Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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The River Himavathy Symbol Analysis

The River Himavathy Symbol Icon

The Himavathy runs through the Western Ghats, nourishing its valley and the people of Kanthapura. At the beginning of the book, Achakka explains that Himavathy has its own river goddess, who is a daughter of Kenchamma. The river is holy to the villagers—the brahmins drink its water to purify themselves and everyone washes their clothes in it. When she is furious at her son Moorthy, Narsamma goes to the river and takes her anger out by hitting her clothes on rocks until she decides to accept him. Later, she dies on the same riverbank after the Swami excommunicates her family and all their future children. When Moorthy begins preaching Gandhism, he warns that merchants who keep buying foreign goods “will have nothing else to eat but the pebbles of the Himavathy, and drink her water;” the Himavathy is the villagers’ primary source of sustenance, both physical and spiritual. After Ramakrishnayya’s death, the pariahs wash his body in the river before cremating it on a funeral pyre, but “all of the sudden the river began to swell” and washed the pyre away. Achakka suggests that this foreshadows the “path of our outgoing Soul;” at the end of the book, after the villagers burn down Kanthapura, they wade through the Himavathy, wash the wounded and satiate the thirsty with its waters, and leave the ashes of the dead in the river, just as with Ramakrishnayya. Indeed, they purify their “outgoing Soul[s]” by passing through the river as they abandon their town. Thus, throughout the novel, the Himavathy represents the ideas of purity around which Kanthapura’s religion and society are organized.

The River Himavathy Quotes in Kanthapura

The Kanthapura quotes below all refer to the symbol of The River Himavathy. 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.
Section 1 Quotes

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:
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The River Himavathy Symbol Timeline in Kanthapura

The timeline below shows where the symbol The River Himavathy appears in Kanthapura. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...of the River playing with the Goddess of the Hill. “Kenchamma is the mother of Himavathy,” explains the narrator. (full context)
Section 4
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
When she arrives, Narsamma starts washing her clothes on the Himavathy river’s stones with the other villagers and begins to calm down, so she goes home... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...flame” and carries on because of “something deep and desperate.” She runs to the river Himavathy and looks at the sky, shudders and falls unconscious at the riverbanks, and is dead... (full context)
Section 7
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Section 10
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...and set up the funeral pyre the next morning. As they light the flame, the Himavathy river swells up and washes away Ramakrishnayya’s body. All night, it rained hard and no... (full context)
Section 13
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Section 15
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...calls him “my Lord” and believes that he will “bring a good name to the Himavathy.” (full context)
Section 18
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...cannot bring themselves to abandon their lands and homes “and the sacred banks of the Himavathy.” (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...all. She declares that they were “mad to follow Moorthy.” The goddess Kenchamma and river Himavathy never refused their prayers, she laments. But suddenly she feels “some strange fever” inside her... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...hear gunshots and shrieking animals, and they run out of the village and through the Himavathy river as more and more of the protestors join them, heading toward Maddur. (full context)
Section 19
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...while they certainly lost something with Kanthapura’s destruction, they also gained “an abundance like the Himavathy on Gauri’s night” when the lights of their village scattered “down the Ghats to the... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The dead have been cremated on the Himavathy’s banks. Ratna reported that Moorthy has been released, but he never returned to see the... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...his return. He told 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... (full context)