak of a mountain, it represents a peak experience. It is often associated with romantic love, but applies to all forms of love, creativity, and beauty. Śṛñgāra also means decoration and that which beautifies and is that which attracts the eye.[iii] The emotion (rasa) Śṛñgāra arises from the bhāva of rati, which means pleasure, enjoyment and is often associated with sexual passion. These correlate to the affect of interest-excitement which on the low end of the spectrum draws one to something and makes it interesting, or on the upper end of the spectrum makes the mind completely focused on something. Interest-excitement adds urgency, makes the individual more alert and feel more alive. The face of excitement has a slightly furrowed brow with a steady gaze and partially open mouth.

Śanta means to be peaceful, tranquil or contented. It is associated with the affect of enjoyment-joy. This affect is triggered by the reduction in the level of intensity of any stimulus and produces a further reduction in brain activity. Narcotics and drugs that numb out sensation give a temporary experience of this affect of joy or the rasa of śanta.    

Adbhutam means wonder, amazement and surprise. The Sanskrit word for the bhāva and the rasa have very similar translations; wonder gives amazement or amazement gives wonder, or surprise gives amazement. It correlates to the affect of surprise-startle. Surpise-startle creates an immediate redirection of attention. It clears out the data assembly systems and creates instant readiness or awareness. Adbutam is utilized in Tantra and the arts as a way to redirect and empty the mind into a state of empty wonder (or awe) where beingness can be experienced.

Bhayānaka translates directly as fearful, terrible, or dreadful. It arises from the affect of fear/terror/dread (bhaya). It correlates directly to the affect of fear-terror. Fear amplifies attention and creates a rapid increase of data acquisition. The next rasa is Kāruṇya which means compassion or pity, which is invoked by the affect of sorrow/pain/anguish (śoka). In the spiritual use of the term it has the connotation of generous sympathy/empathy. The base word karuṇa means to be miserable, mournful, lamenting or distressed, and kāruṇya means to pity that suffering or be compassionate about it. It is sometimes associated with sadness. This bhāva/rasa is correlated to the affect of distress-anguish.  

Raudra literally means howling, roaring, terrible and has the sense of the word rage. It is invoked by the affect of anger (krodha) with which it is a direct correlation. Bībhatsam means disgust, aversion, or to detest. The affect of disgust relates to the gustatory (taste) system, as if something tastes repugnant. The Sanskrit words for the bhāva and rasa are different but the subtly is lost in translation. In the body reaction to this affect, the head juts forward with the tongue and lower lip protrude. The face most often used in the Indian arts is the face of dissmell (durgandha), not disgust.  

Two Variations

Seven of the nine affects of western science align with the nine rasa of Indian philosophy. The two that vary are vīra (courage) and hāsya (laughter, ridicule). Vīra literally means hero’s attitude, heroic, or manly. It arises from the bhāva of utsāha which means strenuous, perseverance, energy, and resolution. I have associated vīra with dissmell, which is the affect similar to disgust (negative gustatory experience), but related to bad smell. Primarily because of the facial expression.  

There are body postures and gestures associated with affects which have other utilitarian value, but the large amount of micro control over various muscles in the face have no other purpose except the communication of affect.[iv] Facial expression reflects the affects and emotions experienced by an individual, even those wished to be kept private.[v] The comparison of the facial expression, over what is stated, is therefore a key component of comparison of the western concept of affects and the nine rasa.

With vīra and dissmell, both draw the head back, and raise the upper lip and nose.  Dissmell is associated with haughtiness, as a way of looking down at people.[vi] This haughtiness can be seen in the warrior-hero looking down on others to create the proud feeling of them being bigger and better. There may also just not be a direct correlation, but I think they seem to point to the same root state of consciousness.         

