Karnad’s play Hayavadana is a duel-plotted story that emphasizes the idea that completeness and perfection is an impossible quality to achieve as a human. The play is separated into two plots. Both entail accounts of characters striving to be complete. The main plot is about a love story between Padmini and two friends Devadatta and Kapila. The other involves a journey of identity taken by a horse headed man named Hayavadana. The search for completeness is the driving force of this drama. In both of the plots these characters lives pertain certain hindrances that have prevailing themes of incompleteness and uncertain identity: an internal conflict of their own identity, an external conflict of their physical appearance, and a social conflict within their own families.
Padmini is a merchant’ daughter who loves two different men. Her husband, Devadatta, is a poetic Brahmin who spends his days studying. Kapila is Devadatta’s best friend. He is dull but loyal and has a very muscular physique. At the beginning, Padmini is happily married to Devadatta, but over the years grow an attraction for Kapila’s body. When Padmini’s attraction becomes obvious, Devadatta mindset changes negatively.
Padmini- No woman could resist him.
Devadatta- No woman could resist him- and what does it matter that she’s married? What a fool I’ve been. All these days I only saw that pleading in his eyes stretching out its arms, begging for a favour. (96)
Padmini’s search for her perfect relationship has put these two friends in a jealous mind game. She is unsatisfied with her identity at this time and wants something more. Hayavadana is a half man-half horse that desires to be a complete man. He is in a crisis of identity.
Hayavadana- I have tried everything. But where’s my society? Where? You must help me to become a complete man, Bhagavata Sir. (81)
His life journey is dedicated to an internal conflict of discovering his identity. His subplot puts another viewpoint on this similar theme of incompleteness. These characters are dissatisfied with something internally, and cannot stop until that satisfaction is fulfilled.
Both stories in the play have instances of incorrect heads being mismatched onto different bodies. A body without the corresponding head can be seen as being physically incomplete. In the main plot Padmini does not know whom to fully love. After both Devadatta and Kapila behead themselves at the temple of Kali, Padmini, hastily exchanges each of the men’s heads to the other’s body. For a short period of time Padmini physically achieves her perfect ending.
Padmini- It is my duty to go with Devadatta. But remember I’m going with your body. Let that cheer you up. (111)
Her physical attraction to Kapila ends when he no longer had his physique. This decision ruined Devadatta and Kapila’s relationship and left both men in an identity crisis. After time passes, however, both Devadatta and Kapila return to their original body shapes. Padmini, once again, feels unsatisfactory. This symbolizes that man will forever be imperfect. In the secondary story, Hayavadana’s physical appearance is a body of a man but a head of a horse. This leaves him to feel incomplete as a human or as a horse. His conclusion comically symbolizes that man cannot be perfect, but the horse can. These two have