Raja Rao was born in Hassan, Karnataka, in India, into a well-known Brahmin family in 1908. He went to Montpellier University, France, for his post-graduate education. Rao began his literary career writing for the periodical Jaya Karnataka in Kannada, his native tongue. His first short stories were published in French and later translated into English. Stories written in various periodicals were published in The Cow of the Barricades and Other Stories in 1947. Select stories from this anthology along with three pieces published in periodicals were later anthologized as The Policeman and the Rose. His reputation rests primarily as a writer of novels.
Rao received the Sahitya Akademi Award (1964) and the prestigious Padma Bhusan (Order of Lotus, 1969) from the Government of India. He is the recipient of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature (1988). He settled in the United States in 1965 and retired as Professor Emeritus of Philosophy from the University of Texas in Austin in 1980. He lives in Texas.
Raja Rao's works are deeply rooted in Brahmanism and Hinduism. Most of the stories in The Cow of the Barricades and The Policeman and the Rose are set in rural South India, in the 1930s, during Mahatma Gandhi's Quit India Movement. Many of them bear testimony to Rao's appreciation and deep regard for Gandhian teachings and illustrate the interminable link between the legendary and the historical-political in the life of the Indian villages.
In “Narsiga” the historical figure of Gandhi is merged with legendary/