Indian literature is a vast mirror in which one sees the reflection of dramas happening inside and outside the lives of people who speak different languages. Mulk Raj Anand is right in his opinion that heritage lies in the lovely lyric poetry of the Vedas, in the pithy sayings of Upanishads, in the Ramayana, in the MahaBharata and also in the classical dramas of Kalidasa, Bana, Harsha and Sudraka  . Today, instead of Sanskrit we have many regional languages. Its longevity and the various influences due to an eventful past have enriched it. In the recent past it has branched out into the other regional languages and English. Commenting on an anthology published by Sahitya Akedmi Dr. Radhakrishnana said: ‘There is a unity of outlook as the writers in different languages derive their inspiration from a common source and face more or less the same kind of experience, emotional and intellectual . Our country has never been sensitive to ideas which come from abroad but gives to all of them its own peculiar turn and imprint.’  The Vedas, Upanishads and the eighteen Puranas in Sanskrit and in the Indo-Aryan language, is perhaps the oldest recorded language of the world. The Vedas are considered the oldest extant literature. The four Vedas comprise the Rig, Sama, Yajur and the Atharva Vedas. The Vedic period is pinnacle point of the Sanskrit literature with most of the intellectual and literary writings being written in Sanskrit. The Vedas collectively refer to a corpus of ancient Indo-Aryan religious literature that is considered by adherents of Hinduism to be revealed knowledge. The word Veda means Knowledge is cognate with the word ‘vision’ through Latin.
Each Veda differs in contents but together they can be considered as the guide to what modern Vedic scholars call as the way of living. The Rig-Veda consists of verses composed in praise of the different forces in nature worshipped as deities. Yajur-Veda contains information on the rituals like mantra recitation, sacrifices etc. Sam- Veda is said to be the guide singing the Rig-vedic hymns and is believed to be the premier work in Indian music. Whereas, Atharva-Veda comprises of philosophical discussion, medicine, diet and solutions to domestic problems. The two famous works that are synonymous to epic literature of India are Ramayana and MahaBharata. These two classical epics of India are written in ancient Sanskrit and present the most common ideals of human civilization that seem to have gone down the drain in the modern times. The value of truth, the importance of self-sacrifice, etc. that make an able individual are explained in much detail over here. The Indian epics are full of moral teachings and sacred discourses.
Sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayana centuries ago. It tells the story of Lord Rama, who was sent to an exile of fourteen years along with his brother and wife. He fights a battle with the demon king Ravana of Lanka who had abducted his wife Sita. The epic is full of morals and thought provoking lines that make you realize the importance of being truthful always and never deter from the path of good. The devotion of each and every character in this epic is commendable and we all have something to learn from this epic.
The MahaBharata is another famous Indian epic that is a treasure in the Indian epic literature. Written by the famous sage, Ved Vyasa, this epic talk about the importance of following one’s assigned duties in life. It talks of deceit, lies and other vices and yet tells how the good always emerges triumphant over the evil. The MahaBharata story is much revered in India and basically among the Hindus. It contains the Bhagawad Gita, the famous gospel of duty that was taught to the great warrior, Arjuna by Lord Krishna.
The MahaBharata is a brilliant portrayal of ancient politics and show how people let go off their morals for selfish means.
Sanskrit rhetoricians distinguish Kavya into two kinds: Drsya (that which can be seen) and Sravya (that which can be heard). In drama, Drsya takes predominance over Sravya. It is because of its capacity to afford a two-fold pleasure that drama is considered as the best form of literature. Kalidasa, the veteran of Sanskrit drama, says: “Sages declare it to be a charming sacrificial feast for the eyes of the Gods. Siva bisected it in his own person which is made one with Uma.”  Here we can see actions of the world arising from the three qualities (Satva, Rajas and Tamas) and distinguished by various sentiments. Drama, though single, is a manifold entertainment for people of diverse tastes. According to Bharata, Brahma created a fifth Veda called Natya was for the benefit of all classes of people. For the composition of his work, he took Pathya from the Rig Veda, Pathya Gita from the Sama Veda, Abhinaya from the Yajur Veda and Rasas from the Atharva Veda.
