Samskara Novel Characters and Places

Samskara Novel Characters and Places

Samskara Novel Characters and Places

Praneshacharya

He is the protagonist of the novel, Samskara. He is a great scholar and leader of the Madhva Brahmin agrahara of Durvasapura. He leads an ascetic life and tends his invalid wife as if it were a penance to seek salvation. Though a great Vedic scholar well versed with the scriptures, he finds himself in a fix when he has to arbitrate the cremation of the heterodox Brahmin Naranappa as his close relatives hesitate to cremate a Brahmin ditcher and open defiler of the community and its code. While trying to seek divine guidance at the temple of Maruti, he accidentally experiences the touch of Naranappa’s concubine Chandri’s breasts. The Acharya yields to the demands of his body and tastes sexual pleasure for the first time in his life. This changes the course of his life. He tells the Brahmins of his agrahara that he cannot guide them and asks them to do what their hearts dictate as right. His wife dies of plague soon. He cremates her and goes after looking for Chandri. He meets one Putta, a young man from Malera community. He initiates the Acharya to the world of sensuous pleasures. The Acharya wants to conquer his fear of guilt by returning to Durvasapura by telling the Brahmins the truth and not his confession. He proceeds towards his village taking leave of Putta. The Acharya earns a right of passage thus.

Bhagirathi

She is the invalid wife of Praneshacharya, the protagonist of the novel. She feels that she is a burden to her husband and often advises him to marry a healthy and fruitful woman. She is very proud of her husband and she thinks that anybody will be willing to give his daughter in marriage to him as he is just forty and an acknowledged scholar of Vedanta. But the Acharya thinks that by marrying her, he is making a sacrifice for attainting salvation. She dies of plague when the agrahara of Durvasapura is afflicted by it. In mythology, Bhagirathi is the river goddess Ganga, a symbol of fertility and wild energy. But Pranesha’s wife Bhagirathi is sterile and invalid.

Naranappa

He is a thorn in the flesh of Durvasapura agrahara Madhva Brahmins. Though he is a Brahmin himself, he openly defies Brahminhood by taking a low-caste woman Chandri for his concubine, by eating meat in the company of Muslims, by desecrating the pond of Ganapati temple and by abusing the ways of the agrahara Brahmins and their ridiculous Brahminic ways. As the story begins, he dies of plague and the problem of cremating him poses a problem to the village Brahmins as he has openly broken from Brahminic culture and denigrating its sanctified conventions and codes. Naranappa poses a great threat to the agrahara both when he is alive and is dead. Praneshacharya fails to reform him in spite of his personal appeals to him and his fasting for his redemption. In the process of deciding the cremation of Naranappa, the Acharya loses his celibacy and betakes to the concubine of Naranappa. In the challenge between Naranappa and the Acharya, Naranappa wins hands down. While the Brahmins postpone his cremation on question of propriety and animosity, Chandri silently arranges for his cremation with the help of Ahmad Bari, a Muslim fish-merchant who was the beneficiary of Naranappa’s generosity.

Chandri

She is the concubine of Naranappa, the reprobate Brahmin of Durvasapura agrahara. She is highly seductive and alluring. Though the orthodox Brahmins of the agrahara take issues with Naranappa for sleeping with her, a low caste woman, they secretly hunger for her company. Durgabhatta, the Smarta Brahmin in the agrahara eyes Chandri with lustful eyes and admires the rich taste of late Naranappa in having picked up such a charming concubine as her. Chandri is very sincere to Naranappa both alive and dead. When the Brahmins of the agrahara hesitate to perform the samskara for Naranappa, she offers her gold to the Acharya for the funeral expenses of her late lover. She has great regard for the Brahmins of the agrahara in general and Praneshacharya in particular. As her life with Naranappa has become sterile, she longs for a child through such a great and holy Brahmin as Praneshacharya. When she tries to seek his blessings while his returning from Maruti temple, her beasts accidentally touch the knees of the Acharya and leads to their mating together. Their mating changes the course of the Acharya from the life of an ascetic Brahmin to that of a sensualist. As for Chandri, she is happy that she bears the seed of the Acharya in her and thus blessed twice. The Acharya asks her to come to the agrahara and tell the Brahmins there what has transpired between them. But Chandri does not want to expose the Acharya before the contentious Brahmins. She goes to the house of Naranappa and finds his body rotting: she first seeks the help of Sheshayya, the village cart man to cremate it. As he is afraid of meddling with the Brahmin tradition, she manages to cremate the body of Naranappa with the help of Ahmad Bari, the fish-merchant who has received financial help at a very crucial time from the late Naranappa. She takes her jewels and her personal effects and proceeds towards Kundapura, her home. Chandri symbolizes the mythical Menaka, Urvasi and Matsyagandhi.

