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Odour of Gandhism in the Novels of Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan


Odour of Gandhism in the Novels of Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan


Dr. Ratnesh Baranwal

Assistant Professor

Department of English


Sultanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India





This research-paper titled – ‘Odour of Gandhism in the novels of Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan’ intends to dwell upon the exploration of the different colours of Gandhism in the novels of the above-mentioned writers of the post-independent Indo-English literature. It is globally known that Gandhi Ji does figure out as the father of the nation and the super-hero of the modern India. If we switch back to the past, peeping into the pre-Independent Indian Society, we find that there had been multiple issues crept up into the social, political, economical and the cultural condition of the country. He not only accelerated the movement of the Independence of India, but he also inculcated among the countrymen the fighting spirit, patriotic zeal and the national consciousness to root out the British Empire. His philosophy of truth and non-violence deeply affected the contemporary literature of the Indo-English novelists including Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan.


He not only transmitted the slogan of truth and non-violence, but also did raise his voices against the mental harassment, exploitation and injustice-done to the Dalits, untouchables and the marginalized groups. The sharp impact of his philosophy is very deeply-grounded up into Mulkraj Anand’s Untouchable, Raja Rao’s Kanthapura and R.K. Narayan’s Waiting for Mahatma.


Mulkraj Anand has beautifully portrayed the miserable picture of the untouchables and shown how they had been exploited, tortured and harassed by the upper castle people. Bakha, the hero of the novel gets very deeply influenced with Gandhism, after listening to the highly motivational speech of Gandhi Ji. He gets to learn a very encouraging message to stop carrying the latrine-pots on the shoulder which had been in practice during the pre-independent Indian society. In Raja Rao’s novel-Kanthapura, we also search out a different colour of the Gandhian philosophy.


Gandhi Ji has been a very controversial figure in respect to his role in the partition of India. This partition was done on the ground of religion between the Hindus and the Muslims. It brought about a great massacre, communal violence and displacement at a very large scale from the either side resulting the birth of Pakistan.


In R.K. Narayan’s novel – Waiting for the Mahatma, he has appreciated him highly for his great patriotism and nationalism, portraying him as a Deity in a hagiographic mode.


Thus it is doubtless to say that Gandhi Ji not only played a very significant role in the freedom of our country, but also his message of truth and non-violence is carried forward by the post-independent English writers.


Keywords: Transmitted, Massacre, Gandhism, Displacement, Communal violence, Patriotism, Deity, Hagiographic


The term – Gandhism can be elaborated as a philosophy dealing with the inspiration, vision and the biography of M.K. Gandhi. Particularly it is concerned with his doctrine of truth and non-violence. These ideas were first communicated by him during his stay in South Africa from 1893 to 1914, and later in India. Gandhian philosophy is not only political, ethical, cultural and religious, but also simultaneously, it is also traditional and modern and very simple and complex. Despite truth and non-violence being the twin pillars of Gandhism, Satyagraha tends to suggest the meaning how to exercise the power of the holiest soul against all kinds of tyranny and oppression. Inclusively apart from it, Sarvodaya denotes the meaning of the universal upliftment or progress of all.


The above-mentioned ideas have a very deep impact upon the Indo-English fiction-writers of 20th C., such as in the novels of Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan. Let us explore how these writers are very deeply influenced with Gandhism and how they have sprinkled out its odour in his novels. Mahatma Gandhi happened to be a very dynamic and energetic figure specially in the freedom-struggle of our country. He is much better known as the super-hero and the chief-architect of the modern India who brought about the innovative techniques of Satyagraha without turning to be violent and telling lies. He kept raising his voices against the problems of untouchability and misconceptions of caste-system, Verna-Vyavastha polluting and damaging the health of the society. He also did render his services for the emancipation of Indian women getting exploited, mentally tortured, financially frustrated in the phallocentric society. As a committed follower of truth and non-violence, all of his thoughts and activities are guided by the complete unity and integrity of body, mind and soul in the individual human-being. He also used to say very emphatically that the body should be governed by the mind and the mind by the soul.

Indian writing in English gained acceleration with the advent of Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan in the 1930’s. These three outstanding novelists have beautifully scattered the Odour of Gandhism, ie. Mulkraj Anand in Untouchable, Raja Rao in Kanthapura and R.K. Narayan in Waiting for Mahatma as well as. Let us begin the observation and exploration of the fragrance of Gandhism in Mulkraj Anand’s Untouchable.


In one of his essays ‘Why I write’, Anand happens to tell us how he got motivated to write ‘Untouchable’ and what were his basic concerns as a creative artist. When he happened to see Bakha, the untouchable as the central character in the novel he was very much assured to expose the pitiable and disastrous condition of untouchables in the conservative Indian society. Being too deeply influenced with Gandhian philosophy of truth and non-violence, he got to learn the first lesson to have first faith in truth-speaking as being the primary concern of human life. Anand shares his commitment to write this novel as a writer with his readers in the following words ––


Only one thing they liked about my fictional narrative was that it faced the poverty, the dirt and the squalor of the ‘lower depths’ even more than Gorky had one. And I was confirmed in my lunch that, unlike Virginia Woolf, the novelist must confront the total reality, including its sordidness, if one was to survive in the world of tragic contrasts between the ‘exalted and noble’ vision of the blind bard Milton to encompass the eyes dimmed with tears of many mute miltons.

(“Why I write”, 27)


Bakha, a sweeper, the hero of the novel, is very much hardworking, sincere and dedicated to his duties. He gets up very early in the morning and has to clean latrines in the streets. But he is the least bothered about it.