When we use the word Indian poetics we mean Sanskrit poetics which laid tenets and laws for different literary forms and literature in general. India has rich literary traditions. In India, literature was never viewed different from life and spirituality. Though Indian view point often seems to be analytical, it is never fragmentary. Usually, we understand Poetics as an internal theory in a literature. It explains and defines the unity and also the variety of literary works. It lays down certain models that can be applied to different literary works to know their commonness and their distinctions. The object of poetics is not any particular work but the general principles that can help us in explaining and analyzing the works of art. This means that poetics is concerned with literary discourse. Literary theory is quite ancient in India. Panini, a Seventh Century B.C grammarian refers to literature as fourth category of discourse. He talks of similarity describing similes and metaphors. Bharata can be called the true pioneer of literary work in Indian Poetics. He being a Second Century B.C scholar in his Natyashastra expounds the source text of the theory. Natyashastra deals with the theory of Rasa which has been interpreted and more re-interpreted in various manners by various thinkers and scholars during the next two thousand years. Bharata, Vamana, Dandin, Rudrata, Anandavardhana, Mahima bhatta, Kunataka, Bhoja, Abhinavagupta, Viswanatha and Pandit Jagannatha constitute a long tradition of thinkers. Indian intellectual tradition is marked by the continuity and cumulativeness. This means that there are source texts, primary texts and commentaries. Commentaries known as bhasaya play a very important role in Indian intellectual tradition as they are oral and language centered. Sabda or word is given the status of Bhrahma.
In Indian philosophy knowledge is not the end but means to attain Moksha. True knowledge or learning must lead to conquest of self or ego which is a liberation or ‘moksha’. The Indian philosophy believes that diversity or multiplicity is external but there is innate oneness and non duality. This non duality is both in word and Brahama.. Sabda is basic but it has roots and affixes like causes (vibhaktis), and form of words in plurals etc.
In Indian poetics, different theoreticians and schools differed as to what the soul or essence of poetry is. They have used the word atman which stands for essence or life spirit as opposed to physical body. In this context various schools in Sanskrit poetics and their views regarding essence of poetry can be discussed.
The first being, the Alamkara school is the earliest school that studies the literary language. The Alamkaras are the mode of figurative expression and Bhamaha is the first of Alamkara poetician. In Anandvardhan, alamkara integrates with Dhwani and Rasa. Dhwani is a form of suggestion that can be evoked by figures of speech and thus it produces an aesthetic experience which can be called Rasa. Anandvardhana speaks about alamkara but he makes it subservient to Rasa and breaks a new ground in Sanskrit poetics.
Second is the Riti School and Vamana is the innovator of this school, whereas Riti is a theory of language of literature which Bharata in his Natyashastra describe as ‘vritti’. The Riti according to Vamana is the soul of poetry as he speaks of three Ritis- Vaidharbhi, Gaudiya and Panchali. Vaidarbhi consists of all the ten gunas, Gaudiya consist of two Gunas – Oias and Kanti. Panchali is characterized by Madhurya and Sakumarya. Vaidharbhi is full of pleasant and easy flow of consonants. Gaudiya is a bolder form while panchali stands between the two. According to Vamana, Vaidharbhi is the best as it consists of all the gunas.
The third school in school of thought is the Dhwani School. The Dhwani theory was founded by Anandavardhana. He announced that Dhwani is the soul of poetry. He said that the element of Dhwani whether prominent, subordinate or indistinct is necessary in every type of poetic beauty. There is no poetry unless it has Dhwani and Anandavardhana incorporated and revised the theories of alamkaras , guna, riti and Rasa in light of Dhwani theory.
Vakrokti is another remarkable school of poetics in Sanskrit. It is a theory of language in literature. It means oblique utterance or markedness of language. Kunataka, being the pioneer of this school made Vakrokti a full fledged theory of literariness. According to Kuntaka, ‘Vakrokti’ is a striking mode of speech born out poetic proficiency. This theory is a useful framework for stylistic analysis of literature. Kuntaka in fact incorporates Rasa, alamkara, riti and guna theories into this theory of vakrokti and he also declares that that Vakrokti is the soul of poetry.
