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Kanthapura: Indian Novel

3.28  ·  Rating Details  ·  568 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
This is the story of how Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for independence from the British came to a typical village, Kanthapura, in South India. This edition includes extensive notes on Indian myths, religion, social customs, and the Independence movement which fill out the background for the American reader's more complete understanding and enjoyment.
Paperback, 244 pages
Published January 17th 1967 by New Directions (first published 1938)
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Things Fall Apart by Chinua AchebeThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradHalf of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Best Postcolonial Literature
45th out of 155 books — 68 voters
Train to Pakistan by Khushwant SinghThe God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Suitable Boy by Vikram SethGodan by Munshi PremchandThe Guide by R.K. Narayan
HT's Greatest Indian Novels
22nd out of 55 books — 21 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,216)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Mahatma Gandhi ki jai!

Mala warned me that I’d be scratching my head. And it was lovely! But this ND editions provided sixty pages of helpful notes which reduced somewhat that head scratching. But not so much that there was no pleasure left!

The story is the common story of a rural village undergoing political change. But I’m not immediately certain that this kind of story is so common; in our current literary climate which so frequently features alienated individuals as protagonists. Here the com
May 10, 2015 Vaidya rated it really liked it
I remember driving along the road from K.R. Pet to Nagamangala and coming across a board that said Kanthapura. I knew this was going to be my next book.

I expected stories from around this place, of the Hassan belt, but Raja Rao's Kanthapura existed elsewhere - on the banks of the (fictional) Himavathy river, nearer Karwar, near Puttur and still walkable from the Cauvery. Like Malgudi, it is fictional.

Unlike R.K. Narayan's tales about a few people living in Malgudi, this is the tale of the town
Belinda G
Aug 07, 2013 Belinda G rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013, university
This is a shining example of the kind of books that professors set for mandatory reading that make you want to scratch your own eyeballs out with a rolling pin.
I don't even know where to begin to explain exactly why I hate this book so much.

It may go something like the terrible grammar and the stupid characters and the over describing and the author's pomposity and the and the and the and the AND THE AND THE AND THE AND THE!!!

How many times can one man use the words "AND" in one paragraph? Acc
Oct 14, 2010 John rated it really liked it
Rao uses English to try to communicate an Indiana vernacular mode of storytelling, with very intriguing (if long-winded) results. The story itself revolve around the rise of Ghandi, and ends on a rather ubiquitous note.
Himmilicious Himmilicious
Jul 02, 2013 Himmilicious Himmilicious rated it it was amazing
Loved reading Kanthapura.This novel is a complete mixture of Religion,Mythology and History. What I personally liked the most that in this novel, the grand harikathas finely blend politics with religious and mythology. The fights between mahatma and british draws the picture of the fight between Rama and Ravana, between the forces of good and evil like Krishna against the Kalia or Kansa, Prahlad against his own father, Harishchandra against the Asuras, Besides, the mahatma is Mohan (Krishna) sla ...more
Gaurav Garg
Jun 02, 2015 Gaurav Garg rated it liked it
I have never seen such experimentation with language and grammar as in this novel. It truly reflects the state of society in times of British rule over India. The author seems to be thinking in Hindi and writing in English. To put it in words of his editor Parthasarthy,'We might be intellectually English but emotionally we are Indians.'

A great insight into society and culture and religion and casteism and Gandhi and British. That is the way you will find the expression in this book. Human emotio
Bill Johnston
Jun 05, 2016 Bill Johnston rated it liked it
Kanthapura is a fictional village in Gandhi's pre-independence India. A few people in the village declare their loyalty to Gandhi's Congress movement, and over the course of the novel most of them join.

The writing is very lyrical and poetic. The grammar isn't strictly English, being written in English by an Indian as a literal translation of how it would have sounded if he had written it in his native language. It also includes repeated uses of non-English words, explained in the footnotes in th
Scott Cox
Raja Rao’s “Kanthapura” . . . a fascinating read! I was reasonably aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle with the British to gain independence (Swaraj). Gandhi’s methodology combining non-violence (Ahimsa) and truth (Satya) has been studied by such great men as Dr. Martin Luther King and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. However this novel depicts the tension that Gandhi fomented within Indian society amongst different castes. The four major castes consist of Brahmin (priestly), Kshatriya (kingly or warrior), V ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Sajan rated it it was ok
How does the message travel? It propagates itself through creating a context, which is familiar especially to its recipients. Now, the most marvellous point of this text is the way the message of political movement is translated into a religious idiom in order to make masses understand it. The message, which also marks a break with tradition as regards its content, brings together a community despite being a bone of contention at first.
However, the message of this political movement spearheaded
Victoria (victoriashaz)
Mar 31, 2015 Victoria (victoriashaz) rated it did not like it
This was just....not good. The amalgamation of myth and reality could have been done in a much more comprehensive and smooth manner. Here, its confusing and makes the work more convoluted than it should be.
Paul Alex Prince, III
Often impenetrable to modern Non-Indian readers, Rao's examination of one small village's disruption and ultimate destruction during the rise of Indian nationalism is hard to wade through, but ultimately worth the effort. Told from the viewpoint of a surviving village elder woman as she shares the story with other women, the story requires either an intimate existing knowledge of Hindu culture and history or a willingness to do a great deal of googling as you encounter unfamiliar context. Wikipe ...more
May 04, 2015 Juwi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
contrary to what E.M.Forster thinks, this is not the best novel written in English by an Indian

