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by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha Timeline and Summary

  • Siddhartha grows up as the Golden Boy of a Brahman family.
  • Everyone loves him because he’s smart, kind, good-looking, etc.
  • It’s not enough for Siddhartha.
  • He wants enlightenment.
  • Siddhartha mediates under a banyan tree with his friend, Govinda.
  • Siddhartha remembers seeing Samanas (wandering ascetics) come to his town and decides he would like to join them.
  • He asks his father for permission to leave. His father disapproves, so Siddhartha stands unmoving for an entire night to demonstrate his resolve. His father finally permits him to go.
  • Siddhartha and Govinda are accepted as Samanas. They give away their clothes, fast, and practice self-deprivation.
  • Although Siddhartha values what he has learned, he is not at peace.
  • After three years with the Samanas, he leaves.
  • Siddhartha and Govinda travel to see Gotama Buddha, the new It Teacher of ancient India.
  • Siddhartha is immediately able to identify the Buddha among the crowd of monks.
  • Siddhartha is impressed by the Buddha’s serenity and peace, but feels no compulsion to join his followers.
  • Govinda decides to become a disciple of the Buddha.
  • Once Govinda has been accepted into the Buddha’s community, Siddhartha leaves. While traveling through the forest, he meets the Buddha. They chat for a bit, and Siddhartha explains that he cannot reach enlightenment through others’ teachings.
  • Siddhartha leaves the Buddha and feels like his life is beginning anew. He feels completely alone and resolves to learn from himself via experience rather than learning from others. He seeks the true nature of the self.
  • Siddhartha observes the world around him as if for the first time.
  • He wanders for a bit and then comes to a river. He crashes with the ferryman for the night and dreams about Govinda. Siddhartha dreams that his friend approaches him, transforms into a woman, and that he then nurses from the woman’s breast.
  • Siddhartha travels across the river with the ferryman and reflects on the river’s beauty.
  • Siddhartha meets a village woman who invites him to have sex with her. Remembering his dream, he kisses her nipple, decides sleeping with her is a bad idea, and then leaves.
  • On the outskirts of a town, Siddhartha sees a beautiful woman pass by. He learns the woman is named Kamala—she is a famous courtesan. He cleans up and makes an appointment to see her.
  • Siddhartha asks Kamala to be his teacher in love and sex. Kamala recognizes Siddhartha and tells him that shaving and bathing isn’t good enough. He needs to get money, clothes, and shoes before she’ll talk with him (and do other things with him).
  • He asks for advice on how to obtain money, clothes, and shoes.
  • He composes a poem for her and receives a kiss in return.
  • The next day, Kamala tells Siddhartha that she lined him up a job interview with a wealthy merchant named Kamaswami.
  • Siddhartha gets the job.
  • Siddhartha learns quickly and is well-respected by Kamaswami. However, he views his job as a game. His real interests lie with Kamala.
  • Siddhartha receives daily instruction in love and sex from Kamala.
  • Because of his experience as a Samana, Siddhartha feels different from other people. He is less troubled by daily trivialities. He notices the same quality in Kamala. The two agree that because they are somewhat detached from ordinary life, they can’t experience love in the way others do.
  • As Siddhartha becomes richer and richer, he becomes increasingly greedy, jealous, and unhappy.
  • When he has sex with Kamala one afternoon, Siddhartha feels like he is on the brink of death.
  • Siddhartha hates himself. He addresses his unhappiness by gambling and drinking heavily.
  • One night he dreams about discovering Kamala’s songbird dead and tossing it into the street. He interprets the dream as symbolizing the death of goodness in his soul.
  • Siddhartha realizes that he feels empty, meaningless, and nauseated with himself. He leaves his home in disgust and heads to the river.
  • In utter despair, Siddhartha nearly commits suicide. He is stopped by the recognition of the sound "Om" emanating from the river.
  • Siddhartha collapses with exhaustion.
  • He wakes in the morning to discover his old friend Govinda has watched over him to protect him from snakes.
  • Siddhartha remains on the riverbank, contemplating the river.
  • Painfully hungry, Siddhartha looks for food. He finds the ferryman (Vasudeva) who takes him across the river and gives him a meal.
  • Vasudeva allows Siddhartha to live with him and work as his apprentice.
  • Siddhartha tells his life story to an intently listening Vasudeva.
  • The men study the river together and Siddhartha learns more and more. One day he realizes that for the river, and, by extension, for everything in life, time is merely an illusion.
  • While en route to see Gotama, Kamala is bitten by a snake near the river. Vasudeva finds her and brings her into the hut.
  • Siddhartha receives her and his son; he holds Kamala as she dies.
  • Siddhartha allows the river to comfort him and the following morning he and Vasudeva construct a funeral pyre.
  • Siddhartha loves his son very much, despite the boy’s rebellious and spoiled behavior. Siddhartha wants his son to remain with him and Vasudeva. Siddhartha struggles in vain to win his son’s acceptance and to protect him from suffering.
  • Siddhartha is simultaneously aware of the transience of his love and suffering for his son and the lasting importance of it.
  • One morning, Siddhartha’s son runs away. Siddhartha and Vasudeva mount a search and rescue mission.
  • Siddhartha searches the forest. He walks to the town and stands near the gate where he first saw Kamala. He relives moments of his life and feels a profound sense of emptiness.
  • Siddhartha remains by the gate for some time and meditates.
  • After many hours, Vasudeva comes to get him. The men go home without speaking about Siddhartha’s son.
  • Siddhartha has warmed up to ordinary people. He now empathizes with their worries. Rather than the contempt he previously felt, he now sees their troubles as understandable, honorable.
  • Although Siddhartha grows wiser and wiser, he still feels wounded by his love for his son.
  • When listening to the river one day, Siddhartha realizes that he left his father in a manner similar to which his son left him. He is struck by this parallel.
  • Siddhartha tells Vasudeva at length about his feelings for his son.
  • Siddhartha recognizes Vasudeva as God himself.
  • Vasudeva brings Siddhartha out to the river and tells him there is something he has still not heard.
  • With Vasudeva’s guidance, Siddhartha listens intently. For the first time he hears all of the voices of the river not as many voices, but as one single continuum of all life.
  • Siddhartha feels his soul merge into unity and he achieves enlightenment.
  • Vasudeva leaves the river and leaves Siddhartha with the sole job of ferrying people across it.
  • Siddhartha becomes famous, and one day Govinda comes to him asking about enlightenment.
  • Siddhartha tells Govinda to kiss him on the forehead.