South Asia Institute
South Asia Institute

Raja Rao (1908-2006)

Wed, July 12, 2006

Raja Rao was born in 1908 in the princely state of Mysore (now India's Karnataka state) and was educated in Hyderabad, and at Aligarh Muslim University, where as one of the few Hindus at the college he graduated with a B.A. in English and History in 1929. He went on to study in France, and it was there that he began writing. His first novel, Kanthapura, published in London by Allen and Unwin in 1938, is the story of how Gandhi's struggle for independence came to a village in South India. After his return to India, Raja Rao lived for six months at Gandhi's Sevagram ashram in 1942 and became active in the nationalist movement. He returned to France in 1948, where he continued to write, publishing the deeply philosophical novel, The Serpent and the Rope in 1960.

In the fall of 1966, Raja Rao came to the University of Texas's Department of Philosophy, where until his retirement in 1980, he taught Indian philosophy. Following his retirement, Raja Rao and his wife Susan remained in Austin among friends and colleagues. In 1988, he published The Chessmaster and His Moves, and in that year, he was named tenth laureate of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

The University of Texas Center for Asian Studies organized and hosted an international symposium honoring Raja Rao in March 1997, and, on this occasion, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, India's highest literary award. The symposium papers were published as Word as Mantra: The Art of Raja Rao by Katha in India in 1998.

A memorial service for Raja Rao will be held in Austin at a time yet to be set.

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