Raja Rao

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Vernacular South Indian texts or oral traditions telling the traditional stories of particular localities, villages, and temples. Rao describes Kanthapura as a sthala-purana, which he defines as a “legendary history.” read analysis of Sthala-Purana


A kind of knee-length, cloth pant traditionally worn by Hindu men. In the 1920s, Gandhi decided to start wearing dhoti instead of Western clothing in order to identify himself with the Indian poor. read analysis of Dhoti


Refers to hand-woven Indian cloth. Gandhi encouraged his supporters to wear khadi and boycott British-made cloth. read analysis of Khadi


A traditional Hindu system of social stratification that traditionally divides people into separate communities of brahmins (priests and teachers), kshatriyas (governors, administrators, and warriors), vaishyas (merchants, artists, and farmers), and shudras (manual laborers). The different… read analysis of Caste


The traditionally highest and most powerful caste, composed of priests and teachers. read analysis of Brahmin
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A low caste of manual laborers. Also called sudra. read analysis of Shudra

Pariah / Outcaste

People who live beneath the caste system and are therefore considered unworthy of interaction with people from other castes. read analysis of Pariah / Outcaste


A more common and non-regionally specific term for outcastes like Kanthapura’s pariahs. read analysis of Untouchables


A small idol that abstractly represents the Hindu god Siva. read analysis of Linga


A prayer ritual for Adi Shankara, the eighth century philosopher who is credited with standardizing Hindu scriptures and first conceiving India as a unified territory. read analysis of Sankara-jayanthi


Important biographies of Adi Shankara. read analysis of Sankara-Vijayas


Refers to any song performance with religious themes. read analysis of Bhajan


A South Indian genre of storytelling with religious themes that combines poetry, philosophy, song, dance and theatre. Sastri usually gives harikathas in Kanthapura, and Moorthy pays Jayaramchar to give a harikatha about Gandhi in the… read analysis of Harikatha


A Hindu religious leader. read analysis of Pandit


A colloquial term for British colonists. read analysis of Red-men


A term for indentured servants, generally in British colonies but especially from India, who worked on plantations. Although they were not technically slaves, after the abolition of slavery their labor largely replaced slave labor. Planters… read analysis of Coolies


An originally Sanskrit word for a great ruler or king. Over time, it became a relatively common title denoting honor. read analysis of Maharaja


A police baton. read analysis of Lathi

Gayathri Mantra

An important Sanskrit chant from the Rig Veda, which many Hindus and some Buddhists recite during daily prayers. read analysis of Gayathri Mantra


An important Hindu term with various meanings in different contexts and languages. It often refers to the god Vishnu and the notion of absolute, unified being. As a child, Moorthy once felt he saw Hari… read analysis of Hari


A five-person village council traditionally composed of village elders. Gandhi wanted India to be governed based on a decentralized system of panchayats, which the Kanthapura villagers’ Congress exemplifies. read analysis of Panchayat


Refers to the seventh month of the Hindu calendar, as well as the holy festival of lights held on the fifteenth day of that month. read analysis of Kartik


An important term in Indian religions with various contextual meanings that generally refers to proper religious practice, or acting in accordance with the flow of the universe. read analysis of Dharma

Dharma Sastras

A collection of numerous ancient Hindu texts about dharma, written in Sanskrit. read analysis of Dharma Sastras


Archaic term for Muslims, now broadly considered offensive. read analysis of Mohomedan


The Gandhian practice of nonviolent resistance. It literally translates as “holding onto truth” and its practitioners are called satyagrahis. read analysis of Satyagraha


Literally “self-rule,” swaraj refers to the concept of Indian independence from foreign government. read analysis of Swaraj


A village chief and large landholder. read analysis of Patel


The Hindu god of love and compassion. read analysis of Krishna


One of the most important Hindu gods, Siva (or Shiva) is the destroyer, responsible for death and transformation. Whereas many gods are only worshipped in particular areas, Siva is worshipped across India. read analysis of Siva

Rani Lakshmi Bai

A North Indian queen who was a central leader of the 1857 Indian Rebellion. She is a source of inspiration for the Gandhian Volunteer women. read analysis of Rani Lakshmi Bai


Also known as palm wine, an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of toddy palm trees. read analysis of Toddy