Hayavadana is a two-act play by Girish Karnad that opens with the discovery that the title character is part human and part horse. He would like to be whole, so the Bhagavata sends him to the goddess Kali with his request. Before Hayavadana came in, Bhagavata had been setting up the primary plot, and now he returns to that.
There are two best friends, Devadatta and Kapila, and they both fall in love with a woman named Padmini. She marries Devadatta but retains affection for Kapila and especially admires his strength. Devadatta becomes jealous, and as the three are traveling, Devadatta decides he cannot take the pressure anymore, and he cuts off his own head. Kapila finds his friend’s body and does the same.
Padmini soon discovers both headless bodies, but Kali instructs her to revive them by putting their heads back on. Padmini does so but gets the heads and bodies mixed up. Now, the three have an even bigger problem, because Devadatta and Kapila both have some sort of claim on Padmini. Padmini decides to remain with Devadatta’s head on Kapila’s body.
In the play’s second act, Padmini decides that she isn’t all that pleased when Kapila’s strong body starts to become more and more like Devadatta’s weak one. She takes their son off to the woods and finds Kapila living there. Padmini decides to remain with him, for his body is once more growing strong. Devadatta finds them, and Devadatta and Kapila decide to kill each other to end the whole mess at once. They do so, and Padmini throws herself onto their funeral pyre.
The play ends with Hayavadana showing up on stage again. He is now completely a horse except for his human voice, but he wants to get rid of that, too. Padmini’s son helps him do so through laughter.