Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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Kanthapura: Section 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next Tuesday, the villagers gather in the temple and again march to picket the toddy shops. Along their way, various people ask about their purposes; at the Skeffington Estate, they encounter Betel Lakshamma, who asks if Moorthy and his “soldiers of the Mahatma” will free her from the Revenue Collector. “We are against all tyrants,” declares Moorthy, who simply says that “we shall see” about helping Lakshamma with the Revenue Collector. She calls him “my Lord” and believes that he will “bring a good name to the Himavathy.”
Kanthapura’s villagers continue to spread Gandhi’s ideas as they march through the Western Ghats, much like Moorthy saw meditation as a means to spread positive energy. However, Moorthy’s encounter with Betel Lakshamma again shows the limits of his politics: despite her faith in him, he realizes that he can do little about individual cases like her own, and that his own nonviolent resistance likely cannot relieve her of her debts.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Down the Karwar Road, vendors of every sort offer the Gandhians free goods and shout the names of the colonial agents and sympathizers who are oppressing them. The crowd grows as they approach the toddy booth, where the police are waiting for them. Although they had not gone to the Coffee Estate Road, they feared that each passing cart was the Sahib; this day, they were afraid and surprised to see Moorthy standing calmly at the gate, waiting for the coolies to come out for the toddy booth.
Like Betel Lakshamma, the people whom the villagers encounter initially want Gandhism to solve their own personal problems but soon decide to join the movement. The villagers anxiously wait for the police to attack them, for they know that this is the government’s only available tactic.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The shops in Kanthapura close up (it is market day), and the shopkeepers’ stop by the Gandhians in their carts and meet them on the road. The shopkeepers laugh, suggesting that the protestors “will never stop a man drinking!”
By ridiculing the Gandhians, the shopkeepers reveal that they both see immediate pleasure as naturally preferable to principled action, and do not understand how drinking keeps the coolies economically enslaved to the Sahib.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Moorthy runs suddenly back towards the Skeffington Estate gate as it begins to rain and the maistri comes out of the trees. Moorthy and the Gandhians march forward, and the Police Inspector comes to open the Skeffington gate for a flood of exhausted coolies who come out “like clogged bulls,” followed by policemen and their women, and head for Boranna’s toddy booth.
Again, the environment foreshadows danger and injury through rain. The coolies’ expressions demonstrate how the Sahib strategically makes their work conditions horrible in order to force them to cope by drinking away their wages.
Themes
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
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Moorthy tells the Gandhians to squat in front of the toddy booth, and as the rain begins to pick up the policemen begin to beat the protestors down and “beat the coolies forward” with their lathis. From his toddy booth, Boranna shouts that he will give all the brahmins free drinks, and the shopkeepers join the policemen in rushing at the protestors. The protestors lay down and the coolies stop moving before deciding to lie down as well, all the while shouting “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai!
By “beat[ing] the coolies forward,” the policemen make it clear that they are there to enforce the Sahib’s will on the coolies by forcing them to the toddy stand, rather than protecting the coolies who decide to drink from the protestors. Therefore, the coolies’ decision to join the protestors is a way of opposing the Sahib, replacing the toddy as a coping mechanism. In offering brahmins special treatment, Boranna reflects how the colonial government rewards brahmins for keeping lower-caste Indians far from power.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The police and the Gandhians fight for the coolies’ loyalty with whips and shouts, respectively. The police try to lift up the protestors by their hair—one kicks Rangamma so hard that she passes out, and another slaps Ratna until her mouth is bloodied. When Moorthy’s calls of “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai!” stop because a policeman has hit him in the mouth, the villagers believe he is dead.
The police become more violent than during the last protest, and they begin to attack with means besides their lathis. Moorthy’s continuous chants remind the group of their goals as well as his physical position at the head of the march, so his silence frightens the villagers who think their movement has suddenly lost its leader.
Themes
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The police keep beating the protestors, who continue to lay on the ground and tell the coolies “do not drink, in the name of the Mahatma.” The coolies agree not to drink, and the Police Inspector orders his men to throw pots of water at the protestors. They pour it in their mouths and up their dresses as the rain continues to pour down.
The police throw water on the protestors while it is already raining. They literally force the Gandhians to drink when the coolies refuse to do so. The imagery here foreshadows the sexual violence during the book’s final protest.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Sixty-seven of the villagers wake up to the police kicking them out of yet another truck, and they march back to Kanthapura. When they arrive, they discover that a few dozen of the coolies have moved into their village’s Pariah Street, and people from all around are converging to meet Moorthy and join the “army of Mahatma.”
The police have beaten the villagers so hard that they have gone unconscious. Their punishment is the same as before, and so is their reward; despite their injuries, their nonviolent methods and dedication to Gandhi’s cause have inspired others (this time, the coolies) to join their cause. The Gandhians literally liberate the coolies from the Skeffington Estate by offering them a place to live and do meaningful work (spinning cloth and working for the Congress).
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon