Included in the UGC-CARE list (Group B Sr. No 172)
Gandhi: A single Voice of Reformation in Raja Rao’s Kanthapura


Mohandas K Gandhi referred as Mahatma, was the most admired and influential religious, political, spiritual leaders of India. He is acknowledged as the father of Nation or Bapu due to his astonishing contributions towards the Indian Independent movement, by becoming an amazing freedom fighter, who led India as a leader of Nationalism against British rule. He is not only seen as a great political leader but also counted as a great reformer by millions all around the world. He is an ideal image for the people of India and Raja Rao’s Kanthapura is the finest example of his idealism followed by the villagers of Kanthapura in its true sense. Raja Rao attempts to awaken the people about the moral values and ethics of Gandhi’s principles through an artistic description of Gandhian ideals of non-violence, passive resistance, civil disobedience, caste system, eradication of untouchability among the masses.

Keywords: Reformation, idealism, values and ethics, Indian Independence.

Raja Rao was one of the greatest novelist of 20th century, born on 8thNovember 1908 into a Brahmin family at Hassan in the state of Mysore. His father was a teacher at Nizam College in Hyderabad and his mother was a home-maker. His native language was Kannada, his upbringing and education combine, a distinct blend of Indian and European influences. Whereas his work displays a profound commitment to Indian philosophy. He was the most influential novelist of the nation. He wrote many novels, short stories and non-fictions. Some of notable works are; ‘Kanthapura’, ‘The Serpent and the Rope’, ‘The Cat and Shakespeare: A tale of India’, ‘Comrade Kirillov’, ‘The Chess master and his Moves’. His short story collections are “The Cow of the Barricades”, “The Policeman and the Rose”, “On the Ganga Ghat”. His non-fictions are “Changing India: An Anthology”, “Tomorrow”, “The Great Indian way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi”, biography.

Rao had participated in Quit India movement in 1942 and had witnessed the influence of Gandhi among the people of India. And by undergoing these experiences first handedly, he tries to portray the impact of Gandhi in the villages of India in his novel Kanthapura.

Rao upholds Gandhian struggle for freedom and presents a mythological entrance by including Indian myths. Raja Rao résumés, “The subtlety of the Gandhian thought and the complex political situation of Pre-independence could be explained to the unlettered villagers only through legends and religious stories of gods” (Kanthapura 104).

The story is narrated by Achakka, an elder Brahmin woman with an extraordinary knowledge about everyone in her village; the story is told by her in an indirect, nonlinear style of Sthala-purana, a traditional “legendary history” of a village, its people, and its gods.

“There is no village in India, however mean, that does not have a rich sthala-purana, or legendary history, of its own. Some god or godlike hero has passed by the village – Rama might have rested under this papal-tree, Sita might have dried her clothes, after her bath, on this yellow stone, or the Mahatma himself, might have slept in this hut, the low one, by the village gate… One such story from the contemporary annals of my village I have tried to tell” (Rao vi).

Moorthy is the central character of the novel. At the outset Moorthy leaves for University education at city and he comes across the Gandhian freedom struggle activities persisting there and he is greatly influenced by this scheme. And he goes back to his village, starts campaigning and attempts to awaken people about Gandhi’s independent movement in the village.

It is Moorthy who brings the radical changes in Kanthapura and first lessons of Gandhism to Kanthapura. Despite much resistance from the village orthodoxy, he systematically works upon the women to spin their own cloths. As Gandhi launched non-cooperation campaign against Britain, urging Indians to spin their own cotton and boycott British goods, courts and government. Kanthapura demonstrates the Gandhian rejection of Hindu caste system. The motivation induced by Gandhi permeated even the remote villages which discarded the artificial and hierarchical distinction perpetrated in the name of caste system. Moorthy also tries to unshackle the villagers from the nasty caste prejudices which have, for centuries, ruled the structure of local existence. Untouchability was a stigma on the visage of Indian society. Kanthapura illustrates a radical zest in countering the malicious practices prevalent in society. Gandhi opened up the prospects of breaking artificially created human barriers.