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Garudacharya

He is a Madhva Brahmin belonging to Durvasapura agrahara. Between him the deceased Naranappa, kinship runs to several generations, no doubt. But no relationship lasts between Naranappa’s family and his after he has fought and won a lawsuit with his father over the orchard. They do not attend any functions nor take even a sip of water between the two families. Further Naranappa is said to have been instrumental in Garuda’s son Shyama joining the army deserting his regular Sanskrit classes under the great Praneshacharya. Lakshmana’s wife Sitadevi believes that he has cast a black magic on her relative Naranappa making him desert his wife and his Brahminhood by taking Chandri, a low-caste woman for his concubine. Garuda is also considered to have robbed the property of the widow Lakshmidevamma and caused her mental wreck. Though he first refuses to perform samskara for Naranappa, he alters his stand under the goading of his wife tempted by the gold jewels offered by Chandri for the cremation of her lover Naranappa. At Kaimara Mutt when he meets their Guru with the other Madhva Brahmins, the latter asks them to cremate Naranappa at once and surrender his gold to the Mutt as he has died without any heir. But Garuda tells the Guru that the gold belongs to him by the court degree in favour of him. At this, the Guru becomes angry with him by calling him a scoundrel and dismisses him and others with the contempt they deserve. Garuda is highly money-minded and unscrupulous.

Sitadevi

She is the wife of Garudacharya. She bears a grudge against Naranappa for making her son Shyama go astray and join the army without the knowledge of his parents. When the question of Naranappa’s cremation first comes, she cautions her husband Garuda not to be rash to accept to undertake the cremation of the reprobate Naranappa and incur the wrath of the Guru. She admires her husband’s arguments for cleverly dodging the responsibility of cremating Naranappa. But later on when she sees that Chandri offering her gold for the cremation of Naranappa, she wants to grab the gold and redeem her son Shyama from the army as she is afraid that he will be forced to deviate from his Brahminic ways as people say that in the army he will be made to eat meat and drink. But neither Sitadevi nor her husband Garuda knows that the gold has gone back to Chandri’s hands from the Acharya.

Lakshmanacharya

He is one of the Madhva Brahmins of Durvasapura agrahara. The deceased Naranappa is related to him through his wife Anasuya for Naranappa has married her sister whom he has discarded soon after his marriage. But he does not want to undertake the cremation of Naranappa for he has been responsible for his sister-in-law to become hysterical and die soon after. Naranappa has not even attended the funeral of his wife. He has taken to unbrahminical ways by sleeping with a low caste-woman, keeping company with Muslims eating meat and fish from the temple dedicated to Ganapati. Lakshmana is also inimical towards Naranappa for he has been responsible for ruining his son-in-law Shripati by initiating him into his ways of living, Lakshmana is a penny pincher and highly suspicious that his wife will be very liberal with her relatives and so he keeps a careful watch over her dealings with her people whenever they visit their house. He makes dry banana leaves and cups and sells them to the people of the nearby villages and towns and makes money out of it. He is disappointed when the Guru at the Kaimara Mutt gives the Brahmins a gift of one anna after their meals. He takes exception to the miserliness of the Guru who has given up all attachments. He follows Garuda and other Brahmins to Parijatapura and Kaimara to find a solution to the cremation of the heretic Brahmin Naranappa.

