International Referred Research Journal,May,2011,ISSN-0975-3486,RNI: RAJBIL 2009/30097,VOL-II*ISSUE

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Research Paper- English

EXISTENTIALISM IN GIRISH KARNAD'S PLAYS: TUGHLAQ, HAYAVADANA & NAGAMANDALA.
May, 2011

* Dr. Asha lata Raman
* Lata Building, Kela Plots, Jatharpeth, Akola

A B S T R A C T
Girish Karnad shows different dimensions in play writing and becomes visible as a humanist, as a mythical playwright and as an existentialist. As an existentialist, Karnad nicely maintains existentialism in the plots of mythical, historical and folk tales. With his first play "Yayati", he touches the theme of existentialism which becomes apparent in his later plays. In Tughlaq, a sensitive and intelligent ruler who embarks on to do the best for his people, misunderstood and maligned, suffers an increasing sense of alienation and is forced to abandon his earlier idealism and end up as a tyrant. In "Hayavadana " the characters Kapila and Devadutta seems the epitome of incompleteness of human beings, searching for completeness but are helpless. Another play Nagamandala puts the question of the meaning of reality and existence.

In modern times, new theory of existentialism is gaining currency. The theory is based on the existential theory, first brought by Heideggar and Sartre in 20th century and later it was developed by philosophers:Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Kierkegaard was a devout believer so he appealed Christians to "leap faith" to maintain their belief. But Nietzsche completely rejected the transcendental reality and suggested that life can be made joyful with self consciousness. This generated problems like- infinite mind trapped in finite body, which produces anxiety and frustration. According to the theory the divinity and its will are ultimately unknowable to human consciousness and the nature of human experience remains incommunicable to others. So the individual is absolutely alone. In literature, existentialism makes "the characters to experience some kind of mental or spiritual breakdown in which they begin to question the meaning of reality and existence." Girish Karnad is a playwright, an actor, a script writer, a director and a scholar. He got many prizes in the field of play writing and theatre as - The State award for 'Yayati' in 1961; Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1972 for play writing; Kamladevi award in 1971 for 'Hayavadana'. In 1974 Padma Shri was also conferred on him by govt. of India for his precious services in the field of theatre. He has won President's award for excellence in direction. He also received the Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award in 1993 and the Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of the Letters) Award in 1994. He has produced many plays from his pen, mostly written in Kannada. Some of them have been translated in English by the author himself. Important plays which reveal direct impact of the theory of existentialism are Tughlaq (1972), Hayavadana
R E S E A R C H A N A L Y S I S

(1975) and Naga Mandala (1990). Tughlaq was a great success on the stage. It is a story on a historical figure of India - Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. Only five years from the reign of Tughlaq have been taken by the author. In Tughlaq almost all characters can be seen in the light of existentialism, but the most important is Muhammad Bin Tughlaq. His individual identity, his so called absurd decisions, his frustration, his individual way of thinking about life, are all good examples of the themes of existentialism. Individual perception supersedes any abstract conceptual or transcendentally grounded theory of what is real or the nature of reality and human life. Neither the behavior nor the nature of others can be understood by observation as Tughlaq could not understand the real nature and identity of Aziz. According to Sartre, if one realizes his freedom of choice then one lives an "authentic existence", as opposed to the "bad faith" of believing oneself bound. When the step mother of Tughlaq asks him to tell the reason of not sleeping in night after doing so much work in day time, he replies. "... I wish I could believe in recurring births like the Hindu but I have only one life, one body, my hopes, my people, my God are all fighting for it. Tell me, how dare I waste my time by sleeping?"Thus Tughlaq's authentic existence is visible in the whole play and this makes his life full of responsibilities, as Sartre says "To live an authentic existence is indeed a great burden (of a great yet frightening freedom) and most people choose to live " in bad faith", in a state of denial." In the play Tughlaq, Aziz, Najib are the characters who live authentic existence. Danish thinker and devout believer of existentialism. Kierkegaard realizes that the divinity and its will are ultimately unknowable to human consciousness. When Tughlaq
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International Referred Research Journal,May,2011,ISSN-0975-3486, RNI: RAJBIL 2009/30097, VOL-II *ISSUE 20

