Kanthapura

by

Raja Rao

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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 often forced them to work long hours in horrible conditions for little to no pay, encouraging them to take on debt that their wages would never pay off. Few ever actually returned to their homelands, as they were promised. Today, the term has various meanings but is considered derogatory in much of the world. The coolies at the Skeffington Coffee Estate move there after they can no longer produce enough food in their home villages and generally end up staying for life, largely because the Sahibs who run the estate encourage them to drink away their paltry wages at the toddy stands.

Coolies Quotes in Kanthapura

The Kanthapura quotes below are all either spoken by Coolies or refer to Coolies. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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 5 Quotes

The Skeffington Coffee Estate rises beyond the Bebbur Mound over the Bear’s Hill, and hanging over Tippur and Subbur and Kantur, it swings round the Elephant Valley, and rising to shoulder the Snow Mountains and the Beda Ghats, it dips sheer into the Himavathy, and follows on from the Balepur Toll-gate Corner to the Kenchamma Hill, where it turns again and skirts Bhatta Devil’s fields and Rangè Gowda’s coconut garden, and at the Tippur stream it rises again and is lost amidst the jungle growths of the Horse-head Hill.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

And they all rose up like one rock and fell on the ground saying, “You are a dispenser of good, O Maharaja, we are the lickers of your feet…”

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Sahib, Maistri, Coolie Chenna
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

[Pariah Siddayya] tells you about the dasara havu that is so clever that he got into the Sahib’s drawer and lay there curled up, and how, the other day, when the sahib goes to the bathroom, a lamp in his hand, and opens the drawer to take out some soap, what does he see but our Maharaja, nice and clean and shining with his eyes glittering in the lamplight, and the Sahib, he closes the drawer as calmly as a prince; but by the time he is back with his pistol, our Maharaja has given him the slip. And the Sahib opens towel after towel to greet the Maharaja, but the Maharaja has gone on his nuptial ceremony and he will never be found.

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Sahib, Potter Siddayya
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

What is a policeman before a Gandhi’s man? Tell me, does a boar stand before a lion or a jackal before an elephant?

Related Characters: Achakka (speaker), Rachanna, Badè Khan, Sahib, Vasudev
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
Section 17 Quotes

He’ll never come again, He’ll never come again,

He’ll never come again, Moorthappa.

The God of death has sent for him,

Buffalo and rope and all,

They stole him from us, they lassoed him at night,

He’s gone, He’s gone, He’s gone, Moorthappa.

Related Characters: Moorthy
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Kanthapura LitChart as a printable PDF.
Kanthapura PDF

Coolies Term Timeline in Kanthapura

The timeline below shows where the term Coolies appears in Kanthapura. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 5
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...tales about both, and it has continued to grow for years as “more and more coolies” came to farm there, “till it touched all the hills around our village.” Decrepit, miserable,... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...and sweets when they worked well,” which the maistri repeated in their native language. The coolies begin worshipping the Sahib as a Maharaja, and the maistri spits in one worker’s face... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The coolies spend the night repairing their huts and begin cleaning their environs in the morning, but... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...are harmless, Pariah Siddayya explains, but green snakes often blend in with bamboo leaves. A coolie named Sankamma once reached out and grabbed one while collecting cow-dung, but luckily it slithered... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...spared his family. Siddayya continues telling stories and watching out for the maistri as the coolies chew tobacco and betel leaves. Suddenly, without a sound, “the maistri’s cane has touched” three... (full context)
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
The coolies perspire endlessly in the heavy afternoon sun, and suddenly “a gurgle and grunt” emanates from... (full context)
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...he uses the pills then “Kenchamma would not forgive him.” The child becomes delirious, the coolies call the Sahib, and the child dies in the Sahib’s arms. The Sahib whips Madanna... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...died and was been replaced by his nephew, the new Sahib, who has brought more coolies but treats them kindly—except that the women “know they have to go away” to spend... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...fact, the brahmin clerks Gangadhar and Vasudev ignore the policeman and the rest of the coolies follow suit—they decide to help the pariahs learn to read and write, and there is... (full context)
Section 6
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
“Moorthy is coming up tonight,” and the coolies put out their lights and gather around the courtyard, excitedly awaiting his arrival and watching... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
...and hit him on the head with it. The maistri breaks them away but the coolie women attack him and begin tearing off Khan’s beard, even as Moorthy shouts “no beatings,... (full context)
Section 15
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...begins to pick up the policemen begin to beat the protestors down and “beat the coolies forward” with their lathis. From his toddy booth, Boranna shouts that he will give all... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The police and the Gandhians fight for the coolies’ loyalty with whips and shouts, respectively. The police try to lift up the protestors by... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
...police keep beating the protestors, who continue to lay on the ground and tell the coolies “do not drink, in the name of the Mahatma.” The coolies agree not to drink,... (full context)
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...march back to Kanthapura. When they arrive, they discover that a few dozen of the coolies have moved into their village’s Pariah Street, and people from all around are converging to... (full context)
Section 17
Gandhism and the Erosion of Caste Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
The next morning, the villagers see a “slow-moving procession of coolies” tied together at the hands, marched through Kanthapura by policemen “to show who our true... (full context)
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
They hear another “long cry” across town, this time from the Skeffington Estate coolies, who “raised a clamour to receive the coolies that were being dragged in” and seem... (full context)
Section 18
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The protestors approach the Skeffington Estate’s guarded barricades and see the city coolies continue their labor. The police throw one woman on a cactus and run the others... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Suddenly, the city coolies in Kanthapura shut off all the lights. The villagers see the police start to beat... (full context)
Oral Tradition, Writing, and Political Power Theme Icon
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
After “a long tilting silence,” the women decide to join the coolies, and Nanjamma stays to watch the children. Achakka goes and sees bullets flying every which... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
The city coolies give up the harvest and join in the protests, telling the women “Gandhi Mahatma ki... (full context)
Nationalism and Colonialism Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...charge at the protestors, shooting and thrusting their bayonets, and the Gandhians flee with the coolies as someone hoists the flag of India. The soldiers begin massacring the protestors. (full context)
Section 19
Land, Geography, and Belonging Theme Icon
Labor, Exploitation, and Economic Independence Theme Icon
...are destroyed and men from Bombay have taken over the land and built houses for coolies on the hill where the massacre took place. Even Bhatta sold his land to the... (full context)