Bali The Sacrifice is a play written by Girish Karnad in Kannada as ‘Hittina Hunja‘ in 1966.  Girish Karnad seem to suffuse gender issues in this play. But this play is not familiar like his another play, Nagamandala, which also deals with the similar theme namely the treatment of female.

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.

‘Bali The Sacrifice’ 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 background 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’ begins with the Queen who is attracted to the melodious song of the Mahout, finds it difficult to resist her own feelings towards him. She can see through the catastrophe, the relationship will bring, she desires it however. She leaves the palace at a cold night and soon finds herself in the arms of the ugly Mahout. They engage in sexual intercourse in a neglected temple  which is witnessed by the King.

The King struggle 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 is a Jain 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 seeks 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.


The protagonist of the play. The King was born Hindu and a converted Jain.

The Queen is a Jain who marries the King from a family of Hindus.

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

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

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