Home Literature Bali : The Sacrifice by Girish Karnad Summary

Bali : The Sacrifice by Girish Karnad Summary

by Litinbox

‘Bali : The Sacrifice’ is a play written by Girish Karnad in Kannada as ‘Hittina Hunja‘ in 1966. The story is taken from Jain mythology. It has undergone into rapid changes a number of times.

‘Bali’ means, a sacrifice given to God, a religious ritual of purification by bloodshed predominantly in Hinduism. The play centres around the myth of ‘Cock of Dough’. When two religious beliefs practiced in one family, sometimes bring up a catastrophe to the whole family and this is where the play hangs around.

At the heart of the play are two religious beliefs, Hinduism and Jainism, when they clash, bound to result in havoc. It unveils the psychological obsessions of the humans caught up in the religion and its beliefs.

Bali : The Sacrifice Summary

The play begins with the Queen who is attracted to the melodious song of the Mahout, a low cast singer. She finds it difficult to resist her feelings towards him. She can see through the catastrophe that the relationship will bring, she has desires for it, however. She leaves the palace at a cold night and soon finds herself in the arms of the ugly Mahout.

The Queen and Mahout engage in sexual intercourse in a deserted temple which the king witnesses. The King struggles to decide between whether to kill her or not. The Queen Mother asks the King why he is upset. He manages to lie that he had a bad dream. The Queen Mother declares it a bad omen and orders the couple to sacrifice a hundred fowls.

The Queen follows Jainism which advocates non-violence, and the King is a Hindu where sacrifice to God is permitted. The King chooses to follow Jainism on humanitarian grounds since killing anything is a sin. As a King, he wishes to leave footprints to follow by his subjects. 

A rivalry between the King and the Queen Mother takes place. The King requests the Queen Mother not to go on with sacrifices. But the Queen Mother reprimands to let her follow her own beliefs and not to betray her faith in God. And further the Queen Mother reprimands him for going behind a woman instead of choosing the woman to follow his faith.

As the Queen Mother threatens him with suicide, eventually the King comes with an idea of sacrificing a cock made of dough. The Queen Mother consents. But the Queen, as a staunch supporter of Jainism, refuses to participate in any rite which involves bloodshed. The Queen Mother is never to give up too. The King is caught in the crossfire from both the directions and sinks into a dilemma to choose between.

The fight lasts for long. It comes to an end when the Queen consents to participate. When they are about to sacrifice the Cock of Dough, it begins crowing, to the astonishment of the Queen. The Queen, in a fit of rage, ends her life with the same sword brought for sacrifice. Both the Queen and the Queen Mother are extremely adamant to give up their beliefs that results in a tragedy.

Bali : The Sacrifice Characters

The King

The protagonist of the play. The King was a born Hindu. He struggles throughout the play and not good at making decisions. His inability to decide between things is one of the main course of the plot.

The king is one of the preys of the religious clash in the play – One religion that believes in Bali and the other which is against it.

The Queen

The Queen is a Jain who marries the King from a family of Hindus. She wants to follow her religious beliefs strictly but falls prey for Mahout. Though her infidelity doesn’t matter much in the play, it is an unanswered question, as a staunch devotee of her religion why doesn’t the queen be truthful to her husband.

The Queen Mother

The mother of the King, an obstinate follower of the Hinduism.

The Mahout

A low caste man who looks after the King’s elephants. A singer of melodies who attracts the Queen towards him.

Read More: