Hayavadana

by

Girish Karnad

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Kapila Character Analysis

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 Devadatta, Kapila wears a black mask, and the Bhagavata describes how “in deeds which require drive and daring, in dancing, in strength and in physical skills, he has no equal.” Kapila is a devoted friend to Devadatta, and goes to find out Padmini’s name on his behalf. However, Kapila quickly realizes that Devadatta is no match for Padmini, and that instead she needs a “man of steel” like himself. His feats of physical strength continue to impress Padmini even after she and Devadatta are married. Even though he clearly has feelings for Padmini, he is also a loyal friend, and when Devadatta cuts off his own head out of jealousy, Kapila follows suit. Yet once their heads are switched, Kapila wastes no time in arguing that Padmini is actually his wife because he now has Devadatta’s body. When his arguments are unsuccessful, he abandons society to live in the jungle. He works himself back into shape physically, but is haunted by the memories that Devadatta’s body possesses. He agrees, along with Devadatta, to end his hollow existence by killing and being killed.

Kapila Quotes in Hayavadana

The Hayavadana quotes below are all either spoken by Kapila or refer to Kapila. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford edition of Hayavadana published in 1976.
Act 1 Quotes

Two friends there were—one mind, one heart. They saw a girl and forgot themselves. But they could not understand the song she sang.

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker), Devadatta, Kapila, Padmini
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

[Devadatta enters and sits on the chair. He is a slender, delicate-looking person and is wearing a pale-coloured mask. He is lost in thought. Kapila enters. He is powerfully built and wears a dark mask.]

Related Characters: Devadatta, Kapila
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

DEVADATTA: Kapila, with you as my witness I swear, if I ever get her as my wife, I’ll sacrifice my two arms to the goddess Kali. I’ll sacrifice my head to Lord Rudra…

KAPILA: Ts! Ts! [Aside.] This is a serious situation.

Related Characters: Devadatta (speaker), Kapila (speaker), Padmini
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Devadatta, my friend, I confess to you I’m feeling uneasy. You are a gentle soul. You can’t bear a bitter word or an evil thought. But this one is fast as lightning—and as sharp. She is not for the likes of you. What she needs is a man of steel.

Related Characters: Kapila (speaker), Devadatta, Padmini
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Why do you tremble, heart? Why do you cringe like a touch-me-not bush through which a snake has passed?

The sun rests his head on the Fortunate Lady’s flower.

And the head is bidding good-bye to the heart.

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker), Devadatta, Kapila, Padmini
Page Number: 24-25
Explanation and Analysis:

What a good mix!

No more tricks!

Is this one that

or that one this?

Related Characters: Devadatta (speaker), Kapila (speaker), Padmini (speaker)
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

KAPILA. [Raising his right hand.] This is the hand that accepted her at the wedding. This is the body she’s lived with all these months. And the child she’s carrying is the seed of this body.

Related Characters: Kapila (speaker), Devadatta, Padmini
Page Number: 36-37
Explanation and Analysis:

Of all the human limbs the topmost—in position as well as in importance—is the head. I have Devadatta’s head, and it follows that I am Devadatta.

Related Characters: Devadatta (speaker), Kapila, Padmini
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

You know, I’d always thought one had to use one’s brains while wrestling or fencing or swimming. But this body just doesn’t wait for thoughts—it acts!

Related Characters: Devadatta (speaker), Kapila
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

Kapila? What could he be doing now? Where could he be? Could his body be fair still, and his face dark? [Long pause.] Devadatta changes. Kapila changes. And me?

Related Characters: Padmini (speaker), Devadatta, Kapila
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

DOLL II: Especially last night—I mean—that dream…

DOLL I: Tut-tut—One shouldn't talk about such things!

DOLL II: It was so shameless…

DOLL I: I said be quiet…

DOLL II: Honestly! The way they…

DOLL I: Look, if we must talk about it, let me.

DOLL II: You didn't want to talk about it. So…

Related Characters: Dolls (speaker), Kapila, Padmini
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

KAPILA: The moment it came to me, a war started between us.

PADMINI: And who won?

KAPILA: I did.

PADMINI: The head always wins, doesn’t it?

