Oxford University Press
Kapila and Devadatta
A Man’s search for his own self among a web of complex relationships, Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana was influenced by Thomas Mann’s The Transposed Heads, which in turn is borrowed from one of the Sanskrit Kathasaritasagara stories. Culture defines society and Karnad’s plays are a reflection of the culture in our society. Focusing on our folk culture, he takes inspiration from mythology and folklore. With Hayavadana, Karnad has taken us back to the myths and legends of the Hindu religion.
The main plot of the play begins with Kapila, who finds his best friend Devadatta despondently dreaming about Padmini. Kapila, who is a Kshatriya, is a wrestler whereas Devadatta is a learned Brahmin and poet but is physically weak. Kapila goes to arrange Devadatta’s marriage to her and realizes that Padmini is as clever as she is beautiful. Although Kapila is attracted to her, he arranges the match, and Devadatta and Padmini are married.
After the wedding, Padmini finds herself getting attracted to the strong-bodied Kapila, and Devadatta is consumed by jealousy. A few months into the marriage, the three travel to Ujjain. On the way, they rest between two temples, one devoted to Rudra (The Howler-a form of Shiva) and the other to Kali. Devadatta decided to offer himself to Kali, but Kapila too is not left behind. The two men behead themselves in the Kali temple. The pregnant Padmini, afraid that she might be blamed for their deaths, then decides to kill herself. However, Kali stops her and offers to bring the men back to life. Padmini rearranges the heads so that Devadatta’s head is on Kapila’s body and vice versa and asks the goddess to do her magic.