An understanding of Raja Rao’s (8 November 1908 – 8 July 2006) art is enhanced by a contextualization of his novels. Although Rao admitted to several Western influences, his work is best understood as a part of the Indian tradition. Rao regarded literature as Sadhana, or spiritual discipline; for him, writing was a consequence of his metaphysical life. His novels, hence, essentially represent a quest for the Absolute. From Kanthapura to Comrade Kirillov, Rao’s protagonists grapple with the same concerns: What is Truth? How is one to find it? Their methods vary, as do their results, but they share the same preoccupation. The novels, thus, become chronicles of this archetypal search. Formally, all of his first four novels share certain features. Plot is de-emphasized; the narrative is generally subjective—even idiosyncratic—and episodic. The progression of the narrative is not linear but circular; in the Puranic manner of storytelling, which Rao adapts to the form of the Western novel, there are digressions, stories within stories, songs, philosophical disquisitions, debates, and essays. Characters are also frequently symbolic figures; often, the motivations for their actions might seem puzzling or insufficient. Finally, because the narration is subjective, the language of the narrator also tends to be unique, reflecting the narrator’s peculiarities— his or her social, regional, and philosophical makeup.
Rao’s first novel, Kanthapura, is the story of how a small, sleepy, South Indian village is caught in the whirlpool of the Indian freedom struggle and comes to be completely destroyed. In the foreword, Rao himself indicates that the novel is a kind of sthala-purana, or legendary history, which every village in India seems to have. These local sthala-puranas are modeled on the ancient Indian Puranas—those compendia of story, fable, myth, religion, philosophy, and politics—among which are the Upa Puranas, which describe holy places and the legends associated with them. Hence, several features of Kanthapura are in keeping with the tradition of sthalapuranas. The detailed description of the village at the opening of the novel is written in the manner of a sthalapurana, wherein the divine origin or association of a place is established.
The village is presided over by Goddess Kenchamma, the Gramadeveta (village deity), and the novel provides a legend explaining her presence there, recalling several similar legends found in the Puranas. Like the place-Gods of the Puranas, Kenchamma operates within her jurisdiction, where she is responsible for rains, harvests, and the well-being of the villagers. She cannot extend her protection to other villages or to outsiders. The village deity thus symbolizes local concerns such as famine, cholera, cattle diseases, and poor harvests, which may have little to do with the world outside the village. Like Kenchamma, the river Himavathy also has a special significance in the novel and recalls passages describing famous rivers in the Puranas, such as the description of the river Narmada in Matsya Purana and the Agni Purana.
Similarly, Kanthapura shares certain narrative techniques with the Puranas. The story is told rapidly, all in one breath, it would seem, and the style reflects the oral heritage also evident in the Puranas. Like the Puranas, which are digressive and episodic, Kanthapura contains digressions such as Pariah Siddiah’s exposition on serpent lore. The Puranas contain detailed, poetic descriptions of nature; similarly, Kanthapura has several descriptive passages that are so evocative and unified as to be prose poems in themselves. Examples are the coming of Kartik (autumn), daybreak over the Ghats, and the advent of the rains. Finally, the narration of Kanthapura has a simplicity and lack of self-consciousness reminiscent of the Puranas and quite different from the narrative sophistication of contemporary Western novelists such as Virginia Woolf orJames Joyce.
Kanthapura is also imbued with a religious spirit akin to that of the Puranas. The epigraph of the novel, taken from the sacred Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita (c. fifth century b.c.e.), is the famous explanation of the Hindu notion of incarnation: “Whensoever there is misery and ignorance, I come.” The doctrine of incarnation is also central to the Puranas, most of which are descriptive accounts of the avatars of Vishnu. The avatar in Kanthapura is Gandhi, whose shadow looms over the whole book, although he is himself not a character. Incarnation, however, is not restricted to one Great Soul, Gandhi, but extends into Kanthapura itself, where Moorthy, who leads the revolt, is the local manifestation of Gandhi and, by implication, of Truth.
