Act 1 The play opens with a puja to Ganesha, as the Bhagavata asks that Ganesha bless the performance that he and the company are about to put on. Then he places the audience in the setting of the play, Dharmapura, and begins to introduce the central characters. The first is Devadatta, the son of a Brahmin who outshines the other pundits and poets of the kingdom. The second is Kapila, the son of the iron-smith who is skilled at physical feats of strength. The two are the closest of friends. As the Bhagavata sets up the story, there is a scream of terror offstage.

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Unfortunately, most people are not aware of the spell bounding plays written by Karnad in Kannada language. Mann used mock-heroic tone to tell the story, whereas Karnad focuses on the incompleteness, twisting relations, humanity and the dark nature of humans to tell the story.

However, there is not much seriousness that one could observe in the play and everything goes as if every occurrence is normal. Hayavadana is written in two acts with the involvement of Bhagavata who is the commentator to the actions done in the play.

In the verses, the narrator talks of the incompleteness of God and declares that man is not wise enough to comprehend what is complete and what is incomplete! He says that people should accept God no matter the shape one visualizes Him. Bhagavata introduces the place and setting, which are announced as the city of Dharmapura ruled by the King Dharmasheela. The two lead characters are introduced — Devadatta and Kapila. Devadatta, son of Brahmin Vidyasagara, is considered a great scholar with wonderful poetic abilities.

Kapila, son of Ironsmith Lohita, is considered a daring personality with unbelievable physical skills. A scream is heard off the stage and Bhagavata pauses and carries on with the description of the two.

He says that Devadatta and Kapila are inseparable friends and live like brothers. Another scream comes from the same direction and the narrator wonders what is causing the disturbance. He sees an actor who is anxious and comes to the narrator. Words stutter from his mouth as he tries to explain something he has witnessed. After Bhagavata calms him down, the actor explains the strange thing he saw. He explains that he saw a horse that spoke when he was about to urinate on the road.

The actor says that the horse with a thick voice tells him not to commit such thing in public. Bhagavata asks the actor to leave the matter and prepare for the play. However, the actor says that he is too nervous to hold a sword and cannot act. Therefore, the narrator asks the actor to go back and find the talking horse [as an attempt to clear the confusion of the actor].

As Bhagavata tries to motion the play, the actor comes back shouting that it or he is coming. Bhagavata confused and worried about the discretion of the audience, he asks the curtain to be lowered and decides to inspect the matter before allowing the audience to witness it. Bhagavata discovers a strange being with the head of a horse and the body of a man. At first, he believes that the horse head is a mask and tries to remove to no use.

After a few futile attempts, Bhagavata realizes that the horse head is indeed real and the being is half-man, half-horse. Bhagavata enquires about the plight and asks whether it was because of the curse of a sage or because of discretion of pilgrimage or due to insulting a righteous wife.

The horse headed man interferes and says that it is not due to any of the reasons and feels sad for the accusations. Bhagavata tries to console and asks the name. He introduces himself as Hayavadana. The narrator asks about the head and Hayavadana says that he is born with the head. He was silent when they try to pull it [thinking of it as a mask] because he felt that the actors and the narrator with so much accumulated righteousness and virtues would be able to liberate him of the horse head.

The Princess of Karnataka was a very lovely girl who was allowed to choose a husband of her own choice. Many came to see her from far regions of the world like Africa, Persia and China. However, she did not like any of them. Then one day Prince of Araby came to see her riding on his white stallion.

She faints the moment she looks at the scene. King and the Queen decide that he is the right man for the Princess and make all the arrangements. The Princess recovers and announces that she is in love with the white stallion. She insists on marrying the horse and unable to dissuade her feelings, the wedding is done. She and the horse live together for fifteen years and the horse transforms into a celestial being. The celestial being or Gandharva is cursed by Kubera for misbehaving and he regains his actual state after leading the life where he could get human love.

After transforming into his former self, he offers the princess to come to the Heavens and live with him. However, she refuses and this act angers the celestial being.

He curses her to become a horse and she feels very happy about the curse. Gandharva leaves the palace and goes to Heaven, Princess becomes a horse and roams freely; whereas, the fate of the child born to them becomes questionable.

Hayavadana asks Bhagavata to suggest a solution. He names a number of temples and Hayavadana says that he has already tried them all. Finally, he asks Hayavadana to visit the Kali Temple of Chitrakoot. Hayavadana feels very happy and says that he will start immediately. As the two exit the stage setting out for the Kali Temple, Bhagavata comes back to the story of the two friends — Devadatta and Kapila.