Anasuya

She is the wife of Lakshmanacharya. She is related to late Naranappa through her sister whom he has married and jilted in favour of the seductive low-caste Chandri, his concubine. She is angry with Naranappa for neglecting her sister and causing her premature death. She is equally angry with him for ruining his son-in-law Shripati, an orphan whom they have brought up and given their only daughter Lilavati. Under the tutelare of Naranappa, Shripati discontinues his Sanskrit lessons with Praneshacharya and begins to loaf around by taking to evil company. She first advises her husband not to undertake the cremation of Naranappa. But later on seeing Chandri’s gold, she alters her stand and goads her husband to accept the cremation of Naranappa, as the deceased is after all her uncle’s son first and her sister’s husband next. She foolishly advises her daughter Lilavati not to oblige to her husband’s sexual demands too easily and thinks that this will make him stick to her and long for her. But her advice misfires as Shripati easily fulfils his sexual demands from Belli, the low-caste woman of the slum what he does not get from his conjugal basket.

Shripati

Garuda and his wife pick him up as an orphan and bring him up and later marry their daughter Lilavati to him. He learns Sanskrit under the great scholar Praneshacharya for some time. He comes under the influence of Naranappa, the heterodox Brahmin of his village Durvasapura. Fired by the erotic descriptions of Sakuntala espoused by the Acharya, he rushes to the village pond and copulates with Belli, the low-caste woman bathing there. His wife’s non-cooperation in bed also makes him to rush to Belli to appease his sexual hunger. He joins the dramatic troupe founded by Naranappa at Parijatapura and spends more time with his young friends there in the house of Manjayya. He does not know about the death of Naranappa as he is away at Shirnali at that time. When he returns to see him at his home, he is shocked to see his mentor dead. He rushes to Parijatapura and participates in a dramatic rehearsal with his friends Nagaraja, Manjunatha and others all the time feeling sorry for the death of their patron and friend, Naranappa. At the suggestion of Manjunatha, they want to show their gratitude to Naranappa by cremating his body. When they go to Naranappa’s house at night, they find the house empty. They have the shock of their lives and rush out thinking that Naranappa’s spirit has walked away in disgust for they do not know that Chandri has already cremated him with the help of Ahamad Bari, the fish merchant

Belli

She is a young woman with provocative sex appeal. He has a pair of lusty breasts that will disarm even an ascetic. She is the concubine of Shripati, the son-in-law of Lakshmana and Anasuya. Shripati falls for her sexual charms and prowess induced by the erotic descriptions from Kalidasa‘s Sakuntala through the discourses on the epic by his guru, Praneshacharya. The Brahmin youth of Durvasapura and Parijatapura long for her company though they will not dare to take her because of her low caste origin and fear of being ostracized. But Shripati who is a hedonist like his mentor Naranappa finds the sexual company of Belli more congenial than his frigid wife Lilavati. Even the great Pranesacharya, after his affair with Chandri, begins to think about and long for Belli’s breasts. Her sexual charms are as seductive as that of Chandri, if not more. Belli, like the other members of her clan believes that the plague is the result of the anger of demon, which can be appeased by sacrificing fowls and animals. Belli loses her parents who become victim to the plague that enters their slum through the agrahara Like Chandri, Belli is also a symbol of eroticism and a contrast to the disenchanting Brahmin women.

Durgabhatta

He is the only Smarta Brahmin in Durvasapura agrahara housing the Madhva Brahmins. He has his own prejudice against the orthodoxy of the Madhvas who consider the orthodoxy of Smartas lower in rank. He does not like Dasacharya’s suggestion to ask the Parijatapura Smarta Brahmins to perform the samskara for the reprobate Brahmin Naranappa. He considers the suggestion an affront on the Smarta Brahmins to undertake the samskara for Naranappa, which the Madhvas of his own agrahara do not want to perform. He tells Pranesacharya that they need not make much fuss over Naranappa taking to a low caste woman, Chandri. He says that a Brahmin is not lost because he takes a low lowborn prostitute. He points out that their ancestors who all came from the North cohabited with the Dravidian woman as per historical accounts. While the Madhvas are deliberating the question of Naranappa’s Samskara, he secretly ogles at Chandri assesses her sexual charms and admires the taste of Naranappa for having picked up such a nice concubine. Durgabhatta has partiality for the Smarta Brahmins of Parijatapura agrahara as he has enjoyed their hospitality to the hilt. Further hc has an eye for the young unshaven widows of that agrahara with their lips made red by their betel chewing. He has an eye for feminine charms and has Ravi Varma’s painting of Matsyagandhi, the fisherwoman shyly trying to hide her breasts bursting through her poor rag of a sari, hung up in his bedroom. He has nothing but contempt for the Madhvas’ orthodoxy but he plays safe in their presence but considers them ‘bastards who make love with shaven widows’. Durgabhatta is Naranappa’s anti-self.