Although the form of Kanthapura is closely modeled on that of the sthala-purana, its style is uniquely experimental. Rao’s effort is to capture the flavor and nuance of South Indian rural dialogue in English. He succeeds in this through a variety of stylistic devices. The story is told by Achakka, an old Brahman widow, a garrulous, gossipy storyteller. The sentences are long, frequently running into paragraphs. Such long sentences consist of several short sentences joined by conjunctions (usually “and”) and commas; the effect is of breathless, rapid talking. The sentence structure is manipulated for syntactic and rhythmic effect, as in the first sentence of the novel: “Our village—I don’t think you have ever heard about it—Kanthapura is its name, and it is in the province of Kara.” Repetition is another favorite device used to enhance the colloquial flavor of the narrative. In addition to these techniques, translation from Kannada is repeatedly used. Nicknames such as “Waterfall Venkamma,” “Nose-scratching Nanjamma,” “Cornerhouse Moorthy” are translated; more important, Kannada idioms and expressions are rendered into English: “You are a traitor to your salt-givers”; “The Don’ttouch- the-Government Campaign”; “Nobody will believe such a crow and sparrow story”; and so on. The total effect is the transmutation into English of the total ethos of another culture. Kanthapura, with its “Kannadized” English, anticipates the lofty “Sanskritized” style of The Serpent and the Rope, which, stylistically, is Rao’s highest achievement.
Kanthapura is really a novel about a village rather than about a single individual; nevertheless, Moorthy, the Brahman protagonist of the villagers’ struggle against the government, is a prototypal Rao hero. Moorthy is the leader of a political uprising, but for him, as for Gandhi, whom he follows, politics provides a way of life, indistinguishable from a spiritual quest. In fact, for Moorthy, Action is the way to the Absolute. In Gandhi, he finds what is Right Action. Thus, for him, becoming a Gandhi man is a deep spiritual experience that is appropriately characterized by the narrator as a “conversion.” At the culmination of this “conversion” is Sankaracharaya’s ecstatic chant, “Sivoham, Sivoham. I amSiva. I amSiva. Siva am I,” meaning that Moorthy experiences blissful union with the Absolute. Indeed, the chant, which epitomizes the ancient Indian philosophical school of Advaita or unqualified nondualism, is found in all Rao’s novels as a symbol of the spiritual goal of his protagonists. Moorthy, the man of action, thus practices Karma Yoga (the Path of Action), one of the ways of reaching the Absolute as enunciated in the Bhaghavad Gita. In the novels after Kanthapura, Rao’s protagonists, like Moorthy, continue to seek the Absolute, although their methods change.
The Serpent and the Rope
Published twenty-two years after Kanthapura, The Serpent and the Rope is Rao’s most ambitious work. If the former is modeled on an Upa Purana (minor Purana), the latter is a kind of Maha Purana (major Purana) or epic; geographically, historically, philosophically, and formally, its sweep is truly epical. The novel includes a variety of settings, ranging from Paris to Ramaswamy’s ancestral home in a South Indian village, from European locales such as Aix, Montpalais, Pau, Montpellier, Provence, Cambridge, and London to Indian locales such as Hyderabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Bombay, Bangalore, and Beneras. Rao delves into almost the whole of Indian history, from the invasion of the Aryans to the advent of British rule; European history, chiefly the Albigensian heresy; Chinese history—all of these come under discussion as the protagonist, Rama, a historian by training, expounds his theories in conversations with the leading characters. Philosophically, too, the novel’s sweep is formidable: Rao discusses Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Daoism, Marxism, Darwinism, and Nazism.
Hence, it is not surprising to find The Serpent and the Rope extremely diverse in form as well. Rao quotes from an array of languages, including Sanskrit, Hindi, French, Italian, Latin, and Provençal; only the Sanskrit quotations are translated. There are long interludes and stories, such as Grandmother Lakshamma’s story of a princess who became a pumpkin and Ishwara Bhatta’s “Story of Rama.” In addition, the novel contains songs, myths, legends, and philosophical discussions in the manner of the Puranas. The main narrative, the gradual disintegration of Rama’s marriage with his French wife, Madeleine, is thus only a single strand holding a voluminous and diverse book together.
The Serpent and the Rope is an extremely challenging work thematically as well; Savithri’s words in the novel sum it up well: It is “a sacred text, a cryptogram, with different meanings at different hierarchies of awareness.” It may be approached on at least two different levels, the literal and the symbolic, although the two usually operate simultaneously. On the literal level of plot, the novel may appear puzzling and unsatisfying. The crux is:Whydoes the marriage of Rama and Madeleine disintegrate? Critics have attempted various answers, ranging from incompatibility between the Indian Rama and the French Madeleine to Rama’s infidelity. Although such answers are plausible, they do not satisfy completely because these reasons are not perceived by the characters themselves. Rama and Madeleine are both aware of the growing rift between them, but they do not attempt to bridge it on a practical level. Instead, both watch the dissolution of the union with an almost fatalistic helplessness. Similarly, it is hard to understand why Rama seeks fulfillment in other women while averring his love for Madeleine at the same time, or why he never tells her of his affairs in spite of his claim that he keeps no secrets from her.
