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
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!