Home page > History & Chronology > Gandhi left his wife to live with a male lover, new book claims

Gandhi left his wife to live with a male lover, new book claims

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Source: Daily Mail
By Daniel Bates.

JPEG - 16.3 kb
Gandhi and Kallenbach sit alongside a female companion.

Mahatma Gandhi was bisexual and left his wife to live with a German-Jewish bodybuilder, a controversial biography has claimed. The leader of the Indian independence movement is said to have been deeply in love with Hermann Kallenbach. He allegedly told him: «How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.»

Kallenbach was born in Germany but emigrated to South Africa where he became a wealthy architect. Gandhi was working there and Kallenbach became one of his closest disciples. The pair lived together for two years in a house Kallenbach built in South Africa and pledged to give one another «more love, and yet more love […] such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.»

The extraordinary claims were made in a new biography by author Joseph Lelyveld called Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India which details the extent of his relationship with Kallenbach like never before. Joseph Lelyveld’s interest in Gandhi dates back to tours in India and South Africa as a correspondent for The New York Times, where he worked for nearly four decades, ending up as executive editor from 1994 to 2001. His book on apartheid, Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. He is also the author of Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop.

At the age of 13 Gandhi had been married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji, but after four children together they split in 1908 so he could be with Kallenbach, the book says. At one point he wrote to the German:

Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom. The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.

Although it is not clear why, Gandhi wrote that vaseline and cotton wool were a “constant reminder” of Kallenbach. He nicknamed himself “Upper House” and his lover “Lower House” and he vowed to make Kallenbach promise not to “look lustfully upon any woman”. «I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women», he later told him.

They were separated in 1914 when Gandhi went back to India — Kallenbach was not allowed into India because of the First World War, after which they stayed in touch by letter. As late as 1933 he wrote a letter telling of his unending desire and branding his ex-wife «the most venomous woman I have met.»

The book details how even in his 70s he regularly slept with his 17-year-old great niece Manu and and other women but tried to not to become sexually excited. He once told a woman:

Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.

The biography also details one instance in which he forced Manu to walk through a part of the jungle where sexual assaults had in the past taken place just to fetch a pumice stone for him he liked to use to clean his feet. She returned with tears in her eyes but Gandhi just “cackled” and said:

If some ruffian had carried you off and you had met your death courageously, my heart would have danced with joy.

Reply to this news item

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Tree | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0