Rama, the narrator, does not answer such questions; he only chronicles the breakdown of the relationship, almost impersonally, as if there were little he could do to save it. He also does not feel himself responsible for having affairs with other women, one of which involves a ritual second marriage, while being married to Madeleine at the same time. What is lacking, then, is an adequate motivation for the actions of the characters, something that most readers are conditioned to expect from a novel. Perhaps a better approach, however, instead of asking of the novel something that it did not intend to give, is to consider what it does clearly provide; indeed, questions that appear unresolved on the literal level are resolved more satisfactorily on the symbolic level.
Rama, the Brahman hero, is a seeker of Truth both by birth and by vocation (a Brahman is one who seeks Brahma, or the Absolute).As an Indian scholar in France, Rama is seeking Truth in the form of the missing link in the puzzle of India’s influence on the West. According to Rama, this missing link is the Albigensian heresy: He thinks that the Cathers were driven to heresy by the influence of Buddhism, which had left India. Rama’s quest for Truth is also manifested in his search for the ideal woman, because in the Hindu tradition, the union of husband and wife is symbolic of the union of man and God. The marriage of Siva and Parvathi is one such paradigmatic union in which Siva, the Absolute, the abstract, the ascetic, is wedded to Parvthi, the human, the concrete, the possessor of the earth. Another such union is that between the mythical Savithri and her husband Satyavan (Satya means “Truth”); Savithri, through her devotion, restores her dead husband to life.
In keeping with these paradigms, Rama—the thinker, the meditator, the seeker of Truth—can find fulfillment only in a Parvathi or a Savithri, who can bring him back to earth by her devotion. Madeleine, however, who has given up her Catholicism for Buddhism, becomes an ascetic, renouncing the earth, denying her body through abstinence and penance. Significantly, her union with Rama is barren: Both their children are stillborn. Madeleine also regards Truth as something outside herself, something that has to be striven for in order to be realized. Her dualism is the philosophical opposite of Rama’s nondualism; Rama believes, following the Advaita Vedanta, that the self is a part of Truth, as the wave is a part of the sea, and that all separateness is illusion, like the illusion in which a rope is mistaken for a serpent.
Rama’s true mate is an Indian undergraduate at Cambridge named, interestingly, Savithri. Savithri, despite her modishness—she dances to jazz music, smokes, wears Western clothes, and so on—is essentially an Indian. Unlike Madeleine, Savithri does not seek Truth; rather, instinctively and unselfconsciously, she is Truth. Her union with Rama is thus a natural and fulfilling one. Savithri, however, like Rama’s sister Saroja, opts for an arranged marriage in the traditional Indian manner with someone else; hence, her relationship with Rama is never consummated. At the end of the book, Rama, divorced from Madeleine, sees a vision of his guru in Travancore and plans to leave France for India.
Rama’s path to Truth, unlike Moorthy’sKarma Yoga, is Jnana Yoga (the Path of Knowledge), also enunciated in the Bhaghavad Gita. Rama is not a man of action but an intellectual. Although he has accumulated knowledge, he still does not apprehend Truth clearly; like the deluded seeker in the fable, he mistakes the rope for the serpent, failing to see himself already united with Truth as Savithri is. Traditionally, a guru is necessary for the Jnana Yogi because only a guru can cure his delusion by showing him that what appears to be a serpent is really a rope. Thus, in the end, Rama resolves to seek his guru to be cured of his delusion.
The Cat and Shakespeare
The Cat and Shakespeare, described by Rao as “a metaphysical comedy,” clearly shows a strong formal Upanishadic influence. The spiritual experiences of its narrator, Ramakrishna Pai, are reminiscent of the illuminative passages in the Chandogya Upanishad that describe the experience of the Infinite. The dialogues in the novel are also Upanishadic in their question-andanswer patterns; the best example is the conversation between Govindan Nair and Lakshmi in the brothel. Nair’s metaphysical speculations—such as “Is there seeing first or the object first?”—seem to be modeled on philosophical queries in the Upanishads. The cat links the novel to the Indian beast fable, and Nair’s comic roguery shows similarities to the rogue fable in the Panchatantra. The major Western debt is to William Shakespeare, who is acknowledged in the title. Shakespeare is a symbol for the universal; according to Rao, Shakespeare’s vision transcends duality and arrives at a unified view of the universe. There are numerous allusions to Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (pr. c. 1600- 1601) in the novel, culminating in the “rat-trap episode” in which a cat is trapped in a large rat trap; this prompts Nair to deliver a parody of Hamlet that begins: “A kitten sans cat, that is the question.”
