Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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Kanthapura: Section 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Moorthy tells Rangamma that he blames himself for the evening’s violence and plans to fast for three days in Kanthapura’s temple. He heads directly there over Rangamma’s protests and begins to meditate. Later, Rangamma and Seenu bring bananas but Moorthy rejects them, saying that he will only drink “three cups of salted water” per day. Rangamma begins to cry and Seenu tells Moorthy that “this is all very well for the Mahatma, but not for us poor creatures,” but Moorthy still wants to try. Ramakrishnayya comes and brings Rangamma back home.
As the movement’s leader, Moorthy takes full responsibility for attacks by coolie women who had not even heard him speak about Gandhi yet. His decision to fast mirrors Gandhi’s own tactics and his sole choice of sustenance, salt water, foreshadows the salt march that Gandhi leads in 1930. Ramakrishnayya is one of the only powerful brahmin leaders who supports Moorthy’s efforts, which is unsurprising since he is known as the village’s wisest elder.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Moorthy says the gayathri mantra “thrice a thousand and eight times” before drifting slowly into a deep sleep. He meditates through the next day as people come and go in the temple, until Waterfall Venkamma rouses him by laughing and accusing him of polluting the village. “I shall love even my enemies,” Moorthy tells himself before returning to meditation. He “sends out rays of love” and sings a poem by the 15th century poet Kabir until he begins to weep and sees “a great blue radiance” filling the earth. He “falls prostrate before the god” and chants, “Sivoham, Sivoham. I am Siva. I am Siva. Siva am I.”
In coping with his followers’ violence, Moorthy finds himself embodying the Gandhian ideal of responding to violence with love. The “great blue radiance” he sees refers to Siva’s traditional depiction in blue. Siva is the transformer of the world; meanwhile, Gandhi and Moorthy seek to transform the world, as well.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Moorthy returns to meditate by the temple’s central pillar and wonders why he can “meditate so deeply,” release his thoughts so easily. He feels a “vital softness” he has not felt since childhood, praying as he sat in the Himavathy river while his mother washed clothes, trying to see Hari everywhere. At that time he felt himself sink into the earth “and then there was a dark burning light in the heart of the sanctum,” and he went in the temple “like a sparrow,” flooded by light and fear of “the Holy.” He opened his eyes and saw “nothing but light and that cool, blue-spreading light had entered his limbs.” His last such experience was his vision of the Mahatma.
Moorthy feels something very similar to the energy he felt emanate from Gandhi in his earlier vision, extending the parallel between himself and the Mahatma. The river Moorthy recalls is the same one where his mother died after he was excommunicated. While it signified caste purity for his mother, it signifies the unity of all preached by Gandhi for Moorthy.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
This morning, Moorthy feels like he could fly and fall back to earth, catching “a little of that primordial radiance” and feeling love “pour out of him” with every breath. Ratna visits him and he feels differently toward her, no longer seeming “so feminine and soft and distant” like a sister. She prays with him—although she seems too young to truly understand Moorthy’s idea “that the sins of others may be purified with our prayers”—and returns home.
Moorthy sees his meditation as a common good—something that he can share with the other villagers and a means to right wrongs that are not his own. Just as his own family ties dissolved when his mother died and he moved into Rangamma’s house, Moorthy’s previously familial relationship with Ratna transforms into a Gandhian camaraderie.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
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Rangamma brings salt for Moorthy’s water. He drinks and shivers at “the coolness in his empty stomach” but then feels a surge of strength, even though he is still too weak to speak back to Rangamma and rejects her offer of food.
Moorthy’s physical weakness belies his mental strength, which parallels his belief that Gandhi’s movement will win through its resilience and commitment to values rather than through physical strength.
Themes
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
A large crowd assembles around MoorthyDorè laughs at him, and he is visibly losing strength. By nightfall, only Rangamma is left, and Moorthy explains that he believes “fearless, calm affection towards our fellow men” can convert enemies. He hopes to win over Badè Khan in particular. Achakka admits that “Rangamma did not understand this, neither, to tell you the truth, did any of us.”
Moorthy overcomes the other brahmins’ ridicule through the Gandhian ideal of absolute love and sees the chance to convert Badè Khan, Gandhi’s ultimate enemy in Kanthapura, as a test of his power. In staying the latest with Moorthy, Rangamma reveals that she has become his greatest ally.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The second day, Bhatta visits a weaker-still Moorthy, who simply smiles back, “for love was growing in him.” On the third day Moorthy feels “such exaltation” that “he could touch the stones and they would hang to his hands, he felt he could touch a snake and it would spread its sheltering hood above him.” Standing, he finds himself too dizzy to walk. He lies down and falls unconscious.
In these lines, it is unclear whether Moorthy is growing stronger or weaker, gaining insight or losing his mind, discovering or hallucinating divine powers in himself. His unwavering faith in Gandhi and grueling meditation regimen begin to seem extreme and uncritical.
Themes
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
When Moorthy awakens, Rangamma, Seenu, and Ratna are watching him and Pariah Rachanna and Lingayya stand nearby. Moorthy feels that “something was the matter,” looks around Kanthapura, and suddenly breaks into tears, “for somewhere behind the dizzy blare [of the sunshine in the valley] was a shadow that seemed to wail like an ominous crow.” Rangamma offers him an orange, but he says that he cannot eat it and asks for salted water. He drinks and returns to sleep.
Achakka shows which major characters have joined Moorthy’s movement by this stage in the book. His followers worry about his health, but he refuses to subjugate mind to matter and continues his fast.
Themes
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Rangamma asks Ratna to watch when Moorthy wakes, and she prays to God for him. When he awakes, Moorthy feels stronger and leads a bhajan attended by people from throughout Kanthapura, including even Badè Khan—but very few of the brahmins. Moorthy vows yet again to “send out love where there was hatred and compassion where there was misery.”  He is overcome with a vital peace, and the next morning, he breaks his fast and begins preaching his “Don’t-touch-the-Government campaign.”
Ratna prays to a unitary God, as opposed to the village’s local goddess, which suggests that the Gandhian god of all has begun to supplant Kenchamma as the villagers’ focus in worship (but also recalls colonial Christianity). Badè Khan’s attendance at the bhajan could signal either that Moorthy successfully convinced him to consider Gandhism or that he is simply continuing to keep tabs on the Gandhians.
Themes
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon