Use of Myth and Symbolism in Kanthapura by Raja Rao

Myth in India

The myth is an inseparable part of the culture of any country. India is essentially a culturally rich country. Every village of India has its own story of origin though it may or may not be true. Myth form an important part of every human particularly of those who are away from scientific knowledge.

Raja Rao in his novel Kanthapura had made myth one of the primary factors that continue the novel. In spite of being residing and educating in foreign, he shows his faith in mythology.


The plot of the story is laid in an imaginary village which is surrounded by other imaginary villages. In this novel, Raja Rao makes the narrative in the form of Sthala-Purana and an old lady is the narrator of the story.

Raja Rao’s Kanthapura is based on the patterns of Ramayana. The way in which Ramayana is narrated by Sage Valmiki, Achakka is the narrator and commentator. She compares Gandhi with Rama, India with Sita.

Gandhi and Rama

Gandhi’s going to England is compared to Rama’s exile and Indians are consulted with Bharatha. Like Ayodya, Kanthapura is a caste-ridden village which is away from the modem ways of living.

As Sita is captured and tortured by Ravana, in the same way, India is captured and looted by Red-men. Like Rama’s rescue of Sita, Gandhi also struggles to free India from the British. In Ramayana, Rama waged war against Ravana. Similarly, in Kanthapura, Gandhi wages war against the British.

One way between Rama and Ravana leads to a number of deaths. Similarly when the people of Kanthapura wage war against the British, a number of them are wounded, jailed, tortured and killed mercilessly.

As Rama liberates Sita from Ravana, Gandhi liberates India from British and brings Swaraj. Hence in a sense, the novelist had described the same old mythical story of Ramayana in a new way. Although the characters are changed yet the story is the same.

Achakka Narrates Story

Moreover, as the novel begins, Achakka tells the ‘sisters’ about the story of Kanchamma, the local deity of Kanthapura. There was a time when a demon spread violence in the country. He made men as his food and women as his wives.

Kenchamma came from heaven to free the country from the demon. As a result, a war broke out between Kenchamma and the demon in which Kenchamma came as victorious and the demon was defeated and killed. That is why one side of the hill of Kanthapura is red (with the blood of demon).

After killing the demon, Kenchamma started living with the common people of Kanthapura and helped in their problems. Achakka tells that the deity helps the people of Kanthapura in their problems even today.

This shows that how the people believed in the mythical story of Kenchamma and would pray her whenever they would face any problem.

Casteism in Kanthapura

Casteism is also prevalent in Kanthapura. Moorthy, the protagonist of the novel goes against the caste system by visiting a Pariah’s house. But he feels extreme discomfort there.

He gets fife and thinks that all the Gods have become angry with him. After going back to the home he takes a religious bath in order to perform purification.

Thus even Moorthy who wants war against untouchability practices casteism. This shows the blind faith of people in the mythical concept of casteism.

Moorthy and Gandhi

In Kanthapura, we also come across various comparisons between Moorthy and Gandhi. The people of Kanthapura give the status of God to Gandhi after learning about his life and acts.

Moorthy is considered to be an avatar of Gandhi and this of God. The people find spirituality in Gandhi as well as in Moorthy and blindly accepts their advice.

Hence in spite of being a political novel, Kanthapura is filled with myths and blind faiths and such myths and blind faith are prevalent in all the underdeveloped villages of India.