Moorthy has taken the reformist step against the conservative and the hegemonic intentions of the Brahmanic leading presents the radical elimination between the traditional and the dissident. The conflict between the young Moorthy and the society is an epitome of Indian society that Gandhi attempted to revolutionarily modify. Gandhi, as he, imagines a prototype of Gramswaraj, self-governing and self-reliant villages, the traditional conviction of the hegemonic elites is faction between the nation and the caste identity that prevents justifiable village setting as seen in Kanthapura. The village separated with caste tags, fundamentally, opposes a Gramswaraj as proposed by Gandhi. The discourse of rural in Kanthapura calls for an ontological and existential appropriation that can be contextualized through the ambience of Gandhian antagonistic vision at Brahmanic hegemony that is carried out in the name of Gramswaraj and Harijanodharana.

The faith emerges among the villagers and they believe that it is Gandhi who will dissolve all theirsufferings. The villagers believed: “Oh, no, the Mahatma need not go as far as the sea, like Harishchandra before has finished his vow, the gods will come down and dissolve his vow, and the Britishers will leave India, and we shall be free, and we shall pay less taxes, and there will be no policemen” (Kanthapura 172).

Moorthy is not just the mediator between Gandhi and Kanthapura, he also becomes Kanthpurian version of Gandhi, as we can see how people of Kanthapura respect Moorthy , believe him as their ‘Mahatma’, even Range Gowda, the Patel and government servant of the village, names Moorthy as “our Gandhi.” More like Gandhi, he inspires the national feeling, patriotism and the fighting spirit among the villagers that derives from Gandhian visions like the realization of truth, the significance of love and the presence of God in all. By doing all these, Moorthy sets his resolution in the Indian freedom struggle.

Iyengar classifies, in Kanthapura, the “veritable grammar of the Gandhian myth.” The novel delineates two faces of Gandhian vision: the political and the social. This paper is an effort to critically illuminate the manner in which Raja Rao appropriates Gandhian vision through his creative imagination in Kanthapura.

Moorthy grasps, “There is but one force in life and that is Truth, and there is but one love in life and that is love of mankind, and there is but one God in life and that is the God of all” (Kanthapura 52-3). Moorthy come across with “God-bearing Mahatma” provided him teachings of Gandhian political dogma rooted with spiritual exposures. Moorthy is struck by seeing Gandhi and the sparkle of impact he could extent serenely to the innermost of his soul: “There is in it something of the silent communion of the ancient books” (Kanthapura 52). Moorthy, instead of politically inspired, was presented a glimpse into an excursion of self-realization: “closing his eyes tighter, he slips back into the foodless sheath of the Soul and sends out rays of love to the east, rays of love to the west, rays of love to the north, rays of love to the south, and love to the earth below and to the sky above” (Kanthapura 29).

Rao renders his female characters equal importance, by presenting it A K Mehrotra classifies “Rao’s narrative foregrounds its female characters, its use of a female narrator; it shows how the conclusive leadership of the Satyagraha in Kanthapura is undertaken by a young widow called Ratna”. (205) Rao in his concluding pages transferred his vision from Gandhi to Nehru, “the old Gandhi- Nehru debate also finds its way into the concluding pages of this novel. Now under the spell of Nehruvian socialism , Moorthy- the erstwhile Gandhian- urges the villagers to listen more carefully to Nehru’s message of ‘equal distribution’, on the grounds that the Mahatma is far to saintly for the real politic of nationalism. But in this instance, the women are unpersuaded, and fanatical in their conviction that ‘He will bring us Swaraj, the Mahatma”. (205, A. K. Mehrotra)


The present research paper marked at digging deep into how the Gandhi becomes a single voice of reformation by his actions, although Gandhi himself is not seen in the novel, his presence, hard to ignore, he is omniscient through his movements and myths surrounding him. In this way his ideology influenced Raja Rao, who created his own imitation, Moorthy, in the novel Kanthapura. Psychologically, there is a parallelism between Raja Rao and Gandhi with concern to making India free from the British control.


  1. Rao, Raja. Kanthapura, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2005. Print
  2. Elmo Raj, Prayer. 2013 Gandhian ideals in Raja Rao’s Kanthapura, An International Refereed e-Journal of Literary Explorations, Vol. I, Issue III, ISSN 2320 – 6101
  3. Mehrotra, A.K. A Concise History of Indian literature in English. Permanent black, Ranikhet, 2017
  4. Iyengar, Srinivasan K. R. Indian Writing in English. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1993. Print

Hiral Soni, Research Scholar, H.N.G.U., Patan