Examine critically Raja Rao’s Kanthapura as a novel on Gandhian ideas. Please go into as much detail as possible because I'm finding it hard to understand this novel.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In Kanthapura Raja Rao reveals the extent to which Mahatma Gandhi influences people in his quest to retain a state of "ahimsa," where a person should show compassion for others and never cause harm. The novel explores Gandhi's insistence on non-violent means of resistance, known as "satyagraha," in order to attain "swaraj," meaning self-rule and, more importantly, autonomy from British or any foreign dominion or territory.

Rao speaks of rich cultural traditions and has used the oral story-telling method steeped in Indian history to relate the past and the impacts of change. There is a conflicting element in the deeply-entrenched and traditional role of men and women which is explored in the novel and is overcome. Rao is aware of the potential for these cultural conventions to ruin his story and therefore manages to use individual characters to explore the problems. Their acceptance is recognized as a universal acceptance, allowing the story to develop.  The centuries of hurt and ingrained revulsion and the "us and them" philosophy are handled in the same way.

Achakka, the narrator, highlights the importance of the deities, especially Kenchamma, in ensuring the cultural heritage and importance of tradition whilst at the same time welcoming change. She exposes the differences between the seemingly peaceful but no more idyllic existence of life before Gandhi and the effects of the British and the turmoil and confusion which follows a contemporary visionary. She sets an example of old-school concepts with new-age peaceful demonstration. She represents far more than her individual character in symbolizing a generation which wholeheartedly recognizes the good in Gandhian principles.

Moorthy, a local young man, introduces Gandhian ideologies such as involving "the untouchables." This is a hugely humbling experience for him. He wants to establish "national" pride where both men and women are involved and suggests that it is British imperialism which causes much of the turmoil and lack of progress in Indian villages. He is an example of what can be achieved through perseverance but his credibility is questioned somewhat. 

Ideally, Rao sees Hindu India, through this village, as having the potential to be restored and renewed. His philosophy is perhaps an over-simplified account of how history and modernization create an all-or-nothing scenario and how this village is an example of any and all typical Indian villages. Thus he introduces a mythical, ideological quality to his writing. The ability of these villagers, after centuries of tradition, to unite and defeat injustice even though they believe women are more suited to bearing children than attending university, though they are inspired to defy their peaceful inner selves and their traditional roles perhaps too readily, is difficult but accepted by the reader. Overcoming the stigma attached to the "untouchables" and the willingness and ability of the Skeffington people to give up their addiction and find meaning in their lives also represents an ideal which the reader is expected to understand.

The value of suffering in creating this vision for the future mixes with the strong presence of the gods. Rao's adept way of creating characters who represent and highlight certain elements of human nature still reliant on the gods for guidance without dominating the text ensure that he delivers a message even to secular readers. 

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