A Political Novel
Kanthapura is the first novel of Raja Rao written in 1938 A.D. It describes the period in which the struggle against the foreign government was dominating the political scenario in India. At that time the Non-Cooperation Movement was in vogue.
Congress under the leadership of Gandhi was leading the movement. Raja Rao supported the ideas of Gandhi thus Kanthapura as a political novel is totally influenced by the principles of Gandhi. At the beginning of the novel, we come to know about the structure of the village.
We find that the village of Kanthapura is a caste-ridden village and the quarters of people are separated on the basis of casteism. The casteism is so prevalent in Kanthapura that if a Brahmin visits a Pariah’s house, he has to go to Kashi for purification.
Moorthy, the protagonist of the novel, who is a Brahmin, gives up his studies after being influenced by the Gandhian Philosophy by going through different pamphlets and newspapers. Hence we don’t see Gandhi in actual but his ideology and principles in the novel and Moorthy is the avatar of Gandhi.
Moorthy Adopts Gandhian Ideology
Moorthy after adopting the Gandhian Ideology gives up his studies in the city and returns back to his village. He gives up foreign clothes and goods and wears hand-woven Khaddar. He encourages the people of his village to use native things and become independent of foreign goods.
In order to encourage the concept of ‘Swaraj’ or ‘home rule,’ he visits each house and distributes free Charkhas so that every person of his village may become a part of the struggle. He explains the Gandhian principles and encourages them to follow the same.
Belief in Non-violence
Like Gandhi, Moorthy believes in non-violence. He asks people to make their struggle non-violent. They should love their enemies even if the later may hate them or even act violently. Moorthy asks the people to speak the truth and remains loyal to Congress.
He proves his words when after being sentenced to jail, he refuses to release on bail. He tells the lawyer that if he held the weapon of truth firmly no power on earth will be able to harm him.
In spite of the threats of ex-communication from Batta, he takes an active part in the struggle against untouchability and visits a Pariah’s house where he is treated as God.
But this should also be noted that he feels extreme discomfort and fife there and on returning back, he takes a religious bath for purification. Thus in real, he accepts untouchability in spite of his struggle against it.
Gandhi believed that women help is crucial for the struggle, hence he tried to get the support of women as well. Similarly, Moorthy seeks the help of Kanchamma, a rich educated widow of his village. Kanchamma fully supports Moorthy as well as Gandhian Ideology.
When Moorthy is behind the bars, she establishes the Women’s Volunteer Corps. The women after being influenced by her words, take an active part in the struggle. They are molested, raped and even beaten but they don’t lose hope.
Hence it is the Gandhian Ideology which makes the plot of the novel to develop and not Gandhi himself. As Gandhi influences politics at the national level, Moorthy becomes the Gandhi of Kanthapura and does the same things. Thus Kanthapura is a mini-nation with a Gandhi of itself i.e. Moorthy.