The other affect that varies from the nine rasa is shame-humiliation, which I have associated with hāsya (laughter). Hāsya means laughter, and its nature is funny or ridiculous and it arises from the bhāva of hasa which means to laugh. Most people don’t think of shame when they think of laughter, but hāsya also means to ridicule which is related to shame.[vii] Research has shown that comedy/humour often relates to shaming someone or thing; ridicule. The face used in classical performance for hāsya is not a happy joyous face, but the face of laughing at someone. This could be said to be the affect of the experiencer to another’s shame. Some believe that hāsya is a happy and playful state. Therefore, this is not a direct correlation, and is a different approach to this area of affect.  

Lajjā is the Sanskrit word for modesty, bashfulness, shame and embarrassment.[viii] In Sanskrit, the root laj means ‘to fry’ or ‘to blame’. The fact that the same word for blaming also means frying indicates the nature of how being blamed feels. [A planet is Lajjita (feeling shameful) when it is conjunct a malefic planet: Sun, Mars, Saturn or the nodes. A planet is proud or arrogant when it is placed in its exaltation or mūlatrikoṇa sign.] Another word for shame, vrīḍā, is listed in the secondary emotions which could be indicating that shame was not considered a primary emotion or that there was a different interpretation of the emotion, as it is often associated with modesty which is one way that shame affects an individual. I hypothesize that they could have associated the intensity of humiliation with sorrow, similar to how Nathanson associates shame as a root of atypical depression.[ix]

Interestingly, hāsya is sometimes considered the opposite of vīra. In drama, the hero is strong and proud as opposed to the fool that gets laughed at.[x] The two rasa that are not quite correlating are related. Until there is more research or some further evidence, I will utilize this indirect correlation with the understanding that it is at a slight variance of classification.

Bhāva Theory

            There is a trigger, or a condition which excites the affect, which is called a vibhāva. This vibhāva is the cause (kāraṇa) of the affect (bhāva). It is composed of the excitant (uddīpana– that which inflames) and the supportive perception (ālambana). For example, the trigger (vibhāva) for shame might be having a cheap and old outfit at a gathering of people in expensive attire. The perception that one needs to have an expensive attire is required to generate the sense of shame associated with the cheap attire. The cheap attire would be the excitant (uddīpana) while the perception that an expensive attire is needed is the supportive perception (ālambana). Gandhi was quite happy in the clothing of commoners even meeting high dignitaries. There was no shame because of his perception that what he wore was proper. In this way, the biological affects may be cross-cultural but what causes them will vary according to the individual and culture. Most forms of western psychology put a large emphasis on the affect and emotions. Āyurvedic psychology places more emphasis on the supportive perception (ālambana).

            The body has a physical experiences of the affects. Eight variations were described and considered to be indicative of an affect (bhāva).[xi] These were described as rigidity/paralysis (stambha), perspiration (sveda), hair follicle change (romāñca), deviation of voice (svara-vikāra), trembling (vepathu), change in skin tone (varṇavikāra), shedding tears (aśru), and loss of sense or consciousness (pralaya). Western science has taken these aspects of the body’s experience of affect to a very deep level and has also been studying micro movements of the facial muscles. These physical traits and facial movements have indicated how the other emotions arise from these root nine emotions. Indian science has developed these affects in the realm of drama and poetry. A poem or story will take a long time elaborating the full experience of an affect-emotion.

            An affect is triggered by an excitant supported by the perceptual framework of the individual. It becomes a rasa as it is experienced by the individual. The nine root affects can also mix into all possible emotions. Guilt is a mix of shame and fear, while contempt is a mix of dissmell and disgust. Horror is a mix of fear, dissmell and disgust. Bhāva theory gives a list of thirty-four mixed/distorted emotions (vyabhicāri-bhāva), but there are many more.[xii]


            Affect is always directing attention. “Each of the… affects…produces its own quite specific form of attention and therefore its own form of consciousness.”[xiii]  Science has shown that interest-excitement gives attention to something with urgency. Enjoyment-joy decreases stimulation and relaxes attention. Surprise-startle clears attention in order to redirect it. Fear-terror amplifies attention. Affect directs attention and therefore determines where our attention and therefore importance is placed. Things become important enough to be called into attention when assembled with affect.[xiv]

