Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the Mountain Character List

Nanda Kaul

A reclusive and intelligent woman, widow of a university vice-chancellor. She was always weary of her responsibilities and is thrilled to live a quiet life in Kasauli now that she does not have to raise children or run a household. Nanda Kaul is described as proud and stern, and she does not like to exhibit her feelings. When she learns Raka is coming to her, she is initially extremely bothered, but she comes to respect and even cherish the child, especially as Raka seems so much like her. Raka keeps her at arms' length, though, causing Nanda Kaul no end of frustration. Nanda Kaul is Ila Das's closest friend, but the relationship is not entirely reciprocal, and Nanda Kaul does not invite Ila Das to stay with her even though Ila Das suffers from poverty and threats of danger. At the end of the novel, Nanda Kaul feels crushed by the weight of the lies she's told herself and others.


Nanda's great-granddaughter, left to Nanda after her parents, an abusive father and oppressed mother, move to Geneva while Raka is recovering from typhoid. She is reticent, independent, and, unlike other children, finds refuge in nature rather than the company of her peers. She is extremely caring towards animals, loves to explore, and is wary of her great-grandmother's overtures. Her life with her parents deeply scarred her, leading her to prefer scenes of devastation and disintegration. At the end of the novel, she sets the mountain on fire.

Ila Das

She is a friend of Nanda Kaul's from her childhood. She has a shrill and loud voice as well as a club foot, which makes her a subject of laughter and jibes wherever she goes. She had been raised in grandeur but was left poverty-stricken after her brothers squandered their family money and died; despite this, she is kind and hardworking. She works as a welfare officer in a village in Kasauli. She is raped and killed after she protests against child marriage.

Ram Lal

The dour cook at Carignano, he is old and quite aware of this fact. He develops a camaraderie with Raka due to his talks about the village. He is in awe of the English even after Independence. He warns Raka about the ravine, the Pasteur Institute, wild animals, and demons.

Preet Singh

Father of a local child bride, he kills and rapes Ila Das when she protests against his proposed marrying of his seven-year-old daughter to an old man.

Nanda Kaul's Husband

A vice-chancellor of a university, Nanda Kaul's husband was influential and well-regarded, but also selfish. He did not really love his wife and carried on a lifelong affair with Miss David, whom he truly loved. He did enough to keep Nanda Kaul quiet, but he did not care about her wellbeing.

Miss David

A mathematics teacher with whom Nanda Kaul's husband had a long affair.


One of Nanda Kaul's daughters, Asha is beautiful and has dedicated her life to glamour and frivolity. She tires of her daughter Tara's depression and how she let "herself go to rack and ruin, as well as her house—and poor little Raka" (15). She decides to have Raka sent to Nanda Kaul without asking if her mother wants the child in the first place.


Nanda Kaul's granddaughter, Asha's daughter, and Raka's mother. Tara is a depressed and anxious woman due to her abusive and philandering husband, and she suffers numerous mental breakdowns. She loves her daughter but cannot care for her.


Tara's husband and Raka's father. He is a well-regarded diplomat, but he is also a cruel man, having multiple affairs, beating his wife, and drinking excessively.

The Priest

Described by Ila Das as a "wicked" man, he is actively opposed to Western medicine and thus contributes to the death of several children in the villages. He turns the young men against Ila Das.