Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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Kanthapura Characters

Achakka

The story’s narrator is a woman from the village of Kanthapura. She reveals little about herself, but she is an elder and brahmin who is very familiar with everyone in her village. She calls other… read analysis of Achakka

Moorthy

The book’s central protagonist and the leader of the Kanthapura villagers’ Gandhian resistance movement, Moorthy is a “quiet, generous, serene, deferent” young brahmin who rejects the hierarchical caste system in favor of social equality. He… read analysis of Moorthy

Rangamma

A widow in Kanthapura who becomes the Gandhian movement’s secondary leader, after her close confidant Moorthy. She comes from a wealthy city family and becomes Waterfall Venkamma’s sister-in-law, living in her husband’s large house… read analysis of Rangamma

Ratna

Kamalamma’s daughter, a young girl whose husband died soon after she married him at the age of ten. After Ratna becomes a widow, her mother ostracizes her, and the rest of the village treats her… read analysis of Ratna

Bhatta

A powerful and shrewd businessman who amasses land and power in Kanthapura. While he acts friendly and appears generous to the villagers who borrow money from him, he actually charges them very high interest rates… read analysis of Bhatta
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Mahatma Gandhi

The most important leader of the Indian independence movement, most famous for his belief in Satyagraha, or nonviolent resistance. He also advocated wearing only khadi (domestically produced Indian cloth) and undertook numerous marches and… read analysis of Mahatma Gandhi

Patel Rangè Gowda

Kanthapura’s patel, or government representative, village headman, and landholder. Achakka likens the hot-tempered and powerful (but lazy) patel to a tiger, noting that in Kanthapura “nothing can be done without Rangè Gowda.” Everyone in… read analysis of Patel Rangè Gowda

The Swami

The regional Hindu religious leader based in the city of Mysore who supports the brahmins’ campaign against Moorthy’s Gandhian movement. The colonial government gives him 1200 acres of land to defend the rigid caste systemread analysis of The Swami

Rachanna

A coolie who joins the Gandhians early in the book and eventually becomes one of the group’s most important leaders after the maistri kicks him off the Skeffington Coffee Estate and he moves into Kanthapura… read analysis of Rachanna

Rachi

Pariah Rachanna’s wife, who ultimately burns down the village of Kanthapura. She welcomes Moorthy into Rachanna’s house when he comes to discuss the Village Congress with a group of pariah women. But Moorthy is afraid… read analysis of Rachi

Waterfall Venkamma

A bitter and loquacious brahmin woman in the village, Venkamma is the Gandhian campaign’s most vocal and open critic. She hates Rangamma, her widowed sister-in-law who lives in her brother’s old house, as well… read analysis of Waterfall Venkamma

Dorè

A young brahmin man from the village who went to the city for University, adopted city ways, and is widely called “the University Graduate” even though he did not even make it to his second… read analysis of Dorè

Narsamma

Moorthy’s pious, elderly mother who steadfastly opposes his anti-caste positions and wants him to marry the daughter of a wealthy brahmin family. She is furious when Moorthy rejects marriage proposals and kicks him out of… read analysis of Narsamma

Badè Khan

A Muslim police officer who moves to the Skeffington Coffee Estate to keep an eye on Kanthapura after Moorthy hires the Harikatha-man Jayaramachar to talk about Mahatma Gandhi’s movement. Achakka’s descriptions of Khan often… read analysis of Badè Khan

Sahib

The original head of the Skeffington Coffee Estate, the Sahib is a cruel and violent profiteer who exemplifies colonial greed in India. He employs the maistri to terrorize the coolies, preventing them from resisting… read analysis of Sahib

New Sahib

The Sahib’s nephew, who takes control of the Skeffington Estate after his uncle’s death. While the new Sahib treats some of the coolies at the estate less cruelly than his uncle, he also systematically coerces… read analysis of New Sahib

Maistri

The Sahib’s right-hand man, the maistri directly oversees the coolies as they work on the Skeffington Coffee Estate. He recruits workers from distraught villages and convinces them to work at the estate. He translates the… read analysis of Maistri

Kenchamma

Kanthapura’s patron goddess, Kenchamma supposedly battled a demon on the red Kenchamma Hill near town “ages, ages ago” and has protected Kanthapura’s people ever since. The villagers frequently pray to her for help, perform ceremonies… read analysis of Kenchamma

