Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Kanthapura can help.

Kanthapura: Section 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Badè Khan was a Muslim, and nobody in Kanthapura wanted him to live with them. Patwari Nanjundia sends Khan to Patel Rangè Gowda’s house, where he waits in frustration—Rangè Gowda is busy ordering his sons-in-law around and tells Khan he has no house for him.
Although Badè Khan works for the police, he is still subject to Rangè Gowda’s local authority and the caste system that views him as a pariah because of his religion.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
But Rangè Gowda is the Government Representative in town, Badè Khan remarks, so finding Khan a house is Gowda’s responsibility. The Patel responds that he just collects taxes and has no such responsibility. Khan accuses the Patel of being a traitor, requests a house again to no avail, and threatens that “the first time I corner you, I shall squash you like a bug.” The Patel says “enough!”
Rangè Gowda and Badè Khan argue about whether Rangè Gowda’s role as Patel (revenue collector) means he works for the government. He sees himself as representing the people to the government, but Badè Khan sees him as representing the government to the people. Again, Rangè Gowda’s local authority beats out Badè Khan’s authority from the national government.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
The Khan sulks away, kicking the town’s one-eared dog on his way to the Skeffington Coffee Estate. When Khan arrives, Mr. Skeffington offers him a hut and the butler guides him there. Khan moves in with one of the pariah women, whom he chose from “among the lonely ones.”
Although Mr. Skeffington does not work for the government, he is allied with the government, as he has an economic interest in stopping a Gandhian movement and the government has a political interest in keeping the estate economically successful. This demonstrates how economic exploitation serves as the core of colonial politics.
Themes
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Nobody in the village sees Badè Khan for the next few days, and rumors spread about his motives for coming to Kanthapura. Some villagers think he has come to bring the Police Inspector; others think he is just a “passing policeman.” Waterfall Venkamma thinks Khan has come “because of this Moorthy and all this Gandhi affair.” Venkamma hates Moorthy—he rejected her second daughter for marriage and has started assembling Gandhians in Rangamma’s house, bringing books and spinning-wheels from the local Gandhian Karwar Congress Committee.
The rumors’ spread demonstrates how quickly information moves throughout Kanthapura’s tight social networks. This becomes an asset in the villagers’ later campaign against the colonial regime. Moorthy’s rejection of Venkamma’s daughter shows his stern rejection of the caste system and the expectations it places on young adults to marry as soon as possible.
Themes
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Get the entire Kanthapura LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kanthapura PDF
Moorthy and his boys visit every corner of Kanthapura, recruiting people from all castes to use the free spinning-wheels. Nose-scratching Nanjamma cannot believe that they are truly free—Moorthy explains that “millions and millions of yards of foreign cloth come to this country, and everything foreign makes us poor and pollutes us.” Gandhi thinks wearing one’s own cloth is sacred; the spinning-wheels give work and cloth to those who need it. “Brahmins do not spin,” Nanjamma protests—that is the weavers’ job.
The wheels offer Moorthy a means to give Gandhi’s ideas an audience among even initially skeptical villagers. Nanjamma expects that the wheels could not possibly be free, reflecting the extent to which unequal and exploitative economic relations have become the norm in Kanthapura. She also worries that spinning would break the rules of caste, again staging a conflict between Gandhi’s version of Hinduism and the traditional one that maintains the brahmins’ power.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Related Quotes
But Moorthy says that the weavers buy foreign cloth, and he explains why this is a problem through an analogy: Nanjamma might sell her rice to foreigners who pay higher prices, but then she is left without her own rice, which has gone “to fatten some dissipated Red-man in his own country.” City-people and foreigners will come to sell their wares, and villagers will buy them, making themselves “poorer and poorer” until they have sold away all their rice and starve.
Free spinning-wheels promise the villagers an alternative to agriculture, which is increasingly precarious for all because of Bhatta’s steep interest rates and increasing competition from colonial plantations. Foreign cloth, similarly, threatens to outcompete Indian cloth, and when Indians sell the goods they produce for money (rather than using them and trading them for other goods locally), wealth gets sucked out of the village on a massive scale.
Themes
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
“I am no learned person,” declares Nanjamma, who then asks whether the Mahatma himself spins. Of course, replies Moorthy—“he says spinning is as purifying as praying” and does it for two hours every morning. Nanjamma finally agrees, but still does not believe that the spinning-wheel truly costs nothing until Moorthy explains the process again.
If spinning is a spiritual ritual, then the Mahatma opens religious practices to people of all castes equally rather than restricting them to brahmins. Moorthy mentions that Gandhi himself spins because this offers the villagers a much more relatable political role model than the distant colonial government that is unlike and indifferent toward them.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
Moorthy visits the other brahmins and then the pariahs, convincing all the people he meets to start spinning. A crowd follows him to the village gate, where Badè Khan is smoking a cigarette on the village train platform in plain clothes. After they pass, he jumps down and walks over to the brahmin street.
As Moorthy’s Gandhian politics spreads, Kanthapura becomes more and more of a threat to the colonial system that relies on caste and economic inequality to perpetuate its power.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon