Siddhartha is a allegorical novel by Hermann Hesse which deals with the spiritual journey of an Indian man called Siddhartha during the time of the Buddha.

The book was written in German, in a simple, powerful and lyrical language. It was first published in 1922, after Hesse had spent some time in India in the 1910s. It became quite influential later on, during the 1960s.

"Siddhartha" means "he who has attained his goals". The full name of the Buddha was also Siddhartha Gautama.


When Siddhartha, the gifted and popular son of a Brahmin, gets weary of the formal and strict ways of Hindu praying and sacrificing, he leaves home together with Govinda, his admiring friend. They join a group of samanas, ascetic monks living in the woods who try to conquer the inner self by fasting and living poor. After three years, when they hear about the Buddha, they leave the samanas and listen to his teachings. Govinda joins the Buddhist monks. Siddhartha however, convinced that only personal experience and not external teachings can lead to true knowledge and salvation, decides to find himself and enter the world.

He wanders on and reaches the house of a rich prostitute, Kamala, who begins to like the young man. She tells him to find a job and return with gifts, so that she can teach him the art of love. Siddhartha becomes assistant to a merchant and turns out to be quite successful, even though he remains detached and rather amused about how serious the "child people" take everyday matters. Eventually, tired by playing life like an empty game, he leaves again.

After a spell of depression, he feels the joy of new found freedom, happy to have had the past experiences. At a river, he reaches a content ferryman, Vasudeva, and he decides to stay with him. The two share a deep love for the river and they work together as ferrymen. Kamala, unbeknownst to Siddhartha, had a son from him. When she and her son go on a pilgrimage to see Buddha, Kamala is bitten by a snake and dies. Siddhartha takes care of his son, tries to instill appreciation of the simple life into him, but fails. The son leaves and returns to the city.

Siddhartha recognizes the essence of all wisdom: the oneness of all. Together with Vasudeva he listens to the many voices of the river, the oneness, the om. Then Vasudeva leaves for the forest to die. Govinda comes by the river, still a Buddhist monk and still searching. When he asks about Siddhartha's teaching, Siddhartha replies that too much searching can get in the way of finding, that time is an illusion and all is one, that everything deserves love but words, and that true wisdom cannot be conveyed.

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