Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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Achakka Character Analysis

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 characters by a variety of epithets, especially their physical characteristics (“pock-marked Sidda”) and the places they live (“corner-house Moorthy”). Her narration is circuitous and digressive, full of flashbacks and endless sentences she composes by joining often unrelated ideas with “and.” At the beginning of the book, she sympathizes with the brahmins who see Moorthy’s belief in equality as a form of pollution, but later in the book she helps lead the women’s rebellion against the colonial police forces. Through Achakka’s stream-of-consciousness style of narration, the author gives Kanthapura’s story the form of a sthala-purana—an oral, legendary, local history.

Achakka Quotes in Kanthapura

The Kanthapura quotes below are all either spoken by Achakka or refer to Achakka. 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:
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Kanthapura published in 1963.
Foreword Quotes

We have neither punctuation nor the treacherous “ats” and “ons” to bother us—we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our story-telling. I have tried to follow it myself in this story.

Related Characters: Achakka
Page Number: vi
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 1 Quotes

Our village—I don’t think you have ever heard about it—Kanthapura is its name, and it is in the province of Kara. High on the Ghats it is, high up the steep mountains that face the cool Arabian seas, up the Malabar coast it is, up Mangalore and Puttur and many a centre of cardamom and coffee, rice and sugarcane. Roads, narrow, dusty, rut-covered roads, wind through the forests of teak and of jack, of sandal and of salt, and hanging over bellowing gorges and leaping over elephant-haunted valleys, they now turn to the left and now to the right and bring you through the Alambè and Champa and Mena and Kola passes into the great granaries of trade. There, on the blue waters, they say, our carted cardamoms and coffee get into the ships the Red-men bring, and, so they say, they go across the seven oceans into the countries where our rulers live.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker)
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Sometimes people say to themselves, the Goddess of the River plays through the night with the Goddess of the Hill. Kenchamma is the mother of Himavathy. May the goddess bless us!

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Kenchamma
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

Till now I’ve spoken only of the Brahmin quarter. Our village had a Pariah quarter too, a Potters’ quarter, a Weavers’ quarter, and a Sudra quarter. How many huts had we there? I do not know. There may have been ninety or a hundred—though a hundred may be the right number. Of course you wouldn’t expect me to go into the Pariah quarter, but I have seen from the street-corner Beadle Timmayya’s hut.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Moorthy, Beadle Timmayya
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

I closed my ears when I heard [Moorthy] went to the Pariah quarter. We said to ourselves, he is one of these Gandhi-men, who say there is neither caste nor clan nor family, and yet they pray like us and they live like us. Only they say, too, one should not marry early, one should allow widows to take husbands and a Brahmin might marry a pariah and a pariah a Brahmin. Well, well, let them say it, how does it affect us? We shall be dead before the world is polluted. We shall have closed our eyes.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Moorthy, Mahatma Gandhi
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 4 Quotes

There was something deep and desperate that hurried her on, and [Narsamma] passed by Rangamma’s sugarcane field and by the mango grove to the river, just where the whirlpool gropes and gurgles, and she looked up at the moonlit sky, and the winds of the night and the shadows of the night and the jackals of the night so pierced her breast that she shuddered and sank unconscious upon the sands, and the cold so pierced her that the next morning she was dead.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Moorthy, The Swami, Narsamma
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 5 Quotes

The Skeffington Coffee Estate rises beyond the Bebbur Mound over the Bear’s Hill, and hanging over Tippur and Subbur and Kantur, it swings round the Elephant Valley, and rising to shoulder the Snow Mountains and the Beda Ghats, it dips sheer into the Himavathy, and follows on from the Balepur Toll-gate Corner to the Kenchamma Hill, where it turns again and skirts Bhatta Devil’s fields and Rangè Gowda’s coconut garden, and at the Tippur stream it rises again and is lost amidst the jungle growths of the Horse-head Hill.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

And they all rose up like one rock and fell on the ground saying, “You are a dispenser of good, O Maharaja, we are the lickers of your feet…”

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Sahib, Maistri, Coolie Chenna
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

[Pariah Siddayya] tells you about the dasara havu that is so clever that he got into the Sahib’s drawer and lay there curled up, and how, the other day, when the sahib goes to the bathroom, a lamp in his hand, and opens the drawer to take out some soap, what does he see but our Maharaja, nice and clean and shining with his eyes glittering in the lamplight, and the Sahib, he closes the drawer as calmly as a prince; but by the time he is back with his pistol, our Maharaja has given him the slip. And the Sahib opens towel after towel to greet the Maharaja, but the Maharaja has gone on his nuptial ceremony and he will never be found.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Sahib, Potter Siddayya
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

What is a policeman before a Gandhi’s man? Tell me, does a boar stand before a lion or a jackal before an elephant?

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Rachanna, Badè Khan, Sahib, Vasudev
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 17 Quotes

The whole world seems a jungle in battle, trees rumbling, lions roaring, jackals wailing, parrots piping, panthers screeching, monkeys jabbering, jeering, chatter-chattering, black monkeys and white monkeys and the long-tailed ones, and the flame of forest angry around us, and if Mother Earth had opened herself and said, “Come in, children,” we should have walked down the steps and the great rock would have closed itself upon us—and yet the sun was frying-hot.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker)
Page Number: 156
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 19 Quotes

It is the way of the masters that is wrong. And I have come to realize bit by bit, and bit by bit, when I was in prison, that as long as there will be iron gates and barbed wires round the Skeffington Coffee Estate, and city cars that can roll up the Bebbur Mound, and gas-lights and coolie cars, there will always be pariahs and poverty.