            Understanding this level of affect is often used for deception, by those who are avoiding or lying and by the media. An individual avoiding a topic will change the topic to something else that triggers affect in order to change the subject in a way that the previous subject is given less importance. The media (in corporate and police states) utilizes this when there is something they do not want people to know. They make a big story about something else and focus on triggering the affect of people so that they place their attention into the story that is desired and avoid the topic which is not desired. In Yoga tantra, the use of affects can be utilized to control one’s state of mind instead of being controlled by it. Bhakti yoga utilizes the affect of love to direct the attention toward divinity.

            [Each planet relates to an affect and so the planets (graha) grab (grahaṇa) the mind and direct attention through this affect towards specific cognition and therefore action. Interest-excitement triggers memories of novelties. Joy reminds us of past happiness. Fear brings forth memories of frightening scenes from our past. The affect triggers cognition that reinforces and strengthens the affect.]   

Affect Planet Rasa Deity Color
Interest-excitement Jupiter Attraction (śṛñgāra) Viṣṇu Green
Enjoyment-joy Moon Peaceful (śānta) White
Surprise-startle Rāhu Wonder (adbutam)  Brahmā Yellow
Fear-terror Ketu Terror (bhayānaka) Time Black
Distress-anguish Saturn Compassion (kāruṇya) Death Warm grey[xv]
Anger-rage Mars Rage (raudra) Rudra Red
Dissmell Mercury Valour (vīra) Indra Light brown[xvi]
Disgust Venus Disgusted (bībhatsa) Śiva Blue
Shame-humiliation Sun Laughter (hāsya) Gaṇeśa White

Planets and Affects

I have given my correlations between the affects and the nine rasa to be able to utilize their colours and deities and understand the traditional views. Here I correlate the modern affects to the planetary influences in a way that fits much better than the planets to the nine rasa.

Interest-excitement relates to Jupiter as it is like gravity that pulls attention towards its focus. Interest allows one to focus and learn things as well as to remain stable in a relationship. Enjoyment-joy relates to the Moon and is the positive experience of life. Issues with the Moon damage the ability to enjoy one’s experience which makes room for other negative affects. A strong Moon allows other affects to pass and there to be an experience of joy in any situation.  

Surprise-startle relates to Rāhu and is shock on the extreme spectrum. It relates to diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder and other shock or trauma related disorders. There will be shock associated with any signification that Rāhu conjoins or aspects. Fear-terror and its anxiety and panic disorders relate to Ketu. Planets conjoin Ketu in the natal chart or transit will suffer fear-terror and panic (mahābhaya). The lord of the houses and the people they represent conjoined Ketu will suffer this as well.

Distress-anguish and their associated disorders of stress, melancholy and grieving relate to Saturn. Anything that Saturn associates with by natal placement or transit will suffer. Daśā will increase that suffering and bring situations that validate the need to feel suffering. Anger/rage relates to Mars. How anger is expressed is seen by the placement of Mars and its status. Interestingly, while Nathanson was studying affect he noticed that people who had issues with anger were often very muscular and strong.[xvii] He associated this with the clenching of anger instead of the simple association of Mars with strength.

Dissmell is associated with Mercury and Disgust is associated with Venus. Dissmell is associated with interpersonal rejection. Mercury is the planet that gets along with everybody (even his enemies). When Mercury is weak, there is prejudice and haughtiness. Disgust creates aversion to things we don’t like and is the root cause of divorce or inability to have a successful relationship when Venus is afflicted. Both dissmell and disgust are related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and a need to get rid of a dirty or unright feeling. Both dissmell and disgust are important in advertising, because they first tell you what you need to avoid and then tell you want you need (their product) to accomplish that.

Shame-humiliation is associated with the Sun. It is the opposite of Pride, and it is what pride fears, what pride protects itself from falling down to. During periods of an afflicted Sun, there will be circumstances of humiliation, especially is the ārūḍha lagna is also afflicted in the natal chart or transit.

