Moorthy spurs the rest to action, likening their collective resistance to building the “thousand-pillared temple” that shall become the nation of India. He tells his followers that they will follow the news of Gandhi’s final pilgrimage to manufacture salt in the ocean, and he reminds them that as Congress members they must swear to speak Truth, spin wool and “put aside the idea of the holy brahmin and the untouchable pariah.”
Achakka opens this section with another discourse by Moorthy, reemphasizing the centrality of such meetings in the village’s collective and political life. Moorthy reminds the villagers that their efforts are both deeply meaningful and insufficient to effect change on a national level. He orients them toward this national struggle by following the salt march.
Moorthy explains that they sit in the “temple of the One,” and they are all one no matter their caste, charged to do the same work and pray for the Mahatma. They sit for a moment in silent prayer to “be united in the One,” and “strength flowed from the wide heavens into the hearts of all men.” The others wonder what “binds our heart” to Moorthy, whom they still see “as a child.”
The metaphor of a temple again positions Gandhism as a religious imperative, drawing a distinction between caste-based Hinduism and the Hinduism of “the One” that unites all Indians. The others see that Moorthy remains naïve, like a child, and question their motives for believing him.
Moorthy gets daily information from the Congress Committee and frequent visitors from the city. Seenu rings the gong to call the Gandhians for bhajans, during which Moorthy tells them stories about activists across India, like the 170 Patels that resigned and the thousands who came to watch the Mahatma’s pilgrimage. Rangamma thinks the gods will evict the British from India before Gandhi completes his march, but Dorè laughs that “this is all Ramayana and Mahabharata; such things never happen in our times.”
The Congress Committee sends orders in private documents for Moorthy, who reveals the national movement’s mysterious commands to the rest of the village. He is powerful in large part because of this role mediating written messages, which allows him to offer the villagers a perspective on their role in the broader movement.
On a Monday evening, the Gandhians cannot sleep, for they know that the Mahatma is about to arrive at the sea, and early the next morning they go to bathe in the Himavathy river, believing it to be the precise minute the Mahatma reaches the sea. Temple Rangappa meets them and claims surprise at their early arrival, but the Gandhians know that Bhatta has paid him off, and “another one is lost for us!”
Although the salt march occurs halfway across India and the villagers have no personal knowledge of it, they nevertheless feel deeply connected to the Mahatma’s pilgrimage and perform their own pilgrimage to the holy Himavathy in order to feel a part of the national movement.
The Gandhians wash their clothes, meditate, and feel “something new within our hearts.” The next morning, they learn from the papers that “everybody” followed the Mahatma to the sea and made “cartloads” of salt, but the police began arresting them en masse, beating the nonviolent protestors and dragging them to prison day after day as they go to make salt in the ocean, and in turn emptying out villages whose people grew fond of the Mahatma.
The idea of Gandhi’s pilgrimage nourishes the villagers from afar, before they even learn about the circumstances of the salt march and the police’s response to it from Rangamma’s paper. The mass arrests demonstrate the escalating stakes of the independence movement.
Moorthy promises that Kanthapura’s people will start marching once they receive orders from the Karwar Committee, and they continue to do practice drills in Rangamma’s courtyard, imagining “Badè Khans after Badè Khans” beating them and becoming “more and more familiar” with the idea. They begin to feel stronger and imagine withstanding the beatings beside the Mahatma, whom Nanjamma compares to a mountain, “high yet seeable, firm and yet blue with dusk,” standing as a temple above the procession of pilgrims that marches to him. They resolve to call Gandhi “the Mountain” and Moorthy “the Small Mountain.”
Although the villagers are preparing for physical violence at the hands of the police, the most important component of their preparations is mental: once they learn to remember why they will endure the police’s beatings, they cease to imagine them as painful and begin to see themselves as martyrs for Gandhi’s cause. The imagery of a mountain portrays the Mahatma as an unshakeable model of good character.