Guna/Dosa school examines poetic excellences (guna) and defects (dosas) both in form and meaning. Dandin took a wider view and incorporated the concepts of Rasa and riti in this conception of guna and dosa. According to him guna and dosa are the primary attributes of any literary composition. After Dandin, Udhbhata tried to relate guna and dosa both in ‘alamkara’ and ‘riti’. Though guna and dosa remained an important component of literary theory and it never acquired the status of full fledged independent school. Aucitya school expanded the theory of propriety or appropriateness in all literary compositions. This theory has certain affinities with Longinus theory of the sublime. Anandvardhana relates this principle specifically to Rasa. It has been used for depicting appropriate Bhavas according to the characters. The language, the choice of words should be according to the speaker, content and type of literary composition. The most important school is the Rasa School and Rasa theory originated by Bharata in his Natyashastra. The meaning of the word Rasa is literary experience based on various emotions. Bharata is the first theorist to propound this theory. Rasa can be called the cardinal principle of Indian aesthetics. Literally, it means taste, sap, flavor, relish, sentiment or aesthetic emotion. Rasa is the most important element in Kavya. The importance of the Rasa is clearly expressed in the works of the Alankara Sastra, by calling it the ‘Atman’ (the soul), Angin ( the principle elemtent), ‘Pradhana-Pratipadya'( a thing to be mainly conveyed), Svarupadhyaka( that which makes a composition a Kavya), and Alankara( a thing to be embellished) etc. Rasa is discussed in almost all the works on AlankaRasastra directly or indirectly. But it is surprising that in the long history of two thousand years, no independent work which deals with the Rasa Siddhanta exclusively as in theory, is available. Some of the small works like Rasatarangni, and Rasapradipa etc. through dealing with the Rasa exclusively , don not discuss Rasa as a theory, but only describe the different varieties of the Rasa with some of their subdivisions, giving their definitions and examples. There is no work which contains the critical analysis of the history of the development of Rasa theory. Independent works are written on Rasa, in Hindi and other, Indian languages, which are of course valuable but there also importance is given to present Rasa Theory in a garb easily understandable to modern mind, relegating the critical estimate of its historical development to the back position. On an examination of the works on Indian Literary criticism from historical point of view, it is clear that Rasa is discussed in three aspects i.e as an element, as a theory and as a literary school. Like the Dosa, Guna, Alankara, Riti, Vritti, and Pravritti etc. Rasa is also an element in Kavya which is mentioned in clear terms in Ramayana and MahaBharata, and in different manner in Vedic Samhitas. Thus the history of Rasa, which is an element responsible for calling a work with name Kavya is as old as the Samhita of the Rig Veda. As a theory (siddhanta) Rasa is discussed for the first time in the sixth and seventh chapter of Natyasastra of Bharata. Though it is sated by Rajasekhara, in the introduction of the Kavyamimamsa that Nadikesvara is an authority on Rasa but no work on Rasa by that author has come down to us. His only work known to us is Abhinayadarpana. Theory of Rasa as presented by Bharata is purely technical and scientific without any philosophic complications. Giving the example of the well known condiments he explains that just as men take the food dressed with the condiments experience the different tastes and enjoys them, so also a Sahrdaya, a man of fine taste, experiences the Rasa in a Kavya and enjoys great pleasure. The experience itself of the Sthayibhava (the abiding emotion) associated with the Vibhavas( the stimulus and stimuli), Anubhavas (emotional reactions) and the Sancaribhavas (the passing moods) presented in a Kavya, is the experience of Rasa. It is called Rasa because it is enjoyed. This enjoyment is bought by the experience of the Sthayibhava like Rati (love) etc, latent in one’s own mind. The Stahyibhava which are fundamentally four in number, are only the mental sates, Vikasa (expansion), Vistara (spreading), Vistara (spreading), Ksobha (excitement) and Viksepa (distraction) and they are names in the Kavya as (love), Utsaha (high spiritedness), Krodh (anger) and Jugupsa (disgust). As each one of these mental has one subordinate state the total number of the mental sates comes to eight, on the basis of which eight Rasas are accepted.
According to some modern scholars this discussion on Santarasa is a later interpolation. But as a detailed commentary of Abhinavgupta,on this section is available it has to be accepted as existing long before Abhinavagupta’s time(1000 A.D). Bharata Natyasastra is written in a Purannic style in the form of a dialogue between the teachers and taught. At the beginning of the work, the removal of misery (Duhkhapanodana) is said to be the purpose of this work. In his discussion on Rasa, Bharata has nowhere used even the word Ananda, let alone the use of the phrase Brahmananda-sahhodra (experience at par with the experience of the Supreme Being). In some of the statements in the Natyashastra, there are some contradictions. After raising a question whether the Rasa comes to existence through the Rasas, it is said that Rasa is produced by Bhavas but not the Bhavas by the Rasa. In the same context it is said afterwards that Rasas and Bhavas come into existence by mutual help. Bharata has mentioned eight Sthayi-Bhavas, eight Satvik bhavas and thirty three Vyabhichari-bhavas, the total number of which comes to forty nine. Panditaraja Jagannatha raised a question regarding the number of Bhavas and said it is only based on the tradition set by Bharata. But it appears to be based on some scientific significance as is explained in Avaloka, the commentary on Dasarupka. This is the summary of the material on Rasa available on Natyasastra and it is difficult to decide how much of it is the contribution by Bharata and how much is taken from earlier works. As for the question of the place of Rasa in a Kavya or Natya is concerned Bharata feels that they (Kavya and Natya) should replete with Rasa like a garden which is covered by flowers in the spring season.
