Raja Rao was born on November 8, 1908 in [[Hassan, India|Hassan]], in the [[princely state]] of [[Kingdom of Mysore|Mysore]] (now in [[Karnataka]] in [[South India]]), into a [[Smartha]] [[Brahmin]] family of the [[Hoysala Karnataka]] caste. He was the eldest of 9 siblings, having seven sisters and a brother named Yogeshwara Ananda. His father, H.V. Krishnaswamy, taught [[Kannada]], the native language of Karnataka, at [[Nizam College]] in [[Hyderabad]]. His mother, Gauramma, was a homemaker who died when Raja Rao was 4 years old.<ref name ="Guardian"/>
The death of his mother, when he was four, left a lasting impression on the novelist – the absence of a mother and orphanhood are recurring themes in his work. Another influence from early life was his grandfather, with whom he lived in Hassan and Harihalli or Harohalli).