by Herman Hesse
Govinda is Siddhartha’s loyal companion and friend from boyhood. Like Siddhartha, Govinda is searching for enlightenment, but unlike Siddhartha, Govinda is quite a follower. He benefits from religious community and doctrine and seeks instruction from individuals who have achieved enlightenment. He relies on others to help him determine when he is on the right path. Although his method is very different from Siddhartha’s, Govinda does ultimately attain enlightenment, showing us that enlightenment has different paths, while the similarities between the two characters demonstrate that determination, persistence and patience are necessary traits for achieving spiritual awakening.
The relationship between Govinda and Siddhartha forms a circular path. As young boys set on reaching enlightenment, they offer one another a sense of companionship and support. When Govinda asks to be accepted as one of the Buddha’s monks and Siddhartha’s sense of disillusionment with doctrine mounts, it becomes clear that each man must pursue his own way. Govinda appears on the riverbank to offer protection at Siddhartha’s time of great desperation and need. Finally, once Govinda and Siddhartha have each traveled their unique and necessary paths, Siddhartha helps Govinda take the last step towards enlightenment.