Was Gandhi Gay?

Gandhi, the man, some say god, who brought independence to India and eternal symbol of peace, left his wife for another man.

This is the claim of Pulitzer-Prize winner Joseph Lelyveld makes in his new biography Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle With India. The biography shows a more human side of Gandhi and also insists that Gandhi, if not gay, was at the very least bisexual.

Gandhi left his wife “Ba” for a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach in 1908. Gandhi and Kallenbach spent much time together in South Africa after Kallenbach arrived in 1893 as a 23-year-old- law clerk.

The love for one another is apparent in letters that were sent back and forth Gandhi and  Kallenbach.

In one such letter, Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach, “How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance. “

“Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in the bedroom,” he writes. “The mantelpiece is opposite the bed.”

Of course this news is not welcome to all, the book has already been banned in the Western India state Gujarat. Chief Minister Narendra Modi, called the book “perverse. “

In coverage from ABC:

Politicians in the state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, have asked the central government to bar publication nationwide.

“This is a non-issue,” said Bidyut Chakrabarty, resident scholar at The Gandhi Center for Global Non-Violence. “In India, especially, they tend to think the mahatma is perfect. Mahatma means great soul and they put him on a pedestal, thinking he cannot be human, he’s a god.”

“And if he’s a god, how can he be homosexual?” he asked.

Gandhi implored Kallenbach not to “look lustfully upon any woman” and cautioned, “I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women.”

By the time Gandhi left South Africa in 1914, Kallenbach was not allowed to accompany him because of World War I. But Gandhi told him, “You will always be you and you alone to me…I have told you you will have to desert me and not I you.”

I highly suggest reading the rest of the 3 page article, it continues to describe the reaction from the Indian government and includes more details from the book.

2 Comments

  1. The absurd ban seems to stem not from the book itself, which is innocuous, but from the venomous hatchet-job masquerading as a review published by neocon historian Andrew Roberts in the WSJ. This is so typically Indian, if you don’t mind me saying (and, if my point is correct that Indians will always “walk a mile to find an insult” then, of course, they will — see e.g., here and here) to take offense where none was offered (i.e., in the book itself).

    My take on the controversy generated by the dickish Roberts can be found in Doing History Wrong. Happy reading!

    MBJ

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  2. would like to point out a couple of things – #1 he was married, #2 in later life he was celibate, #3 he was strongly attached to his niece,
    #4 if he felt so strongly about this guy, why didn’t they stay together? …also what he may have done in his youth doesn’t really matter
    (and I believe that most people are basically bi-sexual)

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