Hayavadana

by

Girish Karnad

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The Bhagavata Character Analysis

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, Kapila, and Padmini. Although the Bhagavata is the play’s narrator, it is revealed over the course of the play that he is not in control of the story. First, Hayavadana interrupts the Bhagavata’s story. The Bhagavata is surprised to encounter this creature, and attempts to council Hayavadana on how to rid himself of his horse’s head before resuming his narration. In the second act of the play, after Devadatta and Kapila’s heads have switched and time has passed, the Bhagavata starts to speak directly to the characters. He is surprised to find Kapila living in the jungle and startled when Devadatta arrives at Kapila’s home to find Padmini. When Padmini decides to perform sati, the Bhagavata speaks to her directly and tries to dissuade her. Thus the Bhagavata’s arc reflects how the play’s plot developments become unexpected even to its narrator, and that the play itself demonstrates the chaos and unpredictability of life.

The Bhagavata Quotes in Hayavadana

The Hayavadana quotes below are all either spoken by The Bhagavata or refer to The Bhagavata. 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

O single-tusked destroyer of incompleteness, we pay homage to you and start our play.

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker)
Related Symbols: Masks
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Could it be that this Image of purity and Holiness, this Mangala-moorty, intends to signify by his very appearance that the completeness of God is something no poor mortal can comprehend?

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

BHAGAVATA: Hayavadana, what's written on our foreheads cannot be altered.

HAYAVADANA: [slapping himself on the forehead] But what a forehead! What a forehead! If it was a forehead like yours, I would have accepted anything. But this! I have tried to accept my fate. My personal life has naturally been blameless. So I took interest in the social life of the Nation—Civics, Politics, Patriotism, Nationalism, Indianization, the Socialist Pattern of Society. . . I have tried everything! But where's my society? Where? You must help me to become a complete man, Bhagavata Sir. But how? What can I do?

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker), Hayavadana (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

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:
Act 2 Quotes

What’s there in a song, Hayavadana? The real beauty lies in the child’s laughter—in the innocent joy of that laughter. No tragedy can touch it.

Related Characters: The Bhagavata (speaker), Hayavadana, Boy
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Hayavadana LitChart as a printable PDF.
Hayavadana PDF

The Bhagavata Character Timeline in Hayavadana

The timeline below shows where the character The Bhagavata appears in Hayavadana. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Bhagavata asks that Ganesha, who is the “destroyer of obstacles,” bless the performance and give it... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Bhagavata then sets up the action of the play. He first introduces the setting, the kingdom... (full context)
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
At that moment, an actor screams in terror, running onstage. The Bhagavata tries to calm him, saying that there’s nothing to be afraid of on the stage.... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Bhagavata does not believe the actor and tells him to get into costume and makeup. The... (full context)
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
The Bhagavata once again tries to return to his story, but the actor rushes back on, crying... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Bhagavata remains in disbelief and chides Hayavadana for trying to scare people with a mask. He... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
The Bhagavata asks Hayavadana who he is, and what brought him to this place. Hayavadana answers that... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
Hayavadana asks the Bhagavata how he can get rid of his head, but the Bhagavata replies that “what’s written... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Bhagavata suggests that Hayavadana go to various temples and try to make a vow to a... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Bhagavata returns to the story he had been trying to tell, providing a short summary of... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
The Bhagavata explains that a match between Padmini and Devadatta had no obstacles because both families were... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...Kapila taunts Padmini by saying that she only wants his body and Devadatta’s mind. The Bhagavata interjects, wondering what the solution is to this problem, and the curtain falls on the... (full context)
Act 2
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Act two opens with the Bhagavata repeating his question about the solution to the problem of the mixed-up heads. He describes... (full context)
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Time passes and Devadatta and Padmini’s baby is born. Devadatta addresses the Bhagavata directly for the first time, inviting him to the feast they are having. The Bhagavata... (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 tells Kapila that Padmini... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Devadatta, who has returned with new dolls, searches for Padmini and runs into the Bhagavata. The Bhagavata is surprised to see him, and reluctantly reveals that Padmini has now spent... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
...to fight to the death. Their fight is stylized, almost like a dance, as the Bhagavata sings. Kapila wounds Devadatta, who falls to his knees and stabs Kapila. They continue to... (full context)
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...She decides to perform sati and burn herself on their funeral pyre. She tells the Bhagavata to take her son to the hunters who live in the forest, and then once... (full context)
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
As the story seemingly concludes, the Bhagavata is interrupted once again, this time by a second actor who screams that he has... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
...laugh, or talk. He only reacts violently when someone tries to touch his dolls. The Bhagavata realizes that it is Padmini’s son. (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
The young boy starts laughing at Hayavadana, startling the Bhagavata and the actors. Hayavadana remarks that he was trying to sing the national anthem because... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
The Bhagavata remarks how beautiful the child’s laughter is, though Hayavadana is skeptical of that kind of... (full context)
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
The Bhagavata concludes the story by praying once again to Ganesha, and all the other characters and... (full context)