Dasacharya

He is one of the poor Madhva Brahmins of Durvasapura agrahara who thrives mainly by ritual meals served in the houses of the agrahara Brahmins during ritual functions and ceremonies in their houses. What lust is to Naranappa, hunger to Dasacharya. He loses his patience with Garuda and Lakshmana for postponing the cremation of Naranappa on grounds of propriety. He is ready to cremate the body of Naranappa with the help of four Brahmins if Pranesha permits him to do so. For him it is a question of appeasing his hunger. When vultures hover around the agrahara to pick up the dying and dead rats there, the other Brahmins try to shoo them away but they do not budge. Dasacharya suggests that they blow their conches and beat their pones. This trick works and the vultures retreat. The agrahara Brahmins hesitate to undertake the cremation of dead Naranappa thinking that they will lose their Brahminhood by cremating the body of a reprobate Brahmin. In order to overcome this trouble, he suggests that they approach the Brahmin friends of Parlatanura to perform the samskara for the late friend Naranappa, as they are not so very orthodox as they the Madhvas of Durvasapura. Taking this suggestion, a gang of Brahmins with Dasacharya goes to Parijatapura secking the help of Manjayya but returns disappointed as the Parijatapura Brahmins do not want themselves to look low in the eyes of the Madhvas. Unable to bear his hunger any longer, Dasacharya makes a secret visit to Manjayya’s house and appeases his hunger by humoring him and his clan. Again, when the Acharya disowns his responsibility in the matter of performing samskara for the late Naranappa, it is Dasacharya who suggests that they go and meet Subbanacharya at Kaimara. Unfortunately, he contracts plague and succumbs to it. The Brahenins who have come with him to Kaimara know about his death only later.

Lakshmidevamma

She is a child-widow of Durvasapura agrahara 50 the agrahara Brahmins consider her an ill-omen. Whenever they meet her head on, they walk back four paces to undo the ill-luck. They all call her ‘Sour Belch’. Her best-known name is ‘Half-Wit Lakshmidevamma’. Her life is a Purana” by itself. She married at eight, widowed at ten. Her parents-in-law had died when she was fifteen. She lost her parents before she was twenty. The agrahara steered at her as the ill-starred girl. Garuda’s father took charge of her and her little property and jewelry. After the death of his father Garuda gobbled up her jewelry and property and drove her away. Long suffering and disappointment make her lose her wits and she becomes the object of contempt and segregation by the agrahara Brahmins. On account of the injustice meted out to her by Garuda, she often goes at night to his house and heaps down abuses on him and his house followed by her eerie belch and laughter. She is a victim of social alienation and economic exploitation by her own community

Manjayya

He is a rich and affluent Smarta Brahmin belonging to Parijatapura agrahara. He is a good friend of late Naranappa. The terrace of his palatial house is a hub of activities by the young men of the nearby agraharas. They rehearse the plays staged from time to time by their dramatic troupe named after Parijatapura. Manjayya knows that Naranappa has gone to Shivamogge but comes to know of the death of his good friend Naranappa only through the team of Madhva Brahmins who come to him to find a solution to cremate Naranappa, the rebel Brahmin. He is very courteous and hospitable to the guests from the neighbouring agrahara. He consults Parijatapura priest Shankarayya and offers to bear the funeral expenses of Naranappa but keeps away from taking the responsibility of performing samskara by the people o his agrahara as it will lower their status in the eyes of the proud Madhvas. Later when he comes to know from Dasacharya that Durvasapura is afflicted by plague, he informs the people of his village not to go to Durvasapura until his return and proceeds to Tirthahalli by cart to inform the municipal authorities about the outbreak of plague in Durvasapura and for inoculating the people of the village to prevent the epidemic from spreading to other villages including his. Manjayya is noted for his personal relationship and high sense of social consciousness.

