In 1993 Rahel approaches the Ayemenem temple, where the kathakali performers are asking forgiveness of the gods for their tourist-friendly act at the hotel. Kochu Thomban, the Ayemenem elephant, is tethered outside. Rahel enters the temple, where the story has already begun. This doesn’t matter, because the “Great Stories” are already familiar, yet you still want to hear them over and over. The narrator describes the Kathakali Men who tell stories of the gods, love, and obscenity. These days kathakali is no longer a viable career path, so the performers have turned to tourism.
The Kerala that Roy portrays in 1993 is quiet but stagnant, living in the aftermath of political upheaval and personal trauma. The great Hindu myths and the deeds of the History House are now repackaged for tourist consumption, losing their complexity and tragedy. The kathakali story begins in the middle, the “Great Stories” cycling back over themselves in a similar way to the novel.
Rahel watches the story of Karna, and the actor playing Karna is high. She muses that his struggle is not to portray the part but to escape it – he is already Karna, the god whom the world abandons, who was raised in poverty. In the story, Kunti, Karna’s mother, appears and reveals how after he was born she put him in a reed basket and sent him down the river, as she was unmarried and couldn’t keep the baby.
Karna is associated with Velutha in that he is abandoned and betrayed by the world and even his own family. The baby in the reed basket is similar to the Biblical story of Moses, but also to Ammu “returning” Estha because she can’t afford to keep him.
Karna joyfully reunites with his mother, but then he learns that Kunti is only there to make him promise not to kill his brothers, who had insulted him. Rahel then notices that Estha has entered the temple as well. They stay all night as the performance continues, ending with Bhima and his bloody quest for vengeance. As the performer brutally “kills” Bhima’s rival Dushasana, the twins recognize the mad violence as the same violence from the Terror.
Bhima must kill Dushasana because Bhima’s wife had promised to wash her hair in Dushasana’s blood (he had humiliated her earlier by dragging her by the hair). The madness of extreme violence, the point where someone becomes ecstatic in their brutality, reminds both twins of Velutha’s death.
Dawn breaks and Comrade Pillai wakes up, greeting the twins as they pass by on their way home. Ironically it was Pillai who first introduced them to kathakali, and the story of Bhima who searches for “the beast that lives in him.” The narrator muses that men are more savage than any beast.
Roy begins to foreshadow violence and tragedy in a more specific way, now that the “Terror” approaches in the narrative. Again the narrator points out unlikely connections between characters and events.