Raja Rao’s first novel Kanthapura (1938) is the story of a village in south Indianamed Kanthapura. The novel is narrated in the form of a ‘sthalapurana’ by an old woman ofthe village, Achakka. Kanthapura is a traditional caste ridden Indian village which is awayfrom all modern ways of living. Dominant castes like Brahmins are privileged to get the bestregion of the village whereas Sudras, Pariahs are marginalized. The village is believed to haveprotected by a local deity called Kenchamma. Though casteist, the village has got a longnourished traditions of festivals in which all castes interact and the villagers are united. The main character of the novel Moorthy is a Brahmin who discovered a halfburied ‘linga’ from the village and installed it. A temple is built there, which later became thecentre point of the village life. All ceremonies and festivals are celebrated within the templepremises. Hari-Kathas, a traditional form of storytelling, was practiced in the village.
Hari-Kathas, a traditional form of storytelling, was practiced in the village. Hari-Kathas are stories of Hari(God). One Hari-Katha man, Jayaramachar, narrated a Hari Kathabased on Gandhi and his ideals. The narrator was arrested because of the politicalpropaganda instilled in the story. The novel begins its course of action when Moorthy leaves for the city where hegot familiar with Gandhian philosophy through pamphlets and other literatures. He followedGandhi in letter and spirit. He wore home spun khaddar. Discarded foreign clothes and foughtagainst untouchability. This turned the village priest, a Brahmin, against him who complainedto the swami who was a supporter of foreign government and Moorthy was ex-communicated. Heartbroken to hear it, his mother Narasamma passed away. Bade Khan was a police officer, a non hindu of Kanthapura. He was brought andsupported by the coffee planters who were Englishmen. Considered as an outsider, Bade khanis an enemy of the people who refuses to provide shelter to him. After the death of his mother, Moorthy started living withan educated widow Rangamma, who took part in India’s struggle for freedom. Moorthy wasinvited by Brahmin clerks at Skeffington coffee estate to create an awareness among thecoolies of the estate. When Moorthy turned up, Bade Khan hit him and the pariah cooliesstood with Moorthy. Though he succeeded in following Gandhian non violence principle, theincident made him sad and unhappy. Rachanna and family were thrown out of the estate because of their role in beatingBade Khane. Meanwhile, Moorthy continued his fight against injustice and social inequalityand became a staunchest ally of Gandhi. Taking the responsibility of the violent actionshappened at the estate; Moorthy went on a three day long fasting and came out victorious andmorally elated.Following the footsteps of Gandhi, a unit of the congress committee wasformed in Kanthapura. Gowada, Rangamma, Rachanna and seenu were elected as the officebearers of the committee and they avowed to follow Gandhi’s teachings. Fearing the greater mobility of people of Kanthapura under the leadership ofMoorthy, the foreign government accused him of provoking people to inflict violence it and
arrested him. Though Rangamma and Rachanna were willing to release him on bail, he refused. He was punished for three months rigorous imprisonment. While Moorthy spent his days in prison, the women of Kanthapura took charge of the struggle for freedom. They formed Women’s Volunteer Corps under the leadership of Rangamma who instilled patriotism among the women by presenting thr historical figures like Laxmi Bai of thansi, rajput princess, Sarojini Naidu etc… Moorthy was released later and he came out as strong as he was. People thronged at his house were dispersed peacefully. Dandi March, Picketting of Boranna’s toddy grove were other activities led by Moorthy after his release. Arrest of the satyagrhis, and police brutality to women became a part of the everyday life of the people in Kanthapura. Atrocities against women added miseries of the people. In the last part o the novel, it is mentioned that people of the village were settled in Kashipur and Kanthapura was occupied by people from Bombay.