“He worked away earnestly, quickly, without loss of effort. Brisk, yet steady, his capacity for active application to the task he had in hand seemed to flow like constant water from a natural spring. Each muscle of his body, hard as a rock when it came into play seemed to shine forth like glass”. (Untouchable, 7-8)


Bakha gets humiliated too many times in the novel, but he does not lose his self-esteem. He is very much reactionary by temperament. Since he is involved in a dirty practice of latrine-cleaning, he is completely neglected and rejected in the society.


C.D. Narsimhaiah aptly comments in his – ‘The Swan & The Eagle’ :


“In ‘Untouchable’, Anand creates a character who is seeking identity in a world which has for ages suppressed his kind – a degrading social ill against which philosophers, poets and reformers have fought for over a thousand years. While Bakha occupies the centre of stage throughout the novel, there is not any attempt to, idealize him. He is a type and an individual”.


After listening to Gandhi Ji’s speech, he gets very much influenced with his wonderful oration. Bakha gets fascinated with the term Harizan – meaning men of God, that Gandhi uses to refer to Untouchables as a way to pay them the respect that they have been denied. Bakha finds in Gandhi Ji, his hopes, his dreams fulfilled. To Bakha, it is a great news that Gandhi Ji considered untouchability as a sin prevailing in the orthodox and conservative Hindu Brahmin society during the pre-independent India. Apart from it, Bakha gets influenced with Gandhi Ji when he suggested the untouchables to stop carrying the latrine-pots on their shoulders and let the flush-system must be put into practice.


A great era in Indian English literature ended up with the sad demise of Raja Rao on 08th July, 2006 in the U.S.A. Raja Rao’s Kanthapura introduces the story of a small South Indian Village against the movement of the freedom-struggle of the 1930s. Moorthy, the Gandhian spokesman happens to awaken the villagers from their slumber. He has to shout the slogan of truth and non-violence among the villagers. He is popularly known as Mini Gandhi in the village. He starts inculcating the message of love, compassion and humanity without any distinction and discrimination of caste, creed and religion. It is power of his message that unites the Brahmins, the pariahs and the weavers into one. The influence of Gandhi transfers the hibernated Kanthapurians into non-violent freedom-fighters.


Shiva Niranjan aptly remarks –––


“The quest of the novelist is thus essentially religious and the central burden of the novel is to rediscover the lost cultural, religious and the metaphysical glory through the current political theme”. (43)


The real strength of the villagers is visible at the climax. The Britishers used more and more force to suppress the colonized, whereas the colonized, turned into Satyagrahis. A Kanthapurian says ––– 


“ …… The Mahatma says, we should convert them, and we shall convert them, our hearts shall convert them”. (229)


R.K. Narayan’s Waiting for the Mahatma incorporates a different colour of Gandhism. He has deified Gandhi Ji, while celebrating India’s independence in 1947.


The novel roughly covers the period from 1942 (Quit-India Movement) to Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. Narayan delivers a very comprehensive colour of Gandhi and Gandhism in the novel. Like Mulkraj Anand and Raja Rao, he too has very beautifully dealt with truth, non-violence and upliftenment of harizans, universal love, simple living and religious tolerance. He does not confine himself to the observation of these beliefs to Gandhi’s speeches, but he also scatters the romantic fragrance, while representing Bharti as the motivator to Sriram to follow the Gandhian way of life. Narayan portrays Gandhi as a Deity whom people blindly follow and trust as their national hero of Independence. Gyanendra Pandey, as a very keen observer of Gandhism in the novel, very aptly comments –––


“Gandhi’s riot-controlling fasts and tours from Bipin Chandra’s modern India to establish his point that the nationalist historiography, of which Chandra’s textbook is a typical example, takes special care to project Gandhi as the essence of national unity and as a major contributor to the stable and natural sojurn of India along – “its secular, democratic, non-violent and tolerant path even in the midst of irrational, communal carnage” (30)


Thus Waiting for Mahatma presents Gandhi as God and as the national hero of the modern India. Thus it can be very briefly concluded to say that Gandhism is very deeply-grounded up into the evolution of Indo-English literature led by Mulkraj Anand, Raja Rao and R.K. Narayan. Mulkraj Anand has presented Bakha as the hero of the novel. He gets very much humiliated by the upper-caste Hindu society. But after listening to Gandhi’s speech, he feels very much mentally relaxed and contented. Raja Rao introduces Kanthapura as the symbol of the dependent India and Moorothy as the Mini Gandhi taking the lead of the freedom-struggle. R.K. Narayan has beautifully done the deitification of Gandhi Ji as Lord Ram and Britishers as Ravans. Thus it is doubtless to say that Gandhism is the back and backbone of Indian English literature. Not only all there three novelists, but many other novelists of Indo-English literature are deeply touched and affected with Gandhism.

Work Cited


Anand, Mulkraj, Untouchable, Penguin Books India, 2001

K. Desai, Shantinath, ‘Why I Write’, ed. Creative Aspects of Indian English, New Delhi, Sahitya Akademi, 2013, PP 21-29

Narasimhaiah, C.D., The Swans The Eagle, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1999

Niranjan, Shiva, “A Hymn to Gandhi”, Raja Rao – Novelist as Sadhaka, Ghaziabad : Vimal Prakashan, 1985

Pandey, Gyanendra, “In Defence of the Fragment : Writing about Hindu Muslim Riots in India Today”, Represent at 37.1 (winter 1992) : 27-55

Rao, Raja, Kanthapura. Delhi: Hind Pocket Books (P) Ltd., 1971