Related Characters: Moorthy (speaker), Achakka, Rangamma
Page Number: 188-9
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Kanthapura LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kanthapura PDF

Achakka Character Timeline in Kanthapura

The timeline below shows where the character Achakka appears in Kanthapura. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
 “Our village,” the narrator Achakka begins, “I don’t think you have ever heard about it—Kanthapura is its name.” The village... (full context)
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...some “old ones” who “would have died one way or the other anyway.” And yes, the narrator admits, one woman died of it too—but “her child was born ten months and four... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...and was loved by all. The narrator, who reveals in passing that her name is Achakka, would even have married her granddaughter to him if she had one. Moorthy and Achakka’s... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Achakka notes that, so far, she has only talked about the village’s Brahmin Quarter—there are a... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...“like slaves” even though they also own land; “his words were law in our village.” Achakka considers him an “honest man” who has “helped many a poor peasant”—but he is also... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Across the Sudra Street is the Brahmin Street, where Achakka herself lives, Subba Chetty has his shop, and the local temple stands. The street is... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
One day, Moorthy found a “half-sunk” linga (an idol that represents Lord Siva) in Achakka’s backyard and convinced the other brahmins to clean and build a small shrine for it.... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
...next morning, Moorthy proposes holding festivals for the gods Rama, Krishna, and Ganesh. He asks Achakka for money, which would enable them to bring the best Harikatha-men from afar to perform... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Achakka summarizes Jayaramachar’s story. A sage approaches the creator god Brahma in the Heavens and laments... (full context)
Section 3
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
...and was “always smiling, always ready, always friendly” whenever he saw an opportunity to profit. Achakka swears that “he would one day own the whole village […] had not the stream... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...he “bring a name to Kanthapura” (or send back money if he strikes it rich). Achakka declares that, given Bhatta’s reputation, his disdain for Gandhi was a surprise—although not really, since... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...from all this “pariah business,” keep her on guard about “Moorthy and these city boys.” Achakka interjects that “our Rangamma is no village kid”—she reads newspapers from the city and knows... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
But Achakka explains that there was one thing Rangamma never stopped talking about—the day after a Northern... (full context)
Section 4
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
“From that day on,” Achakka laments, “they never spoke to each other, Narsamma and Moorthy.” They continued to eat separately... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
...Bhatta refuses to officiate and “sell [his] soul to a pariah.” That night, Moorthy leaves. Achakka explains that nobody knows where he went, or even talks about his departure anymore, but... (full context)
Section 5
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Achakka describes the vast Skeffington Coffee Estate, which snakes through the Western Ghats’ landscape and is... (full context)
Section 6
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
...thinks he hears Moorthy in Vasudev’s shed, but the noise is actually Badè Khan and Achakka warns that “Moorthy will not come tonight.” Rachanna and Madanna head down to Vasudev’s shed,... (full context)
Section 8
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
...“bundles and bundles of yarn” for Moorthy, who says that “the Mahatma was very pleased.” Achakka declares that “maybe he would remember us!” (full context)
Section 10
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...“with the light in our souls.” “Somewhere beyond the Bebbur Mound and the Kenchamma Hill,” Achakka assures the reader, Moorthy “had grown even more sorrowful and calm.” (full context)
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...and washes away Ramakrishnayya’s body. All night, it rained hard and no cow would yield milk—Achakka exclaims, “Lord, may such be the path of our outgoing soul!” (full context)
Section 11
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...the texts and Rangamma interpreted them, “bring[ing] the British Government into every page and line.” Achakka thinks “it must have been all due to her stay with Sankaru” and the villagers... (full context)
Section 12
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The rains come, and Achakka follows them from the mountains through the valleys and into Kanthapura, where its residents thank... (full context)
Section 14
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
The policemen take the women outside the grove, and Achakka and her sisters feel their fresh wounds but also a sense of accomplishment and purpose.... (full context)
Section 16
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...policemen who would come “to protect” the villagers from “the troublesome ones.” Moorthy comes to Achakka’s house in the night, saying that “the fight has really begun” and warning her to... (full context)
Section 17
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
...village woman who goes to visit her elderly neighbor and knocks her down just as Achakka and a few of the other women arrive. He then chases them all out of... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Achakka and the others hear shrieks from every corner of the village, and “the whole world... (full context)
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...wailing, surrounded by a crowd as its driver kicks it to rise. Some policemen see Achakka and the other women and chase them to the edge of town, where they see... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...tells them that “this is no safe place” and they must find refuge elsewhere, and Achakka hears “the voice of Rangamma in her speech, the voice of Moorthy.” Before they head... (full context)
Section 18
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...Rangè Gowda’s big field. Suddenly, the villagers realize what is happening and begin to weep. Achakka and the women meet Satamma, who blames Moorthy for “all this misery” and at first... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Ratna had already left, and everyone returns home in frustration as Achakka wonders whether Gandhism has helped them at all. She declares that they were “mad to... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
...silence,” the women decide to join the coolies, and Nanjamma stays to watch the children. Achakka goes and sees bullets flying every which way, until one strikes one of the Volunteers... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...Gandhian immediately gets shot near them and falls over them, dead. In the big field, Achakka wonders where all her fellow Volunteers have gone. She looks up over the fields and... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...stab them with bayonets, starting another chaotic massacre. Someone strikes one of the officers and Achakka hears Ratna’s voice saying, “no violence, in the name of the Mahatma” but cannot find... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Achakka and the women “creep back through the village lane,” watching the police slaughter countless men... (full context)
Section 19
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Achakka explains that a year and two months have passed since the events at Kanthapura. The... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Ratna went to Bombay the week after her visit, but Achakka is hopeful about Rangamma’s upcoming release, for she still supports Gandhi and “we are all... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...them he “couldn’t leave” Kanthapura until he had “three handfuls of Himavathy water.” In reality, Achakka admits, Rangè Gowda went to dig up the jewels that he hid underground. (full context)