Bhattalollata appears to be the follower of the Mimamasa system. Taking the clue from the theory of Apurva from the Mimamsa, he has developed his Theory of Rasa. When sacrifice ordained by the Veda is performed an Apurva which is otherwise known as Adrsta is produced which gives enjoyment of the result to the yajamana, the performer of the sacrifice. In same manner a new thing called Rasa is produced by the causes like Vibhava etc and is experienced by the man of taste. Thus Rasa is nothing but an experience, is the result produced by the action of Vibhavas etc. the place of its birth is the persons like Rama who are being imitated, but it appears as though it is associated with the imitator (the actor). The place of its experience (the man who experiences it) is the spectator who is a man of fine taste. Abhinavagupta has explained the process of Rasa experience on the basis of Vyanjanavrtti (the power of suggestion). Without giving much importance to these questions (whether Rasa is produced or inferred etc) he has tried to explain the nature of Rasa experience. In this context the first thing he said is that the Rasa experience is not an objective experience but is subjective. In other words, the experience of the self (Atmanubhuti) itself is the Rasanubhuti (Rasa experience) and is called Svatmaparamarsa (contact with one’s own self) by Abhinavgupta. His argument is as follows:- the planet Rahu cannot be ordinarily seen with our naked eyes, but when it passes through the region of the sun or moon, it can be seen by everyone. This is the nature of the Atmatattva (self) also which is beyond the range of the senses. It reflects on the mind with the Sattvaguna predominant when it becomes the object of experience for every person. The state lasts for a long time in the Nirvikalpakasamadhi (the state of mental concentration with no distinction of the knower, the known and the knowledge), but this can be there for a moment when the mind is concentrated on the worldly objects.
The poetic experience is midway these two states. the emotions like the Rati (love), latent in the mind of spectator, can be roused by a Kavya when the Sattvaguna becomes predominant, in the mind and capable of having self experience (Atmanubhuti). Immediately after the cognition of the Vibhavadi, there will be a kind of identity (Tadatmya) with the things described. In a accordance with the peculiarity of the impressions (Vasanas) of the Vibhavadi that are there in mind, there comes the blissful experience of the self and this experience is called Rasa. In other words the experience of the emotions like the Rati etc associated with the consciousness (Caitayana) is the Rasa. The Rasa is nothing but the contact with one’s own self is entirely different from the worldly pleasure; and so it is called the Alukika transcendental. In the ordinary life one gets pleasure (Harsa), which is a kind of modification of the mind (Cittavrtti). But the experience of one’s own consciousness, brought about by a Kavya is not produced by the Vibhavadi but only suggested by them. Abhinavgupta is a great exponent of the importance of the Rasa. According to him the Rasa is the essence of Kavya, it is its soul (Atman).
The discussion of Rasa would remain incomplete both historically and philosophically if the Bhaktirasa established by Rupagosvami is not referred. The Visnubhakti movement of Chaitanyamahaprabhu has influenced not only the minds of the people but also the whole Indian Literature of that period. As a result of this an extensive literature connected with the Visnubhakti was developed in Sanskrit also along with it in the regional languages. Rupagoswami, the chief disciple of Chaitanya has given interpretation of the Kavyas, based on Bhakti. He introduced Rasas like Santa, Priti, Preyas, Vatsala, and Ujjvala etc. He opened a new chapter in the theory of Rasa by establishing the fact that Bhakti for god is most important for all Rasas. Rati for gods and the like is considered only as a Bhava according to Bharata’s arrangement. But Rupagoswami maintains that the Madhuri Rati for God which exists in the hearts of the devotees is a Sthayibhava, which after being intensified by the Vibhavas, Anubhavas and Vyabhcharibhavas is enjoyed as the BhaktiRasa. The Indian literary criticism has given the highest place to Rasa. Everything else like Alankara, Guna, Riti, Vritti and Pravrtti etc. finds place in a Kavya so far as it is useful for the Rasa.
