by Girish Karnad

Story Theatre Story within a story based on the two stories Karnad heard from his mentor, Prof Ramanujan based on folklore

4 interwoven stories; stories within each other satire; talks about social stigma, relations between humans, hypocrisy and misogyny independence of women societal status of women chastity and loyalty

women have only two roles - either a devi or God-like; or they are below men


starts in an abandoned temple rural Karnataka; village; folk setting mythical elements

important - there are multiple endings in the actual ending of the fourth layer (Rani’s story), the snake falls out of her head and is shown to be dead. The playwright from the first layer hears this, is unsatisfied and makes his own ending. The snake falls out of Rani’s hair, Appanna tries to kill it, Rani stops him and the snake slithers back into her hair.


Playwright who has to stay awake for the whole night in the

Giggling Flames in the village (personified )

Rani - Protagonist

Appanna - Rani’s unfaithful husband

Kurudavva - old lady who gives Rani the magical root

Kappanna - Kurudavva’s son

Naga - falls in love with Rani, takes Appanna’s form every night

The village elders


layer 1 - playwright layer 2 - giggling flames layer 3 - flame who arrives late layer 4 - Rani

On the first narrative level, the frame story is about the playwright who has to stay awake for the whole night in the temple, to let the curse pass. The night of that theatrical performance was his last chance to see that the audience stay awake the entire night while watching his play. We hear author-narrator‟s repeated laments,
“I may be dead within the next few hours.”

Mythical elements can be seen in the second and the third narrative level.

The author-narrator meeting the giggling flames (who each one carry their own story) becomes the second story. These personified flames go to the same ruined
temple where the author is.

On the third level, we find a tale by a flame, who wants to be forgiven for arriving late to the hosting place. The tale is about an old woman who knew an interesting story but refused to share it with others. The story slipped out of the old woman’s mouth as she snored and it transformed into a beautiful young lady and the song that accompanies it turns into a beautiful sari.

The fourth narrative level is the story of Rani, the lady who born out of the story from the old hag’s mouth. Rani becomes the main character of the play Nagamandala.

village elders suggest that Rani would have to pass through an ordeal to prove her innocence