Sankar

Sankar is the Secretary of the Congress Committee in the city of Karwar, which is not so far from Kanthapura. A Gandhian and a lawyer (or “advocate”), Sankar holds rallies on Moorthy’s behalf after… read analysis of Sankar
Minor Characters
The Police Inspector
The commander of the police forces who orders attacks against the villagers and arrests various members of Moorthy’s Gandhian movement. The Police Inspector embodies the merciless, repressive violence of English colonialism.
Lingayya
One of the potters and a trumpet player, Lingayya is a dedicated Gandhian and follower of Moorthy who gets arrested after jumping the fence to cut down trees at Boranna’s toddy grove, and then is never seen again.
Ramakrishnayya
A learned, elder brahmin in the village who explains ancient Hindu texts to the others and often serves as the voice of reason during the conflict between Moorthy’s Gandhians and the traditional brahmins who support the caste system (including Bhatta, Venkamma, Rangappa, and Lakshamma).
Jayaramachar
A famed Harikatha-man whom Moorthy pays to come to Kanthapura in the first chapter. He speaks about Indians’ oppression under colonialism and Gandhi’s promise to liberate the people of India.
Nanjamma
A village woman who joins Rangamma’s group of Volunteers. Achakka calls her “Nose-scratching Nanjamma” and seems to consider her clumsy and unintelligent at times.
Subba Chetty
A merchant in Kanthapura who takes advantage of the constant flow of goods passing through the town and remains loyal to Bhatta and the other pro-government brahmins. Chetty frames a man named Rahman Khan for attempted murder by paying a woman named Dasi to seduce and provoke him.
Satamma
A village woman and Suryanarayana’s wife, Satamma at first fears caste mixture but eventually joins Rangamma’s group of Volunteer women to resist the colonial government. (Not to be confused with the widowed Satamma mentioned by Achakka at the beginning of the book.)
Temple Rangappa
The village’s priest and effective religious leader, Rangappa leads prayers and ceremonies (such as the procession in Section 12) and remains loyal to the colonial government. His wife is Lakshamma, and he is loyal to Bhatta, who pays him to oppose the Gandhians.
Patwari Nanjundia
A wealthy and prominent brahmin in the village who supports Bhatta and the colonial government instead of joining the Gandhian movement.
Temple Lakshamma
A Kanthapura brahmin and wife to Priest Rangappa who opposes the Gandhians.
Betel Lakshamma
A woman who meets Moorthy on the side of the road and asks him to free her from the revenue collector.
Seenu
A villager, a close friend of Moorthy’s since childhood, and the fifth leader of the Village Congress. He is usually responsible for calling the Volunteers to congregate by ringing a bell or blowing a conch.
Pariah Siddayya
An old and experienced coolie at the Skeffington Estate who guides the new coolies through their early days before joining the Gandhian rebellion.
Potter Siddayya
The elder potter who agrees to join Moorthy’s Congress in Section 8.
Madanna
A coolie at the Skeffington Estate whose child dies of fever when Madanna is too afraid to use the Sahib’s pills. He later leaves the Estate and joins the Kanthapura villagers’ rebellion.
Advocate Ranganna
A Karwar lawyer who tries to convince Moorthy to fight his first imprisonment and later helps lead in the rallies for Moorthy’s freedom.
Temple Ranganna
A brahmin in the village.
Boranna
Owner of the toddy grove that the Kanthapura villagers picket and eventually shut down.
Rama Chetty
A merchant and Subba Chetty’s brother.
Chinnamma
A village brahmin and Bhatta’s wife, Chinnamma debates the implications of Moorthy’s caste-mixing with the other brahmin women.
Vasudev
A brahmin clerk at the Skeffington Estate who helps teach the coolies to read and becomes a prominent member of the Gandhian movement.
Sidda
A relatively well-off pariah who joins Moorthy’s Gandhian movement.
Coffee-Planter Ramayya
A wealthy man who visits Kanthapura in his expensive car at the beginning of the book. He tries to marry his daughter to Moorthy, who refuses.
Potter Ramayya
One of Kanthapura’s Gandhian Volunteers, who at times sneaks out of the village to help protestors in other cities.
Weaver Ramayya
The Elder weaver who agrees to join Moorthy’s Congress in Section 8.
Coolie Ramayya
One of the coolies who is tasked with walking the maistri’s bicycle through the mountains back up to the Skeffington Estate.
Postman Subbayya
The postman who delivers Rangamma’s Blue paper. Not to be confused with the potter also named Subbayya.
Chandrayya
A potter who is taken during a protest and beaten in jail by the government.
Kamalamma
One of the five potters, sister to Rangamma, and mother to Ratna.
Beadle Timmayya
A priest in the village who helps shelter coolies kicked off the Skeffington Estate in Section Six.
Pariah Timmayya
A pariah who grumbles at the wealthier villages in Section 12.
Postman Suryanarayana
An influential villager with a large house, and the son of Venkatalakshamma.
Venkatalakshamma
An elderly villager and mother to Suryanarayana who complains that Jayaramachar’s discourse is about Gandhi rather than Hindu religious stories.
Advocate Seenappa
Bhatta’s preferred lawyer. Bhatta arranges to have Venkamma’s daughter married to Advocate Seenappa.
Advocate Seetharamu
A lawyer who informs the Gandhians about the Swami’s intentions, refers them to Sankar, and later gets arrested and worked nearly to death in the British prison.
Seetharam
A brahmin and coolie who refuses to let the new Sahib rape his daughter. The new Sahib promptly murders Seetharam.
Beadle Chenna
A priest in town.
Coolie Chenna
A seven-year-old boy whom the Sahib scares and then offers a peppermint in order to teach the rest of the coolies a lesson.
Dasappa
Runs a khadi-shop in the city of Karwar. Not to be confused with “Chennayya’s Dasappa,” the coolie who dies by snakebite.
Puttamma
A villager and Gandhian whom one of the policeman tries to rape in the bushes outside Kanthapura.
Sastri
A poet who performs for the brahmins.
Front-House Suranna
A landowner who escorts Bhatta to the river, where Bhatta gives out loans.
Timmamma
An older woman who lives in Kanthapura. She cuts the umbilical cord of Radhamma's baby, when Radhamma gives birth to it while running from the police.
Radhamma
A pregnant woman. She gives birth early, at seven months, while being chased by the police.
Ramanna
An elder brahmin who holds an esteemed position in the town. He is sometimes referred to as the Second Brahmin. He eventually joins with the Ghandhians and is brutally beaten by the police.
Sadhu Narayan
A holy man who "had renounced hair and home" and spent his time meditating on the banks of the Vedavathy River.