The Narrator asks that Ganesha blesses the performance that he and the assembled company are about to perform, and then tells the audience that the play is set in Dharmapura, before introducing the central characters, close friends Devadatta and Kapila. A scream comes from pffstage and an actor runs on screaming that he has just seen a man with the head of a horse and a human voice. He tries to pull it off but realizes it is a real head. The creature is called Hayavadana and he explains that he is the son of a princess and a god in equine form.

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The plot of Hayavadana comes from Kathasaritsagara, an ancient compilation of stories in Sanskrit. The original story poses a moral problem whereas Mann uses it to ridicule the mechanical notion of life which differentiates between body and soul. He ridicules the philosophy which holds the head superior to the body. The human body, Mann argues, is a device for the completion of human destiny.

Even the transposition of heads did not liberate the protagonists from the psychological limits imposed by nature. Their relations get complicated when Devadatta marries Padmini. Kapila falls in love with Padmini and she too starts drifting towards him. Kali understood each individuals moral fibre and was indifferent than the usual stereotypical portrayal of god and goddesses.

The result is a confusion of identities which reveals the ambiguous nature of human personality. But slowly he changes to his former self. So does Kapila, faster than Devadatta. But there is a difference. Padmini, after the exchange of heads, had felt that she had the best of both the men, gets slowly disappointed.

Of the three only she has the capacity for complete experience. She understands but cannot control the circumstances in which she is placed. Her situation is beautifully summed up by the image of river and the scarecrow in the choric songs. A swordfight that leaves both the friends dead brings the baffling story to end. The death of the three protagonists was not portrayed tragically; the deaths serve only to emphasize the logic behind the absurdity of the situation.

The animal body triumphs over what is considered, the best in man, the Uttamaga, the human heads! Karnad uses the conventions and motifs of folk tales and folk theatre — masks, curtain, dolls, and the story-within-a-story-to create a bizarre world.

His plays plot revolves around a world of incomplete individuals, indifferent gods, dolls that speak and children who cannot, a world unsympathetic to the desire and frustration, joys and sorrows of human beings. What is real is only the tremendous, absurd energy of the horse and its rider who move around the stage symbolizing the powerful but monotonous rhythm of life. He has the outstanding ability and the power to transform any situation into an aesthetic experience.

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Hayavadana Summary

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. Upon asking, he tells that while he was defecating, a horse taunted him by talking in a human voice.


Girish Karnad – Hayavadana – Summary & Analysis

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.

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