Siddhartha

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Kamala Character Analysis

is a courtesan, who is treated as a queen by the town and spotted by Siddhartha as she travels by sedan into a pleasure grove. Her smile shows him that she has the potential to love him and show him great things. She represents a new goal for Siddhartha that persuades him to give up his ascetic life and learn the art of love, which he does very well, and the pair share a deep kinship despite their different backgrounds. Kamala is also very spiritual and after Siddhartha leaves the town, Kamala converts to the teaching of the Buddha and gives her pleasure grove to the monks. She dies in the hut of the ferryman. Before Siddhartha departs, though, he and Kamala conceive a son. The gifts she has given to Siddhartha become clear and symbolized by this son, young Siddhartha, who provides Siddhartha with a legacy and a vision of his life’s cycle.

Kamala Quotes in Siddhartha

The Siddhartha quotes below are all either spoken by Kamala or refer to Kamala. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Path to Spiritual Enlightenment Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Siddhartha published in 1999.
Part Two, Chapter 5 – Kamala Quotes

“Why should I fear a samana, a foolish samana from the forest, who comes from the jackals and does not yet know what a woman is?”

Related Characters: Kamala (speaker), Siddhartha
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

Siddhartha has lived a life devoted, in a sense, to intellect – his spiritual pursuits have been generally concerned with philosophy rather than the body and the world around him. From Kamala, Siddhartha needs to learn the spiritual nature of the body. It is in this passage that we learn that Kamala will be an apt teacher, since her attitude to Siddhartha indicates that, like Guatama, she is self-possessed enough to not be taken in by Siddhartha's charisma as so many others are.

Kamala has a power that comes from her relationship to her body. When Siddhartha wonders if he can claim her body by force, she essentially tells him that if he did he would find nothing worth taking since her power is hers to give. This sets up the next challenge for Siddhartha, consistent with his others. Siddhartha seeks situations in which he can absorb the wisdom of someone who is powerful in a way that he is weak – he finds this power in Kamala. 

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Kamala Character Timeline in Siddhartha

The timeline below shows where the character Kamala appears in Siddhartha. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part Two, Chapter 5 – Kamala
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...Instead, he goes into the town and learns the name of the woman. She is Kamala, a courtesan. Siddhartha has a new goal. (full context)
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...his hair and beard cut, then washes in the river. That day, he goes to Kamala’s sedan again, and asks one of the servants to tell Kamala that he wishes to... (full context)
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Kamala laughs. She has never had a samana come to her before, though she has received... (full context)
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Siddhartha next asks Kamala why she is not afraid of a rough samana entering her house. She says she... (full context)
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Siddhartha also promises to come back with the rich clothes that Kamala requested, but doesn’t know how to obtain them. Kamala suggests using his skills and receiving... (full context)
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The next day, Siddhartha visits Kamala in her town house and she informs him that things are already looking up for... (full context)
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Kamala reminds Siddhartha that he has her to thank for his good fortune too. Siddhartha replies... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 6 – Among the Child People
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...impressed and invites Siddhartha into his home, and showers him with rich things. Siddhartha remembers Kamala’s words and treats the merchant as a peer and does not submit to him or... (full context)
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...the merchant with his transactions, but he is focused on his pursuit of love with Kamala, and visits her every day, now able to present her with the gifts she requested.... (full context)
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But Siddhartha keeps learning the art of love from Kamala, and her friendship warms him. She seems more akin to him than Govinda. Siddhartha one... (full context)
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They play love games – fighting and tricking each other in a battle-like display. Kamala admits that Siddhartha is the best lover she has known and that she wishes to... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 7 – Samsara
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...visitors, asking for advice and money, but the only real connection he made was with Kamala. He reflected on the feeling he’d had after he left Govinda with the monks, of... (full context)
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One night, Siddhartha spends the evening with Kamala and she asks all about the Buddha and wishes one day to take refuge in... (full context)
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That night, when Siddhartha falls asleep for a moment, he has a dream, in which Kamala’s pet song bird turns suddenly mute. When Siddhartha goes over to the bird in the... (full context)
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...to this too. He leaves the town. For a while, Kamaswami searches for him, but Kamala has expected his departure. She knows that he still has samana in him. She is... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 8 – By the River
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...is suddenly very hungry, and laughs at the memory of reciting his three skills to Kamala, waiting, fasting and thinking. Those skills have left him now. He traded them in for... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 9 – The Ferryman
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Amongst the hoards is Kamala, who is also on a pilgrimage to visit the dying Buddha. Since knowing Siddhartha, Kamala... (full context)
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On one of these rest stops, as Kamala is resting her eyes, a black snake attacks and bites her. They try to go... (full context)
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...Brahmins and sings it. His son calms down and sleeps. Siddhartha and Vasudeva know that Kamala is dying. She awakes again in great pain. She tells Siddhartha that he looks both... (full context)
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Siddhartha watches Kamala’s pale face, now old and without the color of the fig that he once saw.... (full context)
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...him that his son is welcome to stay with them, but now they must build Kamala a pyre in the same way that Vasudeva had built one for his wife when... (full context)
Part Two, Chapter 10 – The Son
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Looking at his boy’s face, Siddhartha remembers what Kamala once said to him. She told him that he couldn’t love, and he himself agreed... (full context)
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...wants to see his son. He arrives at the grove that used to belong to Kamala, and his eyes are filled with visions of the past, of himself as a young... (full context)