Monday, May 23, 2011


Actor I
Actor II
Doll I
Doll II

Hayavadana is one of Karnad’s most remarkable works. The plot of Hayavadana comes from Kathasaritsagara, an ancient compilation of stories in Sanskrit. The central event in the play-the story of Devadatta and Kapila- is based on a tale from the Vetalapanchavimshika, but he has borrowed it through
Thomas Mann’s retelling of the story in The Transported Heads.

The Sanskrit tale, told by a ghost to an adventurous king, gains a further mock –heroic dimension in Mann’s version. 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. Karnad’s play poses a different problem, that of human identity in a world of tangled relationships. When the play opens, Devadatta and Kapila are the closer of friends-‘one mind, one heart’, as the Bhagavata describes them. Devadatta is a man of intellect, Kapila a ‘man of the body’. Their relations get complicated when Devadatta marries Padmini.

Kapila falls in love with Padmini and she too starts drifting towards him. The friends kill themselves and in a scene, hilariously comic but at the same time full of dramatic connotation, Padmini transposes their heads, giving Devadatta Kapila’s body and Kapila Devadatta’s. As a result Padmini gets the desired ‘Man’. 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. Initially Devadatta- actually the head of Devadatta on Kapila’s body- behaves differently from what he was before. But slowly he changes to his former self. So does Kapila, faster than Devadatta. But there is a difference. Devadatta stops reading texts, does not write poetry while Kapila is haunted by the memories in Devadatta’s body.

 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 sub plot of ‘Hayavadana’, the horse-man, deepens the significance of the main theme of incompleteness by looking at it from different perspective. The horse man’s search for completeness ends comically, with his becoming a complete horse. The animal body triumphs over what is considered, the best in man, the Uttamaga, the human heads! Probably to make a point Karnad names the play ‘Hayavadana’, human’s search for completeness.

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.

Karnad’s work has the tone and expression of great drama. He has the outstanding ability and the power to transform any situation into an aesthetic experience. 


Anonymous said...

This summary is COMPLETE, bringing out the significance of the play and explaining the necessity of the nuances used.thank u for such a wonderFUL summary


yes, like this summary a lot

luxman said...

this is one of the gist s of the play in formal method . thank you for author

Anonymous said...

It is wonderful summary...V.D.

Anonymous said...

Really its a great note to understand.....

Anonymous said...


sravankumar said...

Ok I liked much