Who are the Rasikas? (Part 2)

The Nature of Rasikas

Say, you have an invite to a dinner at a relative’s house, which is loaded with laddoos and chirotis (sweets). M S Subbalakshmi’s concert is scheduled elsewhere, at the same time. Which one of them would you have chosen? If you choose to go to your relative’s house, they will warmly welcome you and you will be given a royal treatment. On the other hand, no one will acknowledge your presence in the concert. You will have to struggle to find a seat and make yourself comfortable amongst thousands of people. Which one will you choose? The one that is palatable to your taste buds or the one that is appealing to your ears and mind? The character of a true rasika is to give prominence to things that brings happiness and joy to his mind, and enriches his mind and soul.

T S Venkannayya was a rasika. We were once discussing about the bees, being jet black in color, their buzz, and their delight of being amidst the flowers. We thought that we will be able to witness the excitement of the bees during sunrise in Lalbagh[1], and decided to go there the next day. We woke up at 4am and ran to Lalbagh. We both were coffee addicts. But we completely forgot about it that day. After pleading with the gatekeeper, we went into the park around 4.30-4.45am and stood near the Surahonne (Indian-Laurel) tree.  After ten or fifteen minutes, we ran to the Pādari (Yellow snake) tree. After ten minutes, we stood near a Hippe (Honey) tree. At the crack of dawn, the first glimmering rays of sunlight were visible.  It became apparent that day that the poets of yore were accurate in their glorification of the bees.

Food eaten can be bland but the music that you listen to has to be laden with emotions. It does not matter if clothes are in tatters, but it is required to be around the fragrance of the jasmine. This is the opinion of a rasika.

Signature of Rasa

Rasa means to bring out essence. The flavor or quality of a substance which makes us yearn for more and more of that substance, is the rasa.

The signature of rasa is described in the Vedas as:

rasaggaṃ hyevāyaṃ labdhvā ānandī bhavati

The ecstasy experienced due to the guṇa-viśeṣā (special quality) or śakti-viśeṣā (special strength) of a substance is rasa.

It is common knowledge that a person who gives more importance to rasa is called rasika.

Rasika in interested in the quality, rather than the quantity of a substance. He regards and respects the emotional aspect of the substance, instead of its commercial value.

The eminent personality, Sir M Visvesvaraya, used to eat just four morsels for a meal. But he used to relish the taste of each and every morsel. He used to call obbattu[2] as national delicacy. But he used to eat only a small piece from the central portion of it.  He was a true connoisseur of food. He did not want the food to be overly spiced or garnished. He just relished the natural taste of the core ingredients.

Metaphorically, rasika is the resident of “kingdom of mind.” It does not mean that he does not care for the physical realm. Without the body there is no mind. But for a rasika, what body experiences, is like branches of a tree, while what the mind experiences, is like its flowers and fruits.

Every house has a kitchen, dining room, store room. It also has a hall and a living room. We spend most of the time in the living room; that is where we have our lively conversations.

A rasika spends time in the physical endeavors, only as much as it is required. But he is more curious about the mind. Whatever that brings joy to the mind forms the essence of his life.

The same can be said in context of clothes and jewelry. A beautiful girl from Kerala wore just a single jasmine flower over her thick black hair. Not an entire bunch of flowers. The contrasting backdrop of the thick black hair enhanced the brightness of the jasmine flower.  It also enhanced the beauty of her hair by two fold. 

Arcot Shrinivasacharya, had a unique way of listening to music. He used to hand-pick the musicians to perform for forty-five minutes to one hour. Within that short span of time, he just requested either one rāga or one kṛti[3]. He did not want a wide range of songs. He needed only a few, but a melodious few.

The essence of a pot of milk lies in either its cream or small-seed sized butter. This essence is what a rasika is after, not the entire pot of milk.

Rasikatā is Culturally Enriching

We perceive the world at two levels. The first is through the body, and the other is the mind. It begins with the senses. It then extends to the mind. Describing ānandā[4], upaniṣad-ācaryās[5] give an example of the happiness experienced by a young man who is hale and hearty, and also financially sound. They then ask to multiply that happiness hundred-folds and infer the feeling of brahmānandā[6]. This is a crude description. But the important takeaway is that our initial experiences of the world are through our senses. Our senses are the means through which we measure all our experiences. Sensual happiness is momentary. But if that happiness manifests into our mind and soul, then the effect is everlasting. This effect is called rasikatā. Rasa first enriches the mind and then extends to our life. In this way, rasa is culturally enriching. It rejoices our mind and helps in evolution of our life by inculcating mannerisms like tenderness, humility, patience, decency, and magnanimity. For this reason, music and literature that fosters rasikatā, is highly valued in our society.

This is the second part of a two-part English translation of the twenty-first essay in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 2) – Kalopasakaru. Edited by G S Raghavendra.



[1] A huge park in the south of Bangalore city.

[2] Sweet-stuffed rotis (Indian flat bread).

[3] A musical form in South Indian classical music.

[4] Happiness, joy, bliss.

[5] Teachers who are experts in the Upaniṣads, the ultimate portion (and essence) of the Vedas.

[6] Eternal bliss or the divine state of being.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Varuni KS has a masters degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently based out of Chicago, IL. She is trained in South Indian classical (Carnatic) music and has an abiding interest in Kannada literature.


Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...