The Cat and Shakespeare is Rao’s sequel to The Serpent and the Rope in that it shows what happens after a seeker’s veil of illusion has been removed by the guru. Its theme may be summed up in Hamlet’s words to Horatio toward the end of the play: “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,/ Roughhew them how we will.” A similar view of grace is embodied in the novel in what Nair, the man who is united to Truth, calls “the way of the Cat.” The “way of the Cat” is simply the notion that just as the kitten is carried by the scruff of its neck by the mother cat, the human being is completely at the mercy of the divine; consequently, the only way to live is to surrender oneself totally to divine grace, as the helpless kitten surrenders itself to the mother cat. Nair lives this philosophy and is responsible for teaching it to his ignorant neighbor, the narrator Pai. Pai is like the innocent hunter in the story who unknowingly heaped leaves on Siva and was rewarded with a vision.
Between Pai’s house and Nair’s is a wall over which Nair leaps every time he visits Pai. The wall is an important symbol because it represents the division between illusion and Truth. Nair crosses it easily, but Pai has never gone across. Toward the end of the novel, following Nair’s cat, Pai accidentally crosses the wall. Like the lucky hunter, he also is vouchsafed a divine vision: For the first time, Pai sees the whole universe as a unity. The novel ends with Pai’s spiritual as well as material fulfillment, as he has partially realized his lifelong ambition of owning a three-story house. The Cat and Shakespeare, although not as ambitious as The Serpent and the Rope, is as successful on its own terms. The novel is an elaborate puzzle that the author challenges the reader to solve; a solution is not only possible at all levels, but is completely satisfying as well. The way to the Absolute here is not the Karma Yoga or Jnana Yoga of the two previous novels, but Bhakti Yoga, or the Path of Devotion. The seeker recognizes himself as completely dependent on divine grace for his salvation and surrenders himself to the Benevolent Mother like a trusting kitten.
Comrade Kirillov, published in English in 1976, is generally recognized as Rao’s least ambitious novel; it is clearly a minor work compared with its three illustrious predecessors. Formally, it is an extended vyakti-chitra, or character sketch, a popular genre in Indian regional literature. The main story, narrated by one “R,” is a mere ninety-three pages in large type, to which are appended twenty-seven pages of the diary of Kirillov’s wife, Irene, and a concluding seven pages by the narrator; the effect is of a slight, sketchy novella.
Kirillov, alias Padmanabha Iyer, leaves India for California to propagate Theosophy but, after a period of disillusionment, becomes a Communist. From California, he moves to London, where, marrying a Czech immigrant, Irene, he settles down to the life of an expatriate intellectual. Like Rao’s other protagonists, Kirillov starts as a seeker of Truth, but after he becomes a Communist he is increasingly revealed by the narrator to be caught in a system that curtails his access to Truth. Kirillov thus continuously rationalizes the major events in the world to suit his perspective. Nevertheless, following a visit to India several years after he has left, he realizes that his Communism is only a thin upper layer in an essentially Indian psyche. Irene also recognizes in her diary that he is almost biologically an Indian Brahman, and only intellectually a Marxist. By the end of the book, Kirillov is shown to be a man of contradictions: attacking and worshiping Gandhi simultaneously, deeply loving traditional India but campaigning for a Communist revolution, reciting Sanskrit shlokas but professing Communism.
The narrator is Kirillov’s intellectual opposite, an adherent of Advaita Vedanta. There are numerous interesting discussions on Communism in the book, which has great value as a social document, capturing the life of an Indian expatriate intellectual between 1920 and 1950. Also of interest is Kirillov’s relationship with Irene, which recalls Rama’s relationship with Madeleine. Numerous similarities aside, this relationship is more successful: This marriage lasts, and the couple has a child, Kamal. Soon after Kirillov’s return from India, however, Irene dies in childbirth, followed by her newborn daughter. Kirillov leaves for Moscow and is last heard of in Peking. The novel ends with the narrator taking Kamal, now in India, to Kanyakumari. Despite its humor, pathos, and realism, Comrade Kirillov falls short of Rao’s three previous novels.
