Girish Karnad

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Hayavadana makes teaching easy.

The Bhagavata

In Hinduism a Bhagavata is a worshipper or devotee. In this play, the Bhagavata serves as the narrator. He presents and interprets the action of the play’s main storyline, the story of Devadatta, Kapilaread analysis of The Bhagavata


Devadatta is one of the two heroes of the play’s main storyline. His name means “god-given,” and the Bhagavata describes him as “fair in colour” (the actor who portrays him wears a white mask)… read analysis of Devadatta


Kapila is one of the two heroes of the play’s main storyline. His name means “reddish brown,” as his skin is dark and he is the son of an iron-smith. As a counterpart to Devadattaread analysis of Kapila


Padmini is the spark that ignites the rivalry between Devadatta and Kapila. She marries Devadatta because she loves his mind, but she quickly realizes how sensitive Devadatta is when she makes harsh, teasing comments… read analysis of Padmini


Hayavadana’s name is apt, as it literally means “horse face.” Hayavadana interrupts the main action of the play to explain his origin story to the Bhagavata. He is the product of a marriage between… read analysis of Hayavadana
Get the entire Hayavadana LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hayavadana PDF


Padmini’s son, who appears onstage as a young boy at the very end of the play (where as an infant the character is represented onstage by a wooden doll). The first actor explains that his… read analysis of Boy


A Hindu goddess of death, Kali appears as various characters go to her temple throughout the play. Devadatta sacrifices his head to her, and Kali interrupts Padmini as she tries to kill herself as well… read analysis of Kali
Minor Characters
In the second act, Padmini and Devadatta buy two dolls for their infant son. The dolls are played by young children onstage. They note that Devadatta’s strength fades over time, and they narrate Padmini’s dreams to the audience as she longs for Kapila.
Female chorus
Along with the Bhagavata, the chorus helps to narrate some of the inner action of the play, particularly describing Padmini’s feelings about love and being torn between two men.
Actor I
An actor in the company that puts on the play. He discovers Hayavadana at the beginning of the play and is terrified by the half-horse, half-man. At the end of the play, he returns with a young boy, who is revealed to be Padmini’s son.
Actor II
Another actor in the company. He discovers Hayavadana after his body has transformed into a horse’s body.