Girish Karnad

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Themes and Colors
Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness Theme Icon
The Mind vs. The Body Theme Icon
Metatheatre and Storytelling Theme Icon
Indian Culture and Nationalism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hayavadana, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Identity, Hybridity, and Incompleteness

One of the common threads throughout Hayavadana is the recurrence of beings that are hybrids, with minds and bodies that are not ordinarily compatible. The play contains three “layers”: first, a ritual prayer; second, the plot concerning Hayavadana; and third, the actual “story” being presented about two men whose heads are accidentally swapped. Karnad uses these beings to demonstrate that incompleteness is an integral aspect of the human condition, and that although it is…

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The Mind vs. The Body

The most central plot of Hayavadana is the love triangle between Padmini, Devadatta, and Kapila. Devadatta and Kapila, who are best friends, both fall in love with Padmini, who in turn is attracted to attributes in each of them. The dynamics between the three characters dramatize the conflict between the mind and the body. The play shows that while the head may be more in control of the body and may follow…

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Metatheatre and Storytelling

Metatheatre describes aspects of a play that draw attention to its nature as a play. Though the “play within a play” is a common conceit, Hayavadana is unusual in that it has several layers: first, the play opens with a ritual to Ganesha, as the Bhagavata (a narrator-like character) asks Ganesha to bless the play that the company is about to perform. In the middle of this ritual, Hayavadana is introduced and he explains his…

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Indian Culture and Nationalism

Hayavadana is the most successful example of the “theatre of roots” movement in India. This movement began after India gained independence from Britain in 1947, and playwrights began to move away from Western dramatic conventions in favor of using regional languages and theatrical forms in their plays. Hayavadana itself is written in the regional Indian language Kannada and uses elements of Indian yakshagana and natak theater. Karnad uses these various theatrical forms within his play…

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