Raja Rao


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Kanthapura Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “Kanthapura” by Raja Rao includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 19 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 20 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Caste and Class and Gender.

Plot Summary

In Kanthapura, Raja Rao tells a story about a village in the southern portion of India where there is a traditional caste system. The town known as Kanthapura does not abide by modern processes, however most people within the location believe that they are blessed by an entity known as Kenchamma. The village has approximately 120 homes with about 700 people. Within the caste system, the Brahmins are said to be the highest group and then there are two different groups that are known as tradesmen who are both weavers and potters. After the tradesmen, there are sudras who are known as laborers and pariahs who are known as untouchables.

During the introduction and first chapter of the novel, the reader is informed that the story is told during the 1930s, during the same time that Mahatma Gandhi tries to facilitate liberation in terms of politics. The narrator of the story is an old widow by the name of Achakka and she is known to a Brahmin, which is the highest caste in the system. She tells the story of the main character known as Moorthy, also a Brahmin, who has left University in order to become an activist for the congress of India.

In chapters two and three, Moorthy tries his best to promote the teachings of Gandhi throughout the nation of India. He firmly believes in non-cruelty and he indicates that each person should be able to have a sense of inner peace. Even though he tries to relay this message, he is often distracted by the many negative factors within the village of Kanthapura. Many people do not believe in Gandhi’s message and in turn they do not take Moorthy seriously. Since there is a great level of resistance in the village, police authorities are forced to oversee daily life in Kanthapura. One of the policemen known as Bade Khan does not believe in Moorthy’s actions at all and he indicates that Gandhi’s teaching undermines all of social order and religion in the world.

As the chapters progress, Moorthy continues to spread his knowledge about Gandhi’s message to the nation and he slowly begins to grow a following, especially among people who are in the lower groups in the caste system. He shows his courage and he even stands up to local authority when he is questioned about his peaceful protests.

Eventually, Moorthy’s mother passes away. The Brahmin clerks of Kanthapura invite Moorthy to the estate in order to create an increased sense of awareness regarding the social injustice taking place. When Moorthy enters the estate, Bade Khan shows up and physically injures him. Fortunately, there are other members in the estate who are able to defend Moorthy. After the incident, Moorthy is very unhappy with the turn of events and he prays that the violence would just come to an end.

Due to the injustice that was faced at the estate, Moorthy decides to go on a fast for three days, just like Gandhi would participate in. At the end of the fast, Moorthy is very happy and he feels victorious that he is able to rise above those people with small minds. Even though he is satisfied with himself, the foreign government approaches Moorthy and tells him that he is provoking violence throughout Kanthapura. Due to his actions, the police officers decide to arrest him.

Moorthy is sent to prison for three months because the authorities believe that he is the reason that there are many violent outbursts. In his presence, Rangamma stays active and she develops a volunteer corps committee. Within the group, she inspires women to have courage and to continue fighting for their freedom through the use of non-violence.

Once Moorthy is released from jail, he maintains a positive stance. When he approaches his home, he finds that there are many people waiting for him, cheering him on since they believe in his peaceful attitude.

After Moorthy’s release from prison, there continue to be arrests of people who are protesting social injustice and brutality, especially against women. There are police officers who are seen chasing women and trying to abuse them. There are also instances where the officers start beating people for no justifiable reason. Within Kanthapura, the increased violence that is seen is disturbing to Moorthy especially since he has taken the time to promote peace, following Gandhi’s philosophy. Regardless, Moorthy continues to try and make strides in order to change the ways of Kanthapura.

Once one year has passed, it is seen that approximately 30 refugees from Kanthapura have fled and have settled in Kashipur. These people look to their Lord to save them from the injustices that were once brought to them in Kanthapura. As time goes on, they still have a desire to make their nation free again through the assistance of Gandhi and the belief in their deities.

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Chapters 1-3