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by Hermann Hesse


Character Analysis

Lovin' Govinda

Everyone knows a Govinda. He's a good dude. He studies super-hard (without being a teacher's pet). He looks for guidance and picks up mentors the way some people pick up games of basketball. He's a sponge of knowledge. He's the follower in a lifelong game of follow-the-leader—and though he'd rather be by Siddhartha's side most of the time, he's happy to find spiritual leadership wherever he can.

Govinda is Siddhartha’s loyal companion and friend from boyhood. Like Siddhartha, Govinda is searching for enlightenment, but unlike Siddhartha, Govinda likes to tag along. 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:

Govinda said: "Still, oh Siddhartha, you love a bit to mock people, as it seems to me. I believe in you and know that you haven't followed a teacher. But haven't you found something by yourself, though you've found no teachings, you still found certain thoughts, certain insights, which are your own and which help you to live? If you would like to tell me some of these, you would delight my heart." (12.18)

Although his method is very different from Siddhartha’s, Govinda does ultimately attain enlightenment, showing us that enlightenment has different paths. The similarities between the two characters demonstrate that determination, persistence, and patience are necessary traits for achieving a 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 increases, it becomes clear that each man has to 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 toward enlightenment.

Govinda Timeline