Gandhi ‘had a male lover in South Africa’

2011-03-29 00:00

“HE was bisexual” claims a controversial new biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the icon revered worldwide as the founder of non-violent social action and the leader of the Indian independence movement.

According to Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld, Gandhi left his wife, Kasturbai Makhanji, in 1908 to live with a German-Jewish bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach (see box on page 4).

Writing in the Daily Mail online, Daniel Bates states that: “The claims made in the book are likely to be disputed by millions of Gandhi’s followers across the globe.”

Lelyveld alleges that the two lived together from 1908 till 1910 in Kallenbach’s Johannesburg home. He claims that Gandhi said of Kallenbach: “How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.” And he once wrote to him: “Your portrait [the only one] stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom. The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.”

Lelyveld writes that Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House” and vowed to make Kallenbach promise not to “look lustfully upon any woman”. He is also reported to have told him: “I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women.”

According to Gandhi’s granddaughter and founder of the Gandhi Development Trust in Durban, Ela Gandhi, there was “nothing sinister” in her grandfather’s relationship with Kallenbach. “He was a friend


of the family, and he used to visit the ashram in Phoenix. My parents knew him and they called him ‘uncle’.” She said she had not read the book, but a review of it.

She confirmed that Kallenbach went to India and stayed at Gandhi’s ashram. “They were very influenced by each other,” but “there is nothing in their published letters that alludes to” a sexual relationship. Asked about the possible meaning of the names Mahatma Gandhi used for Kallenbach and himself: “Upper House” and “Lower House”, Ela Gandhi said she did not know. However, these terms “could possibly have referred to the upper and lower houses of parliament because they had many political discussions and although they agreed on building an egalitarian society, they did not agree on everything politically”.

Lelyveld’s book makes further claims about Gandhi’s sexuality, alleging that even in his 70s, he regularly slept naked in bed with a young woman, including his 17-year old great niece, Manu, “but tried not to become sexually excited”. It alleges he once told a woman: “Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.”

Ela Gandhi said she had no comment on the allegations about her grandfather’s sexuality. “There is freedom of speech, so people are free to say what they want. He taught us that in anything, whether it is literature or people, we should take the best from them to develop our character. If people choose to dwell on the worst, that has implications for their own characters. It says something about their character too.” The Indian Consulate in Durban declined to comment as its staff had not read the book.

— Witness Reporter.

WHO WAS HERMANN KALLENBACH? (Source from Wikipedia)

Satyagraha or non-violent resistance. In Gandhi’s own words, they became “soul mates”. Kallenbach gave Gandhi the land on which he founded his Tolstoy Farm outside Johannesburg.

They were associated throughout the non-violent resistance struggle and Kallenbach was arrested during the Epic March of 1912, the climax of the Indian Campaign of Civil Disobedience. He planned to go with Gandhi to India when he left in 1914, but was detained in England because of his German roots and the outbreak of World War 1. The two continued to correspond and Kallenbach visited Gandhi in India in 1937 and 1939.

Kallenbach became a committed Zionist, serving on the executive of the South African Zionist Federation, and planned to settle in Israel. He died in 1945 leaving a portion of his considerable estate for South African Indians, and the bulk for the benefit of Zionism.

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