Women in Raja Rao's Kanthapura

Page 1 of 15

Women in Raja Rao's Kanthapura

By | May 2013
Page 1 of 15
Towards a Limited Emancipation: Women in Raja Rao s
}

"Kanthapura

S E N A T H W . P E R E RA

Kanthapura thus far have focussed for the most part on the manner in which the novel characterizes the "Indian renaissance" under Gandhi's leadership. The approaches taken by M . K. Naik and K. S. Ramamurti are typical in this regard. Naik declares, in Dimensions of Indian English Literature, that

WIU IS UD T E ^ D NE A N T E RK

O F

Raja Rao's Kanthapura ( 1 9 3 8 ) is easily the finest evocation of the Gandhian age in Indian Englishfiction.This story of a small south Indian village caught in the maelstrom of the Gandhian movement successfully probes the depths to which the nationalistic urge penetrated, and getting fused with traditional religious faith helped rediscover the Indian soul. ( 1 0 5 - 0 6 ) K. S. Ramamurti, similarly, considers Kanthapura a "miniature version of resurgent Bharath in which we see the pilgrim's progress of a great nation marching towards the promised land of freedom carrying on its shoulders the burden of poverty and hunger" (64). While these "standard" approaches are significant to the study of Rao's oeuvre, they often fail to recognize that the novel could be read also as a rite de passage undertaken by Indian women during the struggle for Swaraj—a process which led these women to re-examine archaic institutions that they had unquestioningly accepted for so long, to abandon many of their prejudices, and to control their destiny in a way they were not able to do before. The level of emancipation achieved, of course, is very limited; what is patent, however, is that these women who initially banded themselves together to battle the Raj succeed in initiating a movement which is imbued with its own dynamic ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 2 3 : 4 , October 1992

100

SENATH

W.

PERERA

and rationale—a movement that could be thwarted but not destroyed. It is now commonplace to draw parallels...