Gandhian Politics and Religion in Raja Rao's 'Kanthapura' Essay

2521 Words Feb 16th, 2012 11 Pages
Gandhi’s mass movement during the freedom struggle aimed solely at arousing a nationalistic consciousness which would help in forming up a unique national identity constructed by uniting the masses. Achieving this is not an easy task considering the diversity in religion, caste, creed, etc. of the nation. In order to bring together those diverse sects under a common roof, Gandhi feels the need for secularism and religious tolerance. He professes his secular notion of religion and incites to the mind of the masses, the oneness of men, negating any sectarian religion and caste and class based divisions. As he observes:
Man’s ultimate aim is the realization of God, and all his activities, political, social and religious, have to be guided
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Raja Rao very minutely observes and depicts how larger political and social discourses of Gandhi are blended with traditional religious myths and terms which are familiar to the village folks.
The whole change begins with the construction of the Kanthapurishwari temple as suggested by Moorthy. It is here where all the ‘Gandhi business’ in this novel centers around. In fact as the narrator recounts, “that’s where all the trouble began.” With the consecration of the temple, routine religious gatherings and rituals are performed. Sankara-jayanthi, Bhajan and Harikathas are regularly organized. Politics begins to enter these religious rituals and teachings when during one of the Harikathas, Jayaramachar, “the famous Harikatha-man… (who) had done Harikatha even before the Mahatma,” cleverly mixes already familiar religious myths with contemporary political reality. Gandhian thoughts are ingeniously embedded within the religious discourses. The narrator doubtfully recalls the story of Siva and Parvati:
Parvati in penance becomes the country and Siva becomes heaven knows what!
‘Siva is the three-eyed,’ he says, ‘and Swaraj too is three-eyed: Self-purification,
Hindu-Moslem unity, Khaddar.’ (Kanthapura, p.14)
And the narrator further remembers:
And then he talks of Damayanti and Sakunthala and Yasodha and everywhere there is something about our country and something about Swaraj. Never

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