Then, female chorus is heard representing the girl. The chorus sing in bewilderment about the state of love, where it is expected to happen with a single soul and compares it to a flower. The chorus desires a head for each breast without any shame or fear. Devadatta is shown sitting in a chair when Kapila approaches him questioning his absence at the gym. Devadatta seems preoccupied while Kapila brags about his wrestling match against a great wrestler of Gandhara. Kapila is delighted to say that the wrestler praised the technique of him and said that he would have a great future.

He observes that Devadatta is thinking of something else and questions him about the details. Devadatta reveals that he saw a girl and could not stop thinking of her ever since. Kapila is familiar with this sort of situations as Devadatta does this quite often. However, he feels by listening to the words of Devadatta that he is serious this time. He offers to help and knowing some details about the place of her living, Kapila leaves Devadatta to his thoughts.

But, Devadatta feels really tensed as he thinks that Kapila is not suitable for this type of job. He prays to God Rudra and offers him his head if everything goes right. He prays to Goddess Kali and offers her his arms if everything goes right.

Kapila enters the street mentioned by Devadatta and finds the house after a few trials. He knocks the door and sees the girl described so beautifully by his friend. He speaks aside and claims that she is more beautiful than the eternal dancers of the Heaven and the celestial incarnates who came to become humans. However, he does not lose track of his errand and announces that Devadatta wishes to take her hand in marriage.

Padmini blushes and calls for her mother; later, it is announced through Bhagavata that Devadatta and Padmini are married. Devadatta does not like the idea of the journey as it could upset the pregnancy.

Further, he says that tagging along Kapila will disturb his idea of being alone with Padmini. He emphasizes the fact that whenever Kapila is around Padmini reacts over enthusiastically and concentrates on him more. Padmini supports her reactions by saying that she likes to make fun of innocent Kapila.

Aside, Devadatta says that Kapila blushes in front of Padmini like never before and Padmini shows great affection without caring about her status. Aloud, he says to Padmini that Kapila is not used to woman and she understands the suspicion in his words.

They debate and finally decide to cancel the trip. Devadatta asks Padmini to go into a room and says that he would tell Kapila that she is ill. Padmini agrees and pretends to go into the room; however, she goes and stands in a corner as Kapila arrives.

Kapila brings a hired cart and apologizes for being late. As he goes on speaking about the cart and the problems he had to face for hiring one — Devadatta says that Padmini is sick and they have to cancel the trip to Ujjain. Kapila becomes silent, but recovers to say that he will send off the cart. Aside, Kapila feels very disheartened about the cancellation of the trip. He feels that the whole week would be in emptiness and he has nothing to do. Devadatta asks Kapila to sit to have a chat and Padmini comes in to their surprise.

She asks them why they are not doing preparations. Kapila asks about the illness and she says that the minor headache disappeared after taking medicine. She goes to Devadatta and pleads him to proceed with the trip. She says that Kapila has done so much over the week with the preparations that it would be unfair to cancel the journey. Devadatta could not say anything and accepts her wishes.

Padmini praises the driving skills of Kapila and reminds how awful Devadatta manages a cart. As they move, she looks at a tree and is attracted towards the flowers. As he climbs the tree, Padmini is attracted by the strongly built body of Kapila. Devadatta feels jealous as he observes the looks of Padmini towards Kapila.

He does not blame her as he knows that the body of Kapila is irresistible. Meanwhile, Kapila brings a heap of flowers for Padmini. Devadatta suddenly remembers his oath to the two deities. Kapila asks them to visit Rudra Temple, but Devadatta insists that he would stay put. After a few forward and backward debates Kapila and Padmini decide to visit Rudra Temple without Devadatta.


Hayavadana Summary by Girish Karnad

The play also deals with woman emancipation. Padmini gives preference to her sexual desires and gets an opportunity to remain with both the persons she loves though fails to fulfil her desire the mind of her husband and the body of her lover. Puja is done. He tells an anecdote of two best friends namely Devadatta man of mind and Kapila man of the body.


Girish Karnad – Hayavadana – Summary & Analysis

Kajora Probably the only character who shares my sentiments of rest and sleep. Hayavadana by Girish Karnad. Kapila sets out in his search and found him lying dead, he also beheads himself. If she were as dazzling as Trxt, the play would not have been able to align its politics in the right direction. It is a snare of entangled relationships even though there are only three bayavadana characters to the play. The playwright conveys the truth that the only thing that is constant is change and that the humans can never be complete. Playwrights whose creative energies were stimulated by Indian folk drama assimilated them variously in their plays.



Bhagwata comes to the stage. He is a character in the Play and also is the narrator of the play. He seeks blessings from Lord Ganesha for the successful performance of the play. Through his narration, he takes the audience to a place, called as Dharampur and introduces the audience to the king Dharmsheel. Then he puts up some rhetorical questions on incompleteness of man and God; and also on the perfection of a man. During his narration, he introduces two characters who are mutual friends.

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