Related Characters: Kapila (speaker), Padmini (speaker), Devadatta
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Isn’t that surprising? That the body should have its own ghosts—its own memories?

Related Characters: Kapila (speaker), Devadatta, Padmini
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

I know it in my blood you couldn’t have lived together. Because you knew death you died in each other’s arms. You could only have lived ripping each other to pieces. I had to drive you to death. You forgave each other, but again—left me out.

Related Characters: Padmini (speaker), Devadatta, Kapila
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Hayavadana LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hayavadana PDF

Kapila Character Timeline in Hayavadana

The timeline below shows where the character Kapila appears in Hayavadana. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...introduces the setting, the kingdom of Dharmapura. He then introduces the two heroes, Devadatta and Kapila. Devadatta, who is fair and handsome, is the son of a Brahmin and is a... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...short summary of the plot that is about to unfold: the two friends, Devadatta and Kapila, who are of “one mind, one heart,” met a girl (Padmini) and “forgot themselves” as... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
Devadatta and Kapila then enter the stage. Devadatta is described as a “slender, delicate-looking person” and he wears... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kapila asks his friend why he didn’t come to the gymnasium the night before. Devadatta is... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
...his love further. When he begins to reveal his feelings more fully through new poetry, Kapila eventually realizes that this girl must be particularly special. Devadatta is upset because he believes... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kapila offers to try to find the girl for him. Devadatta tells him that he had... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
Kapila goes to Pavana Veethi, the street of merchants. He passes many enormous houses, searching for... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kapila eventually asks Padmini if she knows of Devadatta. She asks what Devadatta is to Kapila,... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
...married quickly and the Bhagavata explains that the friendship between the two of them and Kapila continues to be strong. (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
The plot skips forwards six months. Padmini is pregnant and she, Devadatta, and Kapila are taking a trip to Ujjain. Devadatta reveals that he is he is nervous about... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
As they talk, Devadatta reveals his jealousy of Kapila and of the attention Padmini gives him. He thinks that she drools over him, and... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
...spend the day together instead, assuring Devadatta that she will not be too disappointed. When Kapila arrives, Devadatta tells him that Padmini is not well. Kapila privately expresses his disappointment that... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
The three of them set out in the cart, and Padmini remarks how smoothly Kapila drives the cart. She relates an anecdote about how, soon after they were married, Devadatta... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Padmini spots a tree with beautiful flowers, called the Fortunate Lady’s flower, and Kapila immediately dashes off to climb the tree and retrieve some of the flowers for her.... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kapila returns with the Fortunate Lady’s flowers. Padmini asks why the flowers are called that, and... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Kapila and Padmini decide to visit the temple of Rudra, but Devadatta, still upset, says that... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Devadatta says goodbye to Padmini and Kapila, and says to himself that he hopes they live happily together. Remembering his vow to... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Padmini and Kapila return from the temple of Rudra. They begin to worry about Devadatta when they cannot... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
...places their heads back on their bodies. Padmini, in her excitement, accidentally switches Devadatta’s and Kapila’s heads (in the play, this is accomplished with the masks). (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
When Kali revives Devadatta and Kapila, they (along with Padmini) quickly realize that something is wrong. Padmini explains what has happened.... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The argument between the two men begins to heat up. When Devadatta pushes Kapila aside to take Padmini home, Kapila asks Padmini if Devadatta would ever have been so... (full context)
Act 2
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
...the solution to the problem of the mixed-up heads. He describes how Padmini, Devadatta, and Kapila consult a rishi (i.e., a sage) about their problem. The rishi tells them that the... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...say it is someone who is “not her husband,” revealing that she is dreaming of Kapila. (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
In another part of the forest, Kapila enters, and the Bhagavata is surprised to see him living in the jungle. The Bhagavata... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Padmini finds Kapila in the forest. He confesses that he has worked hard to get his body back... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...surprised to see him, and reluctantly reveals that Padmini has now spent four nights in Kapila’s hut. (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Devadatta finds Padmini and Kapila, and the three are forced to confront their situation together. Kapila asks if they could... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...left behind. She wonders whether she should have said she would live with Devadatta and Kapila both, but acknowledges that they could not have lived together. She decides to perform sati... (full context)