In this article, I’ll be exploring the themes of Hybridity and completeness. One of the most recurring themes in Hayavadana is the theme of incompleteness and Hybridity. Through this incompleteness, we learn that no matter how much one yearns or desires completeness, it is unattainable.
In this play by Girish Karnad, we see three expressions of hybridity. One is in the opening act where the narrator speaks about lord Ganesha, the embodiment of imperfection, of incompleteness, the second concerns Hayavadana and the third is the story about two men whose head were swapped due to an incident.

The play opens with Bhagavatha performing a puja to Ganesha and asking him to bless the performance. He then moves on to introduce the characters when he hears a scream off stage and notices nata, an actor who is causing the ruckus. He then proceeds to question him as to why he is screaming and nata tells the story of how he heard a voice but when he looked up, there was no one but a horse. Bhagavata is unable to believe this and doubts nata but a few moments later, he himself witnesses Hayavadana. Hayavadana proceeds to explain his story and Bhagavatha suggests he visit the Kali temple to fulfill his wish/dream of being complete. He then proceeds with the story where two men fell in love with a woman and lost themselves.

In the beginning of the play when Bhagavatha was praying to Ganesha, he mentions how even though Ganesha is a form of different being, he is still considered complete and perfect. He also says that this might not be something a mere mortal can comprehend. At the end of the play, no other mortal is able to achieve this completeness or perfection.

As the play progresses, we see Hayavadana who longs for completeness. Hayavadana is a creature with a man’s body and a horse’s head, the offspring of a deity in horse form and a woman. He tries very hard to get rid of his horse head but fails every time and when he leave to go to the Kali temple, he requests Kali to turn him into a complete being and she fulfills his request by turning him into a complete horse. Even though, he loses his body of a man, his voice remains the same and worries about if he will ever find completeness but towards the end of the play, he magically achieves completeness with the help of a little boy. As they sing and laugh together, he loses his human voice and starts neighing.

The primary story line is about two friends Devadatta and Kapila who fall in love with the same woman, Padmini. Even though Padmini marries Devadatta, notices that she has feelings for Kapila and is in despair. This drives him to cut off his own head the Kali temple. Seeing his best friend in that state, Kpaila decides to cut off his head too. Padmini found them lifeless and begs goddess Kali to help her. She then swaps the heads, that is, Devadatta’s head is on top of Kapila’s body and vice versa. When this happens, one might think that Padmini has gotten the best of two worlds as she was physically attracted to Kapila’s body while being married to Devadatta. This isn’t true as at one point, she realizes that both of those men cannot go on and live like that their whole life. She realizes that this would end only with bloodshed as it did. The incompleteness of the two men becomes the main conflict between all three characters. Their inability to find a sense of wholeness drives them to kill each other/themselves at the end of the play. 

Karnad tries to make us realize that completeness is not something every or any human being can achieve. It must be left to the divine beings.

Reference: https://www.litcharts.com/lit/hayavadana/themes/identity-hybridity-and-incompleteness

Categories: Book Review

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