By Girish Karnad
The play is written featuring two primary characters, Devadatta and Kapila. The female lead is a woman called Padmini. Devadatta is a brahmin, endowed with mental agility and clarity of thought, and yet, he is physically weak. Kapila, on the other hand, belongs to the clan of Indian warriors (kshatriyas), and is physically powerful.
Hayavadana is the story of how both the men covet Padmini, and yet Kapila himself cannot marry her owing to caste differences, which are admirably portrayed by Karnad. So, despite the fact that he is enamoured, Kapila actually arranges for wedding ceremony between Padmini and Devadatta.
Although happy in her marriage, Padmini finds herself slowly being attracted to Kapila owing to his sheer physical strength, which is lacking in Devadatta. Hayavadana shows the conundrum created by desires, and how people react to them differently.
Apart from this primary plot, the big picture is actually a story of Hayavadana, a character from Indian scriptures who was born to a divine being and a princess. He was born with the face of a horse, and his parents thus hated his appearance. Karnad portrays an existential crisis of a similar nature, albet in a more contemporary setting.
How does Padmini deal with her newfound feelings for Kapila? And how does Devadatta react to this? Does he find out? What is the ultimate end of it all? Hayavadana explores the different possibilities, combining ancient Indian lore and folk mysticism with a modern perspective.
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