It is interesting to note that Comrade Kirillov, first published in a French translation in 1965, was written earlier. Thematically, it represents the stage of negation before the spiritual fulfillment of The Cat and Shakespeare. Kirillov, as a Communist and atheist, has negated the Karma Yoga of Kanthapura and the Jnana Yoga of The Serpent and the Rope by denying the existence of the Absolute; thus, his quest results in failure. The Bhakti Yoga of The Cat and Shakespeare, especially in the character of Nair, is the culmination of the various stages of spiritual realization in the earlier novels. Nair is the first character in Rao’s novels who does not merely seek Truth but who has found it and actually practices it.
The Chessmaster and His Moves
The Chessmaster and His Moves, with its ambitious, daunting scale (it is actually three interrelated novellas that combined have more than one hundred named characters, take place on three different continents, and draw on both Eastern and Western religious philosophies), uses the apparatus of fiction to serve as occasion for a metaphysical investigation into the pilgrim road to Absolute Truth itself. Although during the last years of his life Rao completed the manuscripts of the other two volumes of the planned trilogy of which this novel is the beginning, The Chessmaster and His Moves can serve as a fitting capstone to Rao’s lifelong investigation into the meaning of Truth in a world obsessed with the satisfactions of the carnal and the contentment of self. That intricate play of ideas inevitably recalls the towering novels of ideas of earlier philosopher-writers such as Fyodor Dostoevski, Thomas Mann, and particularly Herman Hesse. Indeed, it was on the strength of this work that Rao received the Neustadt Prize (A biennial award for literature sponsored by the University of Oklahoma).
What plot Rao offers here—a series of relationships between an Indian academic and a succession of women—serves to test alternate visions of Truth, each of the women representing a facet of humanity’s struggle to move beyond the limits of the flesh and the immediate (and its inevitable dissatisfaction and devastating pain) and to begin the difficult exploration of the interior that alone leads to Truth. Rao tests physical love and emotional love but ultimately endorses spiritual love—that is, love that rejects the compelling urge of others to set about deepening the perception of the soul. Rao uses the metaphor of chess (itself an Indian game) to suggest this movement—within Rao’s spiritualism, the travails of humanity are the subtle game moves of the Brahman- God, the Creator, designed to enable humanity to grow inwardly.
Sivarama (Siva) Sastri, the book’s central character, is a brilliant if spiritually shallow mathematician living in Paris. Like Rao, Siva is a Brahman, part of the Indian diaspora, and struggles in vain to achieve Truth largely because he is seeking truth in his fascination with numbers (which appear to him reliable in their objectivity) and in his need for women (most notably a tumultuous affair with Jaya, a married woman, and his eventual marriage to a mysterious Frenchwoman, Suzanne Chantereux, who has apparently cured herself of tuberculosis through meditation but whose only child, developmentally disabled, died young). There is also Siva’s sister, Uma Ramachandra, unable to have children and desperately unhappy about it.
Rao clearly develops the tension between the troubles and disappointments of the horizontal and the call of the spiritual. Amid this exploration of the troubling world of the immediate is an ongoing discussion Siva conducts with a friend, Michel, a learned rabbi, conversations that represent Rao’s complex anatomy of the horrific reality of the Jewish Holocaust and the implications of its legacy for those who seek the path to Absolute Truth. It is under the tutelage of Michel, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, that Siva first begins to perceive the inadequacies of his own suppositions about the Truth. With the gradual evolution appropriate to a pilgrim character setting out to achieve a most comprehensive transcendent state, Siva comes in turn to see the thinness of the sensual, specifically his own pursuit of beautiful, intelligent women and ultimately the deceptive faux absolutes of numbers themselves.
The underlying philosophy here is that a novel is a powerful assertion in a spiritually empty postmodern world of the ancient privilege of wisdom writing to help direct the difficult attainment of spiritual fulfillment: Only through words, Rao suggests, can the Word be attained. Unlike trendy New Age literature, among which this novel has often been categorized, Rao does not pretend that mysticism is readily available or cheaply purchased. Siva struggles to perceive the necessary abolition of contradiction, the movement beyond the tension of flesh and spirit, illusion and reality, immediate and eternal as a first stage in what, given the dimension of Rao’s projected trilogy, promises to become a most intricate awakening into Truth for both Siva and Rao’s pilgrim reader.
