Kanthapura is the first major Indian novel in English which is written by Raja Rao. It was written during the time of AZADI in 1933. The novel recounts the rise of the Gandhian nationalist movement in a small south Indian village of the same name. This is Raja Rao’s well-known and acclaimed, book and primarily serves as a critique of the traditional Indian caste system. The novel is written in 1937 and published in 1938.
About Raja Rao
Raja Rao was an Indian American novelist and short story writer from 20th-century India. He wrote a galaxy of novels and short stories on issues. Indian culture, caste system, and freedom struggle. He won several Indian height honors such as The Padma Bhusan in 1969. The Sahitya Akademi Award in 1997 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007. Among his famous writings included: The Serpent and the Rope, Kanthapura, The Cat and Shakespeare, On the Ganga Ghat, and The Meaning of India.
Significance of the title
The title Kanthapura is apt and suggestive because the novel is about a south Indian village named Kanthapura and the whole story of this novel moves around the people and the community of the village named Kanthapura. It is a village in Mysore in the Province of Kara. It is situated in the valley of Himavathy. There it lies, “Curled up like a Child on its mother’s lap.”
Kanthapura is not dealing with the life of any individual hero. It is only the story of Moorthy but of the masses of the village, of the suffering of their exile. Hence if there is any hero in the novel it is Kanthapura itself and its people.
The theme of the Novel Kanthapura
Kanthapura is a Ganhian novel. We cannot find Gandhi himself in the novel but his character is there in the protagonist of the novel Moorthy. He was taking part in the struggle for freedom. He made efforts to unite people as Gandhi did.
Gandhi’s thoughts and their impact
Gandhian philosophy is introduced into the novel through Morthy. He was attracted by Gandhi’s idea of making cotton yarn on a spinning wheel and wearing clothes spun and woven by their hands. They did not permit foreign clothes. The villagers made their own song for Gandhi which describes the influence of Gandhi on them.
Freedom struggle for India
The characters of the novel strive for freedom. They fought against the Britishers non-violently.
The village has a structure of castes. The novel defines if a Brahmin goes to Pariaha’s house. He had a bath after returning.
Epic touch or Mythological theme
The novel has the quality of epic. The plot of the novel has been symbolically compared with Ramayana. Gandhi ji an avatar of Rama sent from heaven to rescue Sita (India.) from the Britishers (Ravana).
Focusing on the female condition
In Kanthapura, we find many women the example Rangamma, Achakka, and Ratna. Rangamma is one of the few educated women in the village. She is influenced by Gandhian Philosophy and becomes a source of knowledge and inspiration for the women of the village. Achakka is one of the main characters of the novel. She is the narrator of the novel. Ratna is one of the characters of the novel. She is fifteen years old and windowed. She is too inspired by Gandhian philosophy.
There is a clear-cut caste division in the village of Kanthapura. The houses in this village are divided into five quarters,
The upper-class people keep a distance from the Sudra and the Pariah quarters. The narrator Achakka also believes in the caste division.
Summary Of Kanthapura novel
Kanthapura is narrated in the form of Purana or an old manuscript by an old woman of the village, Achakka. She is an old Brahmin woman with Encyclopedic knowledge about everyone in the village
In the village, Knathapura, the caste system is strict and the village is run primarily by the high caste Brahmins, while the lowest caste is known as Pariahs. The villagers believe they are protected by a local deity named Kenchamna. One Brahmin man named “Moorthy” becomes an activist or a follower of Gandhi ji. He convinces various villagers to start spinning their wool and weaving their Khadi Clothes. Since Gandhi believes that foreign goods impoverished India.
A loincloth-wearing Brahmin Bhatta despises Gandhism for his business runs on high-interest loans to small farmers, who sell their rice to city people. Bhatta proposes establishing a Brahmin Party to fight Moorthy’s spreading Gandhism and wins the support of many villagers most notable, the rambling Waterfall Venkamma the priest Temple Rangappa and his Lakshama—Moorthy’s own mother Narsamma, and his own wife Chinnamma.
Moorthy is soon excommunicated by the village priest. Moorthy’s mother dies, her health is impacted by the shame, she feels over her son’s ex-communication and Moorthy winds up living with Rangamma, an educated and politically active window. The Brahmin clerks of a local coffee estate invite Moorthy to speak at their meeting, hoping to create a greater awareness of Gandhian teachings among the local lower-Caste laborers. However, when he arrives, the local policeman, Bade khan beats him and attempts to scare him off.
The Laborers attempt to stand up for Moorthy and beat the policeman, but they are thrown out of the estate for this. A unit of Gandhi’s independence committee is formed in Kanthapura, and Moorthy becomes their leader.
Moorthy is blamed by the British government for instigating violence and is arrested. While the committee volunteers to pay his bail, Moorthy refused their money and spends the next three months in prison. While he is locked away the women of Kanthapura take the reins and form a volunteer corps under Rangamma’s leadership. She motivates the women by telling them stories of strong women from Indian history.
Although they face much hardship and violence from the police and the British army, culminating in the village being burned, they remain loyal to Gandhi’s ideals. When Moorthy is released from prison, he is greeted as a hero by the village which is now united across caste lines. Moorthy and the rest of the town took toward the future and continue their fight for independence.
In the end, Kanthapura is destroyed but not defeated. This is chiefly due to their following the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi and the Leadership provided by Moorthy.
Thus, Raja Rao Kanthapura is one of the finest novels of the mid-twentieth century in India. It is the story of how Gandhi’s struggle for independence from the British came to the typical village of Kanthapura in South India. Kanthapura is a picture of India. Raja Rao is very much influenced by Gandhian thoughts. The theme of the novel is the Freedom Struggle of India.
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