Dharma and Polity Through the Character of Raju in R.K Naraayan’s “The Guide”

Aasif Rashid Wani


Dharma is a distinct quality that leads one to explore knowledge. In the novel ‘The Guide’, there are characters who reflect the concept of Dharma in a true sense of words. So, Dharma is a key concept. In the Western countries, the concept of Dharma is taken as a religion which appears to be a limited and incomplete as compared to the Indian concept of DharmaDharma indeed signifies patterns of behaviour considered to be accord of Rta that makes life in the universal possible. It includes duties, law, conduct, virtues and right way of life. R. K Narayana is a classical author in Indian fiction.  Narayan is a true Indian both in spirits and thoughts.  He has always been claimed as a novelist par excellence. Incidentally little has been written on how Narayan incorporates the profoundest Indian thoughts, philosophies and spiritualism in general and theory of Karma in particular in his novels. He is widely known for his lucid and natural writing style, often compared to William Faulkner. Most of his works show his deep interest in Hindu Religion and Myth.  He does not modify or revise the myths through their symbolic representation.

“To be a good writer anywhere, you must have roots - both in Religion and family.

I have these things.”(Stephen Graubart)

As a great writer, he translated and published shortened prose versions of the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and a few Hindu mythical tales in Gods, Demons and others.   His familiarity of Indian classical literature, philosophy, religion and ethics permeates his writing but a simple man that he was; he does not unnecessarily burden his readers with discourses on abstract philosophy and metaphysics.  As an English writer, he depicted Dharma spirituality and ethics or the concept of religion in his novels. Through The Guide, we have come know how a fraudulent tourist guide, Raju playing the central role as a saint. Theoretically, morally, honorably, legally and ethically a tourist guide is not preferred to misguide the tourists. Raju changed his life from an ordinary guide to a sage and unfolds the concept of Dharma, finally realized his self and sacrificed his life for the sake of Dharma and Polity. The present paper deals with the role of dharma in ‘The Guide’ through Raju. The concept of dharma found in Indian philosophy is artistically incorporated in the ‘The Guide’. He himself mentioned that there is “a nucleus of absolute truth in all my novels.” He reveals this truth in different ways with the aim to regenerate the consciousness of malgudains. In one of his interview Narayan told that one should have root in the family and religion or Dharam. William wash praise Narayan for embodying this pure concept of dharma in his novels. The thoughtful concept of dharma with sincerity is deeply found in ‘The Guide

R.K. Narayan has given a true common image of India through in ‘The Guide’ The central character, Raju, goes to the Mangala village on the Sarayu River and he stays in a temple on the sea shore. There he meets Velan. Raju narrates his past life as a successful tourist guide ‘Railway Raju’ and a rail road station food seller. Raju, the tourist guide is initially entrapped in the illusory world when the materialistic Charvaka philosophy guides and governs his life. Raju has been described as a spiritual martyr, one who finds himself in a insecure situation on account of the misunderstanding of a village idiot. Martyrdom is thus imposed upon him under certain unavoidable circumstances. But a close study of Raju’s actions, thoughts and behaviour significantly indicates a change in Raju. The sacrifice of Raju followed by the rains in Mangla village could very well be treated as a justification of Indian philosophy and its various paradigms.

Once Raju, as a tourist, guide happened to meet Marco and Rosie. Marco concentrated more on other worldly affairs and gives less attention towards his gorgeous wife Rosie. Raju helped both Marco and Rosie to recognize her desire of becoming a dancer. Raju becomes very close to her. He was much impressed by Rosie. He ignored his friend Gaffur’s warning and even his mother’s advice. He turned a hard of hearing even to the voice of his own soul.

The only truth in my existence was Rosie. All my psychological powers were now turned to keep her within my reach, and keep her cheery all the time, neither of which was at all easy. I would deliberately have kept at her side all the occasion, as a sort of scrounger. His over associate with a married lady becomes a serious burden to his tragedy. Raju helped Rosie in making her dreams come true.  Rosie became a professional dancer.  Raju forged her signature and mailed the document for which he was caught and sent to jail for two years.

After coming out of the jail he has been accepted as a saint of Mangala. The villagers approached Raju to undertake a fast to please the rain God and this made him to confess his past life to Velan.  Even after listening to the past life of Raju, Velan continued to acknowledge him as Swami; he took Raju’s confession as a mark of humility and godliness. He persuaded Raju for a fast and Raju finally agreed to fast ‘If by avoiding food I should help the trees bloom, and the grass grow, why not do it thoroughly?’ and that became his final decision. He slowly changed himself without his knowledge as a real sage. Sharan comments that:

In the course of his ordeals, he changes himself thoroughly and accepts the challenges of reality. He plays his role of a holy man with a ring of sincerity and embraces death at the end of the novel. Thus, ‘Railway Raju’, the guide becomes a ‘spiritual guide’ and all his imperfection and impersonation turn into a real act of self-sacrifice.

Raju has no other way but to undergo the fast though reluctantly he gained power to undertake the fast for real and through this power he sacrificed. After the twelve day Raju’s physical condition was very poor. He bows his head for prayer and said to Velan, ‘Velan it’s raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up legs –He sagged down. Thus the swami Raju’s was dedicated to the betterment for the poor people of the Mangala as a divine saint.

It is true that R.K. Narayan has depicted that Indian belief and feelings can be articulated in foreign language without demanding to reproduce the native speakers of English. He gave his characters Indian thoughts and expressed it in his scenes and backgrounds. Indian culture and tradition is rich and it is not easy to summarize through few situations or characters. But Narayan made it exuberant and all his characters share Indianness. A close reading of the novel explores that Raju is not very bad person. Though he made affairs with Rosie, a married woman, his heart warns him of being in an Indian society and he is not at ease and peace. In his own words he establishes his fear: “My thoughts dwelt on her golden touch. A part of my mind went on saying. ‘No, no. It is not right. Marco is her husband, remember. It’s not to be thought of.’ Rosie, besides her modern –type relationship with Raju, regards Marco as her husband. Raju’s mother is portrayed as a woman born and bred up in an orthodox, conservative class of Indians.

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