Hermann Hesse tells the story of Siddhartha, who had a friend called Govinda. They both lived in India. They were taught to believe in the teachings of Hindu and not to do anything else. Siddhartha finds this somewhat restrictive and decides to go on an exploration galore to find out the truth by himself. He does not see the Hindu teachings intriguing. Govinda follows Siddhartha because he views him as intelligent. However, they begin living differently while in Samanas. At first, they do not want to succumb to the desires of the flesh.
With time, Siddhartha finds the life they are leading boring. They go to Savathi to see the Buddha. Govinda decides to become a follower of the Buddha, while Siddhartha continues with his exploration. Things start changing when he meets a girl called Kamala. She convinces him to look for decent clothes and shoes and also get money and purchase her gifts. With time Siddhartha becomes a merchant, accumulates wealth and learns lovemaking by associating with Kamala. His life deteriorates as he begins gambling, taking alcohol, and being overcome by greed. When Siddhartha is tired with that life, he leaves Kamala. By then, Kamala was pregnant.
Siddhartha feels he has wasted his time and becomes suicidal. In his depressive mode, Govinda appears to him. Siddhartha decides to live with Vasudeva, the ferryman. After Siddhartha settles down, he is taught many things by Vasudeva. Kamala died after bringing the child to Siddhartha. The young boy did not like Siddhartha because he felt his father was living a boring life. The boy went to Samsara to explore his home. Siddhartha knows that his son will also go through the experiences he felt. He has to come into term with himself as he feels the boy should also find out the truth without being shielded.
Vasudeva leaves Siddhartha to steer the ferry. Govinda later comes to gain the wisdom that Siddhartha has accumulated over time. He feels that Siddhartha has learned many things through his experiences away from the Buddha teachings. Moreover, Siddhartha now looks like a real Buddha though he has never been a Buddha before. The two have lived lives that seem different lives. However, it seems like Siddhartha has had the best experience given that he decided to explore life on his own rather than depending on the teachings alone.