Raja Rao: Contribution to Indian Novel

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       The last of the 'big three' is Raja Rao. Close contemporary with Mulk Raj Anand and R.K. Narayan. Raja Rao has a very high sense of the dignity of this vocation as a writer. He looks to his work in the spirit of dedication. For him literature is Sadhana not a profession but a vocation. He was deeply influenced by sages Sri Atmananda to whom he dedicates "The Serpent and The Rope". Raja Rao, unlike Mulk Raj Anand and R.K. Narayan, has not been a prolific novelist, having written just four novels beginning with Kanthapura (1938) which is perhaps the finest evocation of the Gandhian age in Indian English Fiction.


The last of the 'big three' is Raja Rao. Close contemporary with Mulk Raj Anand and R.K. Narayan.
Raja Rao


      In Kanthapura, the story was told from the witness - narrator paint of view by an old illiterate village grandmother, a minor character in the novel, who, like a chorus in tag reek tragedy, reflected on the circumstances which she witnessed. In this novel Raja Rao relates the story of a south Indian village - Kanthapura from which it derives its title - as it recalled to Mahatma Gandhi's call of non co-operation.


      It gives a graphics and moving description of the National movement in the twenties when thousand of villages all over India responded in much the same way. In fact, the initial reaction of Kanthapura to Gandhian thought is one of bored apathy. But young moorthy, the Gandhian, who knows that the master key to the Indian mind is religion, puts the new Gandhian wine into the age old bottle of traditional story. The struggle is even harder for the simple. Illiterate village women who don't understand why and from where it all and know that the Mahatma Gandhi is right in his work. Iyengar sums Ivenenow sums up this novel in words, "A village, picturesque region, an epoch of social and political change, a whole complex of character and motive, reason and superstition, idealism and calculation, are spring up before owe eyes demanding recognizing and acceptance: It is almost a tour de force...


      Raja Rao's The Serpent and the Rope (1960) is the greatest of Indian English novels. This novel, which took ten years in shaping itself, is a highly complex and many sided novel. Being at once the tragic story of a marriage of minds which drift apart: the spiritual autobiography of a learned, sensitive and imaginative modern Indian intellectual, as also a saga of this quest of self knowledge and selffulfillment. The hero "Ramaswami, is a young man of great literary cultures.


      He knows many languages, vastly read and widely travelled man. Being a product of many cultures, Rama's mind is a seething whirlpool of cultural currents and cross-currents. Unlike the simple story teller in Kanthapura, who knew only Indian myths and legends, Rama is familiar with myths and legends of different civilizations and he can discern parallels between them and forge a link between the past and the present by comprehending the essential oneness of history. Raja Rao has used the myths and legends to highlight the situation of characters or the relationship between them and to substantiate or concretize the abstract thought of the hero, Ramaswamy. The title "The serpent and the Rope" is symbolical and philosophical as it illustrates the doctrine that just as the rope is often wrongly taken to be the serpent, the limited self is often regarded the individual soul, which is only an aspect of God. One realises that the 'serpent' is really only a rope, when one who knows points this out similarly upon being initiated by the Guru; one realises that Jiva (soul) is one with Siva.


      The serpent and the Rope is truly philosophical novel in that in it the philosophy is not in the story - the philosophy is the story. Raja Rao's fiction obviously lacks the social dimension of its two major contemporaries. Not for him the burring humanitarian zeal of neither Anand, nor Narayan's sure grasp of the living description of the daily business of living. But only his two novels have given him the same fictional chord of their contemporaries.

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