Rasa signifies the aesthetic pleasure that the audience or readers of literary pieces experience while watching, listening or reading drama, poetry and other literary compositions. Rasa is in a way aesthetic emotion or the response to art. Bharata tries to give theory of Rasa in one sutra as he says:-
Vibhava anuubhava-vyabhichari-samyogad rasr nisapattihi. 
This means that Rasa develops from blending of vibhava, anubhava and vyabhichari. It manifests itself when the sthayibhava, the emotion of the reader is correlated with the following three aspects presented in the piece of creative literature that is excitant, ensuing response and transitory feelings as these three should combine into one. Rasa is one of those words in Sanskrit whose precise significance is as indefinite as its usage is widespread. In the history of Sanskrit Poetics, perhaps no other concept has given rise to so much controversy. According to the renowned poet-critic Anandavardhana, poetic creation is an expression of the aesthetic experience of the poet, and in this, Rasa represents the ultimate emotive experience evoked by the literary work. Bharata served to compile the meaning of the multifaceted word Rasa in a single sentence.
Rasyate Anena Iti Rasah (Asvadyatva) 
Thus, we use this word in association with the palate, or the transcendental experience of the saint, the delight afforded by art and so on, and in all this, the word indicates the pleasure that each class of people receive from their respective experience. Rasa could be said to be a two-fold experience felt by the creator and his expression through his art and the experience of the reader (Sahrdayas) who receive the art. The creator undergoes an emotion and is so overwhelmed by it that he seeks a medium for the expression of his feelings. The reader receives this emotion through the creator’s medium and thus undergoes the emotion felt by the creator. Thus the word Rasa is once again created by the creator and then is re-created by the reader. The extent to which the reader undergoes the emotion felt by the creator depends upon the intelligence of the creator in presenting it. The nature of our existence, which is a curious mixture of happiness and unhappiness is sought to be exactly represented in art media. For Lollota, Indian aesthetics is interminably based on the word ‘Rasa’. According to Bharata, Nahi Rasadate Kascidapyarthah Pravartate  i.e no meaning can proceed from speech in the absence of Rasa.
This proves the importance of Rasa in the aesthetics and literary criticism of India. Bharata, the first exponent of Rasa theory, is the well- known author of Sastra, the first Sanskrit book on drama, dance and music. According to him, Rasa is the essence of art. The Rasa sutra occurs in the sixth chapter of the Natyasastra as Vibhanuubhava Vyabicari Sayogada Rasanispattih. Most scholars claim that Bharata’s Natyasastra is the first book written on the Rasas. He is the oldest known exponent of the concept, though it can be seen from Bharata’s own work, that there were works written on Rasa even before the Natyasastra. Bharata himself has quoted a number of verses from books, thus The Indian proving that the concepts of Rasa had long been in existence before Bharata. One of them had been through the sisya parampara (tradition of disciples). Dr. S.K. Dey observes that: The idea of Rasa, apart from any theory was naturally not unknown to old writers and Bharata’s treatment would indicate that some system of Rasa, however undeveloped, or even a Rasa school, particularly in connection with the drama, must have been in existence in his time. Abhinavagupta says that the traditional verses that are found in the Natyasastra have been composed by the earlier scholars to define Rasa and Bharata, in order to strengthen his views, had incorporated them into his treatise  . Scholars such as Bhatta Lollata, Samkuka and Bhatta Nayaka wrote learned commentaries on Bharata’s Rasa-Sutra, and thus enriched and strengthened the views of Bharata along with the doctrine of Rasa: Their views have reached posterity through Natyasastra also deals with Rasa which is India’s peerless heritage, given to posterity by Bharata. Rasa is not only the soul of poetry and drama, but also of Music, dance and painting. It is considered to be a yardstick to measure the excellence of Art. In drama, when the spectators experience Rasa, emotions lose their usual worldly characteristics. The Rasa, in a play, is realized in detached contemplative mood. The Spectator’s egoistic self gets submerged and his emotions become universalized. This universalization explains the paradox of participation and detachment. Though the spectators take part in the pains or pleasures of the hero, they do not undergo the emotions to the extent that they would have done in real life. In sum, Rasa, being an aesthetic experience of both the creator and audience, comes alive only when truth join hands with the emotions of the heart and passes through the alchemy of imagination.