Sunday, 30 August 2015
Chief among the great trio of Indian English fiction Raja Rao is remembered mainly for his employment on Hindu mythology, religion and culture in his novel. He comes of very old South Indian Brahmin family in 1909. Raja Rao was a child of Gandhian Age who looked upon the ‘Mahatma’ as mythical hero such as ‘Rama’ or ‘Lord Krishna’. He was an ardent follower of Gandhian principles and hence when he took up writing his novels and short stories, always reflected his inner conviction in the teaching of Mahatma Gandhi. Added to, this was a great love for the rich past of traditional India and its spiritual heritage. There are metaphysical speculations in his novels of which he himself tells E.M Forster in 1945 then he had “abandoned literature for good and gone over to metaphysical”
Raja Rao is not a professional writer. He writes slowly; revises meditatively. Naturally there are long intervals between his works. Raja Rao’s earliest novel was Kanthapura(1938) an Indian epic or “Purana” in English language. The novel echoes the spirit of Gandhi’s impact on a remote south Indian village and is recorded in the chatty language of a village grandmother. For her, Gandhi is Rama, the red foreigners or the brown inspector Police is soldier in ten-headed Ravana’s army. The novel has often been called “Gandhipurana” because of its avowal of Gandhian politics.
Kanthapura was followed by twenty years of prolonged silence after which came Raja Roy’s second novel The Serpent and the Rope. It has been called the ‘spiritual autobiography’ of the novelist. It appeared in 1960 and critics who called Kanthapura as Raja Rao’s Ramayana called this book as Mahabarata.The novel records the journey of an Indian Lord Ramaswamy through the trouble of life both in India and abroad and culminates in his search for the “Guru. He travels to France and married Medeleine,has a child who dies within one year of birth, separated from his wife and returns to India. He realizes that “the serpent” is “Maya”, the reality is the “rope”-but the “Guru” with lantern is required to reveal this.
Next came The Cat and Shakespeare in 1965 which is best be called a ‘philosophical comedy’.The sub-title o the novel is A Tale of Modern India. The background of the novel is provided by the famine of 1942.The narration is a curious mixture of fantasy and realism. This was followed by Comrade Kirilliov(1976), a spiritual autobiography. Rao’s most recent novel is The Chase master and His Moves(1988).The novel deals with a tale of doomed love between Shibaram Shastri an Indian mathematician and a married woman.
Raja Rao’s credit also rest in his collection of short stories. He wrote three short stories collections- The Cow and The Barricades(1947),The Policeman and the Rose and Other Stories(1978) and On The Ganga Ghat(1993).These stories dealt with the same theme as his novels and have received a high critical acclaim. Besides, Raja Rao also wrote some non-fictional prose such as The Meaning of India, a collection of seventeen essays and a biography of Mahatma Gandhi entitled The Grater Indian Way(1998).
Raja Rao was a writer with a metaphysical bent who imbibed into English language the idiom, the rhythm and love of his vernacular (i.e Kannada).He was a great spiritual thinker and his work depicts a unique blending of the spiritual, the regional and political ideals. He was also a worshipper of the ‘feminine principle’. Santa Rama Rao considered Raja Rao as “perhaps the most brilliant and certainly the most interesting writer of modern India”.