Jun 28, 2007 Sachin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Better than other books by Raja Rao that I have read.
Susan Oleksiw
Oct 31, 2013 Susan Oleksiw rated it really liked it
Kanthapura is the story of a small South Indian village radicalized by a village youth. Moorthappa learns about Mahatma Gandhi, and persuades his fellow villagers to take up Gandhi's principles of nonviolent protest against the government. The story lays out the divisions of caste and wealth in the village of Kanthapura, the petty rivalries and grudges, and hold of ritual and tradition. Moorthappa's nemesis is Bhatta, the moneylender who sees in the Gandhi movement a threat to his power and infl ...more
Jamie VW
The frenetic pacing of the book, as well as the kind of snapshot view of a village during the build up to Indian independence is great - a style of writing befitting the energy of the country and a perspective that I had never read much about. However, it was really difficult for me to get into this book, perhaps because of the overflow of characters and the trickiness of keeping track who was who. Though I suppose in a book showing the attempt to build a movement, individuals are less important ...more
Feb 02, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
Rao immerses us in the life of a small rural village in India as Gandhism and intimations of independence are on the rise. Traditions are threatened--gender, caste--and the establishment strikes back. The pace is that of a small town--slow--and that ultimately lost my
attention, despite the interesting plot.
Melissa Julian-jones
Feb 18, 2014 Melissa Julian-jones rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating insight into postcolonial India, told in flashback narrative by the village wise woman. It is very thought-provoking and reflective, looking at the impact of national movements on a small microcosm of Indian society through a very personal and human lens.
Oct 05, 2013 Ananya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the everyday episodes of the people of a small south Indian town when the country was under Brit rule... Sadly people here still have that stone age mentality towards women and the supposedly lower castes. Not much has changed in that respect given this book was published in 1938 and I could still point out some similarities. Plus as an atheist, the religion part made me really, really sad pity the masses...because most of that bullshit still prevails. It's shown how Gandhi influenced the people ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Marva rated it it was ok
Tale twined in the village of Kanthapura a real microcosm of India with its casteist village, built-around temple politics, villainous Mohammedan Police man and the christian colonialists.
Sayantan Das
Mar 10, 2014 Sayantan Das rated it it was amazing
A great work by Raja Rao. He showcases the situation of India during our freedom struggle and how Kanthapura was so much inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.
Anurag Vaishnav
Apr 18, 2015 Anurag Vaishnav rated it liked it
Recommended if you want to read about how Indian Nationalistic movement reached and spread in the villages of the nation.
Sep 05, 2014 Akash rated it really liked it
Nicely portrayed. It sets up picture of an Indian village from the times just before the independence.
Apr 09, 2015 Lalitha rated it liked it
A nice read. It's a beautiful narrative of how the freedom movement seeped in to the remotest parts of the country.
Suhasini Srihari
Nov 09, 2012 Suhasini Srihari rated it really liked it
'Kanthapura' depicts the story of India on the whole during the colonial period, that is, during the British Raj. However, this post-colonial text gives us, the readers and more so the Indian readers of the situation of the then India [which includes caste discrimination, gender discrimination, etc.]. This text can also be categorized under the title, 'the start of Indian writing in English'. It was a nice read at the surface level, but if you involve yourself into the deeper aspects of the stor ...more
Feb 09, 2014 Emma rated it did not like it
Probably the most boring book I have ever read. Ever.
Aug 18, 2014 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Adakah yang lebih jujur daripada perjuangan golongan bawahan, orang kampung yang sanggup berkorban harta dan jiwa?
Rao manages to portray the imperfect nature of the nationalist movement, and the fact that not everybody was in tune with what was happening; the almost-blind following of Gandhi's teachings, the confusion, and the triumph of dog-headed strength of the people of Kanthapura show the chinks in the dazzling fabric of India's freedom struggle. His writing did irk me. The breathless run-on sentences work when one's working towards a climax, but when an entire novel is written in such a fashion, it ge ...more
Avtar Singh
No comments
Feb 28, 2013 Lindsey rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this novel more a decade after I read it the first time as an undergraduate in a postcolonial literature class. It is a beautiful articulation of the nonviolent movement inspired by Gandhi in a small town in India. Rangamma, the lead female character in the novel, is animated and feisty, willing to sacrifice herself for the movement. The landscape descriptions are captivating and the section where Moorthy (the town's "little Gandhi") meditates and fasts for days is really moving.
Srinivasa Ramanujam
Oct 02, 2011 Srinivasa Ramanujam rated it really liked it
Kanthapura is a story about a village located in the western ghats, set in the time of Indian independence struggle led by Mohandas Gandhi. Raja Rao, a contemporary of R.K.Narayan has chosen a unique style of writing (which he calls as Indianized English) to tell the story about the people of Kanthapura, about their life and struggle, their differences based on politics and caste, and how they tried to overcome their differences by uniting themselves in the name of Mahatma.
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Raja Rao (Kannada: ರಾಜ ರಾವ) has long been recognised as "a major novelist of our age." His five earlier novels—Kanthapura (1932), The Serpent and the Rope (1960), The Cat and Shakespeare (1965), Comrade Kirillov (1976) and The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988)—and three collections of short stories—The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories (1947), The Policeman and the Rose (1978) and On the Gang ...more
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