Gandhi’s ‘unbridled’ sex life and gay relationship with German bodybuilder

In our part of the world, it is unfortunately quite common to suffer from uncertainty and confusion regarding ‘national heroes’ who are abundantly venerated and held as ‘sacred cows’.

Amongst many other declared heroes and celebrated leaders, Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most lionised heroes and ‘saints’ of our times.

However, historians and researchers suggest that Gandhi had an unbridled sex life and exploited women around him.

Many historical facts were distorted or suppressed after his death during the process of deification of Gandhi and labeling him as the “Father of the Nation”,  but the pre-independence prime minister of the Indian state of Travancore called him, “a most dangerous, semi-repressed sex maniac.”

The first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, described Gandhi  as “Abnormal and unnatural.”

His unusual personal practices included sleeping naked next to nubile, naked women “to test his restraint.”

Gandhi’s ‘sexual hypocrisy’

Gandhi married at 13 in 1883; his wife Kasturba was 14. Marrying at that age was not early by the standards of Gujarat at that time. The young couple had a normal sex life. The shared a bed in a separate room in his family home, and his wife was soon pregnant.

Gandhi, in his autobiography also admitted the fact that he left his dying father’s bedside to have sex with his wife, and it was during this tryst that his father drew his last breath.

According to Jad Adams, Gandhi did not develop his censorious attitude to sex until he was in his 30s when he embraced poverty and chastity.

Women who slept and bathed with Gandhi

Adams said Gandhi worked out a series of complex rules which meant he could say he was chaste while still engaging in the most explicit sexual conversation, letters and behaviour.

“To justify the label of ‘chaste’ while also wishing to vent out sexual frustrations, Gandhi set up ashrams in which he began his first “experiments” with sex; boys and girls were asked to bathe and sleep together but were punished for any sexual talk or activity. Men and women were segregated, and Gandhi’s advice was that husbands should not be alone with their wives and should take a cold bath when a sexual desire arises,” the author wrote in the Independent.

But the rules did not apply to Gandhi himself. Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi’s secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, Gandhi explained “While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut, I do not know … whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap.”

Related: What history has kept hidden about the life and death of Fatima Jinnah

As Gandhi grew older, he was supposed to have more women around him and would oblige women to sleep with him who were forbidden to sleep with their own husbands.

Rita Banerjee, an Indian writer remarked: “Most angering for me, was reading about the psychological and emotional trauma of the girls and women who he used for his ‘experiments’, which is what he called these incidents. The women, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties were repeatedly described as depressed and weeping, and seemed to be completely in his control.”

In 1947, Gandhi demanded that his 18-year-old grandniece Manu should sleep with him. “We both may be killed by the Muslims,” he told her, “and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked.”

He now described his reinvented concept of a celibate as: “One who never has any lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually excited … who is making daily and steady progress towards God and whose every act is done in pursuance of that end and no other.” That is, he could do whatever he wished, so long as there was no apparent “lustful intention”. He had effectively redefined the concept of chastity to fit his personal practices.

Gandhi’s “involuntary ejaculation or discharges”

As criticism intensified, Gandhi tried to calm the anger by made-up and ‘reinvented’ Hindu beliefs of celibacy. Gandhi complained of experiencing involuntary ejaculation more frequently since his return to India from south Africa. He had an almost magical belief in the power of semen: “One who conserves his vital fluid acquires unfailing power,” he said.

Gandhi’s version of sexual abstinence meant that control of ejaculation was the real job. Everything else was permitted.

Gandhi’s sexual relation with German bodybuilder and ‘use of vaseline’ for sex

Joseph Lelyveld’s book Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, was banned in many states of India due to its controversial claims that Gandhi was in a homosexual relation with a German bodybuilder and architect, Hermann Kallenbach.

Some reviewers said Gandhi used ‘Vaseline’ to facilitate homosexual intercourse. The reviewers also derived such inferences from certain letters Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach, in which he commented among other things that Vaseline and cotton wool were a “constant reminder” of him. Further meaning has been read into the practice of the two men of referring to one another in their correspondence as “Upper House” (Gandhi) and “Lower House” (Kallenbach).

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Roberts said the only portrait on the mantelpiece opposite Gandhi’s bed was of Kallenbach.

“How completely you have taken possession of my body,” reads one widely quoted letter from Gandhi to Kallenbach. “This is slavery with a vengeance.”

Britain’s Daily Mail ran an article under the headline: “Gandhi ‘left his wife to live with a male lover’ new book claims”.

The Mumbai Mirror on Tuesday ran a front-page story under the headline: “Book claims German man was Gandhi’s secret love”, which quoted the same passages as Roberts.

Anger among Gandhi’s companions

On March 16, 1947, Nirmal Kumar Bose, one of Gandhi’s closest companions wrote a letter to Kishorlal G. Mashruwala, saying, “When I first learnt about Gandhi’s experiment in which a girl took off her clothes and lay under the same cover with him and he tried to find out if any sexual feeling was evoked in him or his companion, I felt genuinely surprised. Personally, I would not tempt myself like that and more than that, my respect for [women] would prevent me from treating her as an instrument in my experiment.”

R. P. Parasuram, a young man from Kerala, who had served as Gandhi’s personal secretary and typist and watched his personal affairs, moved Gandhi’s ashram to live and work with him, and help with India’s freedom movement.

But two years after working with Gandhi, Parasuram quit the ashram and his job. Before leaving the ashram, Parasuram wrote a 16-page long letter explaining his discomfort at what he had witnessed in Gandhi’s behaviour with girls and women in the ashram — which included other things besides his ‘experiments in bed.

“He said that as much as he had worshipped Gandhi, his conscience did not allow him to stay silent any longer. And that in order for him to continue, Gandhi had to concede to five of his demands (all of which dealt with Gandhi’s physical interactions with girls at the ashram) which he listed in the letter,” the author wrote in the Independent.

On January 2, 1947, Gandhi responded to Parasuram’s letter with, “I cannot concede your demands. Since such is my opinion and there is a conflict of ideals, you are at liberty to leave me today.”

The Congress President J. B. Kriplani told him that he was simply, “exploiting human beings as means rather than as ends in themselves.”

Vallabhai Patel openly and bluntly told Gandhi that what he was doing was ‘adharma’ (immoral). In a classic, egotistical way Gandhi retorted to Patel by telling Balkrishna Bhave “for me Manu sleeping with me is a matter of dharma (moral duty). 

P.S: The purpose for penning down this article was not to incite or instigate certain hateful feelings or sentiments. The article has been written solely for the purpose of starting a discussion and for a good research in history. The article, due to its unusual content, may still leave a negative impression but it should be taken as a piece or research in history, not more than that. 

References:

Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India by Joseph Lelyveld

Gandhi: Naked Ambition by Jad Adams

Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi’s sex life

Gandhi Used His Position To Sexually Exploit Young Women. The Way WE React To This Matters Even Today By Rita Banerjee

Share:
Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao is a member of the staff at Daily Pakistan. He can be reached at raohamzafree@gmail.com. He tweets at @HamzaRaoxxx