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The novel divides its characters accoring to their support or opposition to Gandhi's message and the figure of Gandhi is at the center of the narrative. The famale narrator, Achakka, tells the story of the village together with her own story of hoe she came to support Gandhi's philosophy. Moorthy is a young Brahmin who returns to the village of Kanthapura to spread Gandhi's message and the policies of the Indian National Congress. His main opponent is Bhatta who manages to rally around him a group of Brahmins (and, ironically, Moorthy's own mother). They are against Gandhi's challenge to the caste system as they fear that it will eventually disrupt the Indian social order (represented in microcosm by the rigid separation of quarters according to class and occupation in the village). As the political crisis surrounding Indian independence provokes violent clashes, Moorthy finds himself increasingly aligned with Nehru's political positions. This shift reveals the conflict between spirituality and politics and the difficulty of keeping Gandhi's spiritual and political messages relevant for modern India.
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