On the Ganga Ghat
On the Ganga Ghat, Rao’s last fiction published before his death, is a collection of short narratives so intricately bound together, so tightly arranged that Rao insisted they could only be read as a novel. Rao’s two earlier collections of stories were just that—gatherings of individual stories, most previously published, and thus discrete and each able to be read (and explicated) independent of the others. Here, Rao, using the premise of examining the rich street life of Benaras (also known as Varanasi), the holiest city in the Hindu religion, examines in a cycle of ten stories (with a concluding chapter) a variety of characters who populate the teeming sacred city. The stories are, to borrow Rao’s own description of its structure, like beads of the same necklace.
Rao juxtaposes the often morally compromised life of a modern urban center against the pilgrims who have come for centuries to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges (or Ganga). He casts his often critical eye on the characters who approach the sacred river via the city’s numerous ancient elaborately carved stairways, or ghats, leading down to the river’s edge. In examining the lives of a variety of types, Rao creates a narrative trajectory upward, story to story, a movement toward illumination, a journey toward Truth that threads the stories/chapters and culminates in Rao’s own conclusion in which he acknowledges the difficult struggle to leave behind the attractive complications of the material world (critics have suggested the work is a product of Rao’s own spiritual life in postmodern America).
In juxtaposing the common people of the city’s streets and their yearning for spiritual elevation, Rao’s collection recalls one of his frequently acknowledged influences, the modernist James Joyce, and specifically the structure ofJoyce’s Dubliners (1914). On the Ganga Ghat brings together the preoccupations of Rao’s two earlier collections of stories: the gritty social realism of The Cow of the Barricades, with its often grim depiction of the brutal conditions of India’s impoverished population against the hypocrisy and indifference of its most affluent, and The Policeman and the Rose, with its far more spiritual argument using parables and allegories in which pilgrim characters struggle to achieve the sublime affirmation of Truth against the temptations of the worldly and the stubborn fallibility of humanity.
What is most remarkable, however, is this book’s unexpectedly comic tone, given the gravitas with which spiritual evolution is treated in Rao’s other works. Here Rao indulges tongue-in-cheek satire that is never caustic in a style that, unlike his more elaborate and often dense abstract writings, is direct, uncomplicated by meditative speculations. With a kind of world-weary wisdom, Rao exposes with a generous sensibility humanity’s inability to accept the responsibility of a spiritual education by telling of traveling princes, dignified beggars, noble urchins, big-hearted prostitutes, sharp-eyed ascetics, and unrepentant street thieves. Rao captures the irreverent, the morally bankrupt, and the hypocritical. Much as in traditional wisdom literature, Rao gives to animals the most profound insights into spirituality and the search for Truth, specifically a wise parrot and a shrewd cow. Without condescension and with a forgiving heart for the foibles of those who seek enlightenment that is often difficult to discern in Rao’s other, longer works, On the Ganga Ghat suggests that Rao, himself edging toward death, wants to reassure his pilgrim readers that their struggles with their own imperfections are part of the narrative of their spiritual reclamation.
Short fiction: The Cow of the Barricades, and Other Stories, 1947; The Policeman and the Rose, 1978.
Nonfiction: The Meaning of India, 1996; The Great Indian Way: A Life of Mahatma Gandhi, 1998.
Edited texts: Changing India, 1939 (with Iqbal Singh); Whither India? (1948; with Singh).
Bhattacharya, P. C. Indo-Anglian Literature and the Works of Raja Rao. Delhi: Atma Ram, 1983.
Hardgrave, Robert L., Jr., ed. Word as Mantra: The Art of Raja Rao. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.
Mittapalli, Rajeshwar, and Pier Paolo Piciucco, eds. The Fiction of Raja Rao: Critical Studies.NewDelhi: Atlantic, 2001.
Narasimhaiah, C. D. Raja Rao: A Critical Study of His Work. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann India, 1973.
Sankaran, Chitra. Myth Connections: The Use of Hindu Myths and Philosophies in R. K. Narayan and Raja Rao. 2d rev. ed. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.
Sarang, Jaydeep, ed. Raja Rao: The Master and His Moves.Delhi: Authorspress, 2007.
Sharma, Kaushal. Raja Rao: A Study of His Themes and Techniques. Delhi: Sarup & Sons, 2006.
Sharrad, Paul. Raja Rao and Cultural Tradition. New Delhi: Sterling, 1987.
Venkata Reddy, K. Major Indian Novelists: Mulk Raj Anand, R. K. Narayan, Raja Rao, Bhabani Bhattacharya, Kamala Markandaya. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1990.
World Literature Today 62, no. 3 (1988).