24 October, 2020

Catharsis, Updated

Girish Karnad's 'Bali' re-interrogates the value of sacrificial blood

Catharsis, Updated
It was an irony lost on nobody at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre that Girish Karnad’s Bali (The Sacrifice), addressing the issue of non-violence, should premiere as war clouds rolled over the Indian sub-continent. If only for two-and-a-half hours, the magic of the theatre helped keep the realities of armed confrontation at bay.

The play, inspired by Somadeva Suri’s Yashastilaka written in 950 AD, centres on the Jain abhorrence of violence in any form—particularly of value-less blood sacrifices. No sharper parallel seems likely at this juncture with the Indo-Pakistan conflict. As in the ancient tale, Karnad’s play deals with the story of a king, his queen and the queen mother, but now also joined by a lowly mahout.

The play opens with the mahout and the queen in a temple courtyard after a sexual interlude. The mahout, who has a lovely singing voice, has roused the queen from her lord’s side and drawn her to the temple. They are surprised by the king who has followed his wife out of the palace and has heard the sighs and groans of love, not once...



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