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The mystical number nine

Symbolic nine has great spiritual significance   | Photo Credit: A_M_faruqui

The number nine is often associated with a divine connotation in the mystical thought and religions across the globe from ancient times. There is both, negativity and positivity in this mysterious nine! Not to talk of the numeral 9, which is often cited as a ‘lucky number' for many these days!

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. And if the English saying that a cat has nine lives is to be believed, well the West is not far behind!

In Islam too, the significance of number nine is underlined which is almost akin to ancient Indian thought (Sanatana Dharma) speaking of nine openings for man as also the nine months gestation period for the birth which is of course common to all human beings!

In the ancient Mother Goddess concept, prevalent on this land way before the Aryans adopted it, there runs a popular narrative of the divine female power synonymous with creator of the universe, the embodiment of pristine purity and truth, annihilating the demons representing the evil forces.

The mother goddess wages a war for nine days to combat the potent rakshasas (satanic power) and bestow deliverance to the world in general.

On a more intellectual plane, the nine evil forces that trouble man are none but nine varied aspects of his own negative nature like ego, self-conceit, self depreciation and so on, that constantly divert him from the path of realisation, which is the ultimate goal. The divine mother is supposed to be our anchor who would steer us clear of succumbing to the evil in us! Nine being a significant part of the Indian psyche from time immemorial, the creators of our classical arts also found nine emotions or artistic moods that form a part of our expressions in life.

These nine moods or ‘navarasa' came to be associated with artistic expression in ancient Indian dance, music, drama, sculpture, painting and any mode of expression in art. If Bharata Muni's Natyasastra comes clear on the navarasa denoting nine bhavas or emotions, similar emotions were also defined and expressed in certain ragas (musical notes) or lyrics (kritis) as in sculptures or picture paintings.

Since our classical arts originated from the Hindu religion, each rasa or mood denoted a particular emotion and was bestowed with a particular colour with a particular deity presiding over it. Thus the prominent ‘Shringara rasa' denoted an encompassing love; hence a light green colour and Lord Vishnu as the presiding deity. He also presided over ‘Shanta' or peace with a light blue to denote it.

The ‘Hasya rasa' or mirth is supposed to be white in colour and Pramata is the deity; Lord Rudra presided over ‘Roudra rasa' or fury whose colour was justifiably red! ‘Karunya' or compassion /mercy had Yama ruling over it with grey as its colour; Lord Shiva was the deity for ‘Bhibatsa' or disgust depicted by the colour blue.

The emotion of fear ‘Bhayanaka' was ruled by the deity Kala whose colour is black. Lord Indra represented ‘Veera rasa' or valour (saffron) while ‘Adbhuta' or wonder had creator Brahma as its deity and yellow representing the emotion. There is no denying that later, ‘Vatsalya' (parental love) and ‘Bhakti' (devotion) also came to be adopted as important emotions in the scheme of artistic expression.

The classical treatise in dance also speaks of the mood or bhava evoked in these nine rasa like: rati (love), hasya (laughter), shoka (sorrow), krodha (anger), utsaha (exuberance), bhaya (scare), jugupsa (disgust) and vismaya (wonder). The theory of navarasa forms the aesthetic underlining of all forms of Indian classical dance.

In music, ragas like Kunthalavarali evoke fun and frolic (Hasya rasa) while ragas like Mohana emanate Veera rasa.

The popular Mayamalavagowla is synonymous with Kaarunya (Karuna rasa) while certain ragas like Dwijavanthi, Behag, Kamas or Kapi are innately romantic (Shringara) not to talk of the lyrical compositions wherein the bhava/mood is explicit.

The so-called artistic expressions owe their source to nature. For instance, the navarasa manifestation can be seen in the moods of the sea which can roar angrily at one time, run still and calm the very next, get into a frenzy at times, play around with its rippling waves steadily as it kisses our feet and so on.

The same is true of the other elements of nature. And what about us? Are we not the receptacles of nine moods?

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2021 11:45:08 AM |

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