In this way the affect system is related to the planets. Planets that are afflicted will indicate issues with their related affects. This correlation opens a new level of relating ancient astronomical knowledge into modern terminology and therefore is a doorway to further research with great potentials.

[i] All these definitions are based on Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 49-51.
[ii] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 107.
[iii] V.P. Dhananjayan, “Elaboration on Rasas”, A Dancer on Dance, Indian Dance (India: Bharata Kalanjali, 1991), Accessed 03 March 2015,
[iv] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 54-55.
[v] Dr. S. Ravi & Mahima S, “Study of the Changing Trends in Facial Expression Recognition” International Journal of Computer Applications (Volume 21– No.5, May 2011) Accessed 08 March 2015,
[vi] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 124.
[vii] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 135.
[viii] Other important Sanskrit words associated with shame help give a broader perspective. Hrī is to feel shame or embarrassment and to blush. It is often a lighter form of shame that makes the face blush. Trapā is be become perplexed as when one is shamed and doesn’t know what to say; shame makes one stutter and loss their train of thought. It can also be translated as bashful, in that one is too shy (ashamed) to speak up. Vrīḍā is the lowering of status or sense of self in the state of shame. Where hrīnirāsa or lajjārahita can mean shameless, or one having no modesty, that is not the level of shame associated with the humbleness or ‘bowing down’ that the shame of vrīḍā gives. Darpa is pride as arrogance and darpahara is shame as the destroyer of pride. Two other variations are naṭāntikā which literally means an actor or dancer killer. It means shame or modesty and is what kills an actor. I assume it is the shame that holds the actor back while on stage. Avadya literally means not-praised which refers to being a disgrace or shameful. It is more an external view looking down on an individual as inferior.
[ix] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride: Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1992), 147.
[x] Dr. S. Ravi & Mahima S, “Study of the Changing Trends in Facial Expression Recognition” International Journal of Computer Applications (Volume 21– No.5, May 2011) Accessed 08 March 2015,
[xi] The physical states were called sāttvika-bhāva and were believed to exist between the initial mental experience (also called a stāyi-bhāva) and the end emotion (rasa or anubhāva). For example, the anger (krodha) would trigger the body to tremble (the physical state) and then this would become the rasa/anubhāva of rage (raudra). Modern research has varying opinions about whether the mental state or the physical state comes first.
[xii] The thirty-four important mixed/distorted emotions (vyabhicāri-bhāva): dispondant/resigned (nirveda), fatigue of body/depression of mind (glāni), anxiousness (śaṅka), irritated/envious (asūyā), rapture/intoxication (mada), exhaustion/fatigue from work (śrama), idleness/sloth (ālasya), miserable/dreary (dainya), troubled thoughts (cintā), delusional/perplexed (moha), reminiscent (smṛti), steadfast/calm (dhṛti), shame/modesty (vrīḍā), inconsiderate/ rude (capalatā), excited/joyful (harṣa), agitated/hurried (āvega) stupidity/senselessness (jaḍatā) proud/arrogant (garva), dejection/disappointment (viṣāda), impatience/ anxiously desiring (autsukya), drowsiness (nidrā), convulsions (apasmāra), numbed or dull (supta), inattention (vibodha), indignation/unforgiving (amarṣa), (avahitthā), violent (ugratā), respected for intelligence (mati), fault finding (upālambha), tormented/plagued/sick (vyādhi), crazy (unmāda), dying (maraṇa), frightening/alarming (trāsa), and intimidated (vitrarka).
[xiii] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 76.
[xiv] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 114-115.
[xv] Dove coloured: warm gray with a slight purplish or pinkish tint.
[xvi] Wheatish-brown: a light yellow-brown or golden brown colour.
[xvii] Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride, 104.

Copyright Freedom Cole, The Nine Affects and the Navarasa, March 2015