What is a summary of the play Bali: The Sacrifice by Girish Karnad?

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The sacrifice, or bali, of the title is a religious ritual of purification by bloodshed. The young King who is the play’s protagonist has left behind this traditional religion, which his mother, the Queen Mother, still follows. Ideally it should be accomplished by sacrificing an animal to the gods. Through his marriage to the Queen as well as developing his own personal convictions, the King has converted to her religion, Jainism, which calls for non-violence. Torn between these two traditions, he is in constant conflict between his mother over his “betrayal” of her traditions and his wife, who abhors even thinking about the animals to be sacrificed. The King suggests a compromise, which is to create the effigy of an animal out of dough, and to sacrifice the effigy.

As the Queen is pregnant, the Queen Mother wants a sacrifice conducted when her child is born, but she refuses because it would be wrong for a Jain child. However, she loses the baby and, distraught, turns to a lover, the Mahmout, whom she meets in a ruined temple. When her infidelity is discovered, the Queen Mother demands that the man be punished—that he become the blood sacrifice. For a moment it seems as though the Queen—having already betrayed her husband, her marriage vows, and thus her religion—will become the instrument of that sacrifice, as she grabs a sword and goes after the Mahmout. At the last minute, however, she commits the ultimate betrayal of herself and her faith, by using the sword to kill herself, becoming the sacrifice.

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Bali: The Sacrifice is a play influenced by a religion called Jainism. This religion emphasizes nonviolence toward all living beings, including people and animals. In particular, the play draws on a myth from Jainism about a queen and a “mahout,” or keeper of elephants.

The king eventually finds the queen in bed with the elephant-keeper. The elephant-keeper is afraid when the king pulls out a sword, but he tells the king that he is a Jain and therefore can’t use violence. The king takes the point and doesn’t hurt the servant.

However, the king's mother takes offense to the infidelity and starts screaming for the queen’s head. In order to appease her, they end up having to sacrifice a pastry shaped like a rooster. The implication is that the king's mother is also angry at the queen for converting her son to Jainism (he converts later in his life in order to join his wife in her faith).

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