finds that his policies are being questioned, he rather feels that his identity as a ruler is at a stake. So, he wants to become a complete man. He is restless and suffering from the problems of isolation and frustration. Examples are galore in the play to show that on several occasions, the decisions taken by Tughlaq become wrong such as the decision of shifting the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. In another occasion he defends his decision of giving same value to copper coin as well as silver coin. "It's a question of confidence. A question of trust.The other day I heard that in China they have paper currency-paper,mind you and yet it works because the people accept it.They have faith in the Emporor's seal on the pieces of paper." A similar feeling is expressed in 'Hayavadana'. "... I have tried everything. But where is my society? Where? You must help me to become a complete man, Bhagavata Sir. But how? What can I do?" Here in the novel ,the story of Devadatta, Kapila and Padmini deals with the problems of all the three individually. Padmini is attracted to Kapila's body and loves Devadatta's intelligence. When all the three go to visit a fair in Ujjain, on the way they go one by one in the Kali temple. At first, Devadatta and then Kapila offer their heads to Goddess Kali. At last .Padmini after seeing the dead bodies of Devadatta and Kapila tries to offer her head to Kali. The Goddess wakes up and says in irritation that human beings should come to Her to hack of their heads in Her name, in reality the reason is something else. By the boon of Goddess Padmini fixes heads with bodies but she commits a mistake of fixing different heads on different bodies which causes the sufferings and a problem of identity for Devadatta and Kapila . Now both claim to be Devadutta as one has his body and other head. They seek to solve the problem by dyeing. "What won't end has to be cut." Kapila says "... Now whose head - whose body - suicide or murder -nothing's clear." At the end both die but the problem remains unsolved for Padmini."Kali, Mother of all nature, you must have your joke even now. Other women can die praying that they should get the same husband in all the lives to come. You haven't left me even that little consolation."'Naga Mandala' is based on two Kannada folk tales that Karnad had heard from Professor A. K.

Ramanujan in Chicago. These stories convey female understanding of the reality around her, a patriarchal pattern of typical Indian family institutions. The stories symbolically express the meaning of reality and woman's, existence in it. In the first story, man is not aware of the transcendental reality and is not serious for the mendicant's premonition about his death. But as the last night of his life comes,he because of fear of death goes in a temple which is nameless and empty which symbolizes human being's disbelief in the existence of God. He maintains his belief on God only in fear of disasters. The man says"... I swear by this absent God ..." Karnad argues that the oral tales are paradoxical in nature. Their status is like that of a daughter who has her own .Similarly as a daughter has to leave her home, a tale has to leave its home of origin for being passed on to people. A tale symbolizes a daughter, like a tale daughter has his own existence independent of the parent and as a tale live only when it is passed on from the possessor to listener similarly a daughter has to go somewhere else. It is the reality of a female existence. The main story of Naga Mandala is the story of Rani which deals with the absurdities of universe; the individual perception of reality and authentic existence. Marriage in a joint family can be problematic for a woman when the husband and wife live as strangers in day time. If the symbolic expression is given then "the empty house Rani is locked in could be the family she is married into" and "the position of Rani in the story can be seen as a metaphor for the situation of a young girl in the bosom of a joint family where she see her husband only in two unconnected roles - as a stranger in during the day and as lover at night." Therefore authentic existence of a married young woman in Indian joint family is almost impossible. She tries to observe the reality and struggles for authentic existence.Thus Girish Karnad has a keen understanding of the problems of human being and his place on the earth. He casts human desires, which show the way to inhuman harassments through his plays. Tughlaq, Hayavadana, Padmini, Kapila, and Rani are the characters in the midst of situations giving a picture of the way from attractive imagination to ugly reality. Both the inner and outer world of man is tormented with psychological and communal limitations.

R E F E R E N C E
1. Abrams M.H., A Glossary of Literary Terms. 6th ed. Bangalore,Prism Books, 1993. 2.Bhatta S. Krishna, Indian English Drama: A Critical Study. New Delhi, Sage Publishers. 1987) 3. Karnad Girish, Three Plays: Naga-Mandala, Hayavadana, Tughlaq.Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995) 4. Pandey Mithlesh K., Contemporary Indian Literature in English: A Humanistic Perspective.Noida: Kalyani ," 1999)

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