Putta

He is a half-caste young man belonging to Malera community. He is married but his wife is quite all right in everything except that she often wants to go to her parents and she makes her stay with them fairly long. He is a lover of life and company of people. He himself says that he is known as “talkative Putta’ and ‘riddling Putta. He is very helpful by nature and volunteers to help people. When he meets Praneshacharya wandering aimlessly, he befriends him and sticks him like the sin of one’s previous birth He initiates the Acharya into a sensuous way life. He tries to prod the Acharya and to know who he is and where exactly he is going. But the Acharya who is a dilemma evades his questions. However, Putta takes the Acharya to the temple festival at Melige and exposes him kaleidoscopic spectrum of people and colourful scenes of cockfight and juggling by a young girl full of tempting curves. This makes the Acharya recall the sensual pleasure he enjoyed in the company of Chandri and long for it once again. Putta takes the Acharya to the house of a beautiful young lady by name Padmavati whose sexual charms are very difficult to resist. But after his broken meals at the temple, the Acharya insists on returning to Durvasapura. Putta offers to accompany him. He sees a cart proceeding to Durvasapura. There is accommodation in it only for one person. The Acharya offers to walk with Putta. But Putta asks the Acharya to avail the accommodation and sees him off.

Padmavati

She is a beautiful young woman belonging to the half-caste living alone in a tenement looking after herself and her holdings. She is on a good and familiar relationship with Putta and he too never misses to meet her whenever he visits the town Melige. As Putta’s wife often leaves him and goes to her parents’ home, Putta, it seems, has developed a physical intimacy with the charming Padmavati. Padmavati tries to tempt the Acharya by her sex appeal while offering betel leaves and arecanut to the visiting guest. The Acharya feels that it is a great temptation to resist. When Putta tells Padmavati that the Acharya will stay with her for the night and proceed to Kundapura on the following morning, she looks forward to a night of pleasure with the Acharya. But the Acharya suddenly changes his decision and leaves for Durvasapura. Padmavati is a courtesan where as Chandri is a prostitute.

Durvasapura

It takes its name after the famous sage Vishvamitra who is also called Durvasa on account of his proverbial short-temperedness. It is the agrahara, which is the focal point of the novel, Samskara. It is a colony consisting mainly of Madhva Brahmins except for Durgabhatta who belongs to the Smarta sect. Praneshacharya, the Crest Jewel of Vedic Learning is the local guru of the Brahmins. The aprahara is famous in and around because of the great Praneshacharya. Naranappa, the reprobate Brahmin who has been a problem to his clan both when alive and dead also belongs to this agrahara. Chandri, a prostitute from Kundapura lives in the agrahara with Naranappa as his concubine in his house till his death causing much chagrin to the fellow Brahmins of the agrahara.

Parijatapura

It takes it name after the Parijata flower sacred to Lord Krishna. It is an agrahara of Smarta Brahmins a little away from Durvasapura. The Durvasapura Madhvas consider the Smarta Brahmins of Parijatapura less pure than they are. Manjayya, the good friend of Naranappa is a rich and affluent person of this agrahara. He is a patron of the dramatic troupe named after the agrahara. Manjayya of Parijatapura goes to meet the municipal authorities at Tirthahalli to tackle the plague-ridden Durvasapura.

Thirthahalli

It is the municipal town serving the villages like Durvasapura and Parijatapura. It is where Manjayya proceeds to inform the municipal authorities there to clear the body of Naranappa afflicted with plague and inoculate the persons in the village of Durvasapura.

Kaimara

It is where the Brahmins of Durvasapura proceed to meet Subbannacharya to find a solution to the problem of performing the funeral rites for the reprobate Brahmin, Naranappa. It is where the Madhva Brahmins have their Mutt and they proceed to meet the head there after failing to find any solution from Subbannacharya.

Shivamogge

Naranappa on his return from here to Durvasapura develops high fever on account of plague, and passes away after four days.

Shirnali

Shripati, the good friend of Naranappa is away at Shirnali the previous day to see Jambavati’s Wedding performed by the troupe from Kelur. So he does not know about the death of Naranappa. So when he goes to meet his mentor alive, he has the shock of his life to see his dead body lying uncared for

Kundapura

It is the native place of Chandri, the concubine of Naranappa. It is where Praneshacharya tells Putta that he is heading to.

Melige

It is the temple town where Praneshacharya meets Putta, and through him Padmavati. It is where Putta exposes the Acharya to a vista of sensuous/sensual experiences. It is where the Acharya decides to cast off his fear, tear his mask of falsehood and return to Durvasapura to make a new beginning

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