Kanthapura, by Raja Rao

August 21, 2007

The day dawned over the Ghats, the day rose over the Blue Mountain, and churning through the grey, rapt valleys, swirled up and swam across the whole air. The day rose into the air and with it rose the dust of the morning, and the carts began to creak round the bulging rocks and the coppery peaks, and the sun fell into the river and pierced it to the pebbles, while the carts rolled on and on, fair carts of the Kanthapura fair–fair carts that came from Maddur and Tippur and Santur and Kuppur, with chillies and coconut, rice and ragi, cloth, tamarind, butter and oil, bangles and kumkum, little pictures of Rama and Krishna and Sankara and the Mahatma, little dolls for the youngest, little kites for the elder, and little chess pieces for the old–carts rolled by the Sampur knoll and down into the valley of the Tippur stream, then rose again and groaned round the Kenchamma hill, and going straight into the temple grove, one by one, with lolling bells and muffled bells, with horn-protectors in copper and back-protectors in lace, they all stood there in one moment of fitful peace; “Salutations to thee, Kenchamma, goddess supreme,” and then the yokes began to shake and the bulls began to shiver and move, and when the yokes touched the earth, men came out one by one, travellers that had paid a four-anna bit or an eight-anna bit to sleep upon pungent tamarind and suffocating chillies, travellers who would take the Pappur carts to go to the Pappur mountains, the Sampur carts to go to the Sampur mountains, and some too that would tramp down the passes into the villages by the sea, or hurry on to Kanthapura as our Moorthy did this summer morning, Moorthy with a bundle of khadi on his back and a bundle of books in his arms.”

—Chapter 4, Kanthapura, by Raja Rao

I wish I had the chutzpah and the skill to write like this. You can almost hear the cart wheels groaning, hitting a bump, slowing down, then rolling on again.

The whole book is written like this, almost, which makes it exhausting to read, but entirely worth it. As well as being a heartbreaking tragedy, it’s a look at a turbulent period in history from a perspective I’d never heard.


4 Responses to “Kanthapura, by Raja Rao”

  1. libbu Says:

    Goodness, that is a long sentence.

  2. Rachel Says:

    It’s got nothing on Faulkner. (she said, as if she knew anything more about The Sound And The Fury besides that it has long sentences)

  3. […] Rao’s Kanthapura part 2 January 4, 2008 I get so much traffic to my post on Kanthapura and it seems most people are looking for Cliff’s Notes or something. Then I found this post […]

  4. Joe Eshwar Says:

    There has never been a writer like Raja Rao from the sub continent who, with his magical realism captured the soul of India. I regret I never had a chance to meet him, to learn more about Kanthapura and it’s people. Salutes Raja Rao you hit a nail on the head

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