MOHANDAS “MAHATMA” GANDHI , was born on this date (d: 1948) was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance (satyagraha) to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule, and in turn inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma (Sanskrit:: “great-souled”, “venerable”), first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.
Born and raised in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat, western India, Gandhi trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, and was called to the bar at age 22 in June 1891. After two uncertain years in India, where he was unable to start a successful law practice, he moved to South Africa in 1893 to represent an Indian merchant in a lawsuit. He went on to stay for 21 years. It was in South Africa that Gandhi raised a family, and first employed nonviolent resistance in a campaign for civil rights. In 1915, aged 45, he returned to India. He set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban laborers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for easing poverty, expanding women’s rights, building religious and ethnic amity, ending untouchability, and above all for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.
Was Mahatma Gandhi gay? A Pulitzer-Prize winning author Joseph Lelyveld claims the god-like Indian figure not only left his wife for a man, but also harbored racist attitudes.
According to Lelyveld, his lover was Hermann Kallenbach, a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder. The couple built their love nest during Gandhi’s time in South Africa where he arrived as a 23-year-old law clerk in 1893 and lived for 21 years.
Much of the intimacy between the two is revealed in Kallenbach’s letters to his Indian friend. Gandhi left his wife, “Ba,” — an arranged marriage — in 1908 for Kallenbach, a lifelong bachelor, according to the book.
In letters, 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.”
The book has been banned in one Western India state, Gujarat, after local press reports claimed the book maligns the father of modern India, according to the Associated Press. Its top state politician, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, called the book “perverse. “
Politicians in the state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai, asked the central government to bar publication nationawide.
The Hindu religion, just as Christianity, frowns upon homosexuality. But in India today, discrimination against gays is illegal and many are open about their sexual orientation.
In Levyveld’s book, the lovers’ nicknames to each other were “Upper House” and “Lower House,” suggesting one may have been in a stronger position of power.
At the age of 13 Gandhi had been married to 14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji, but after four children together they broke up so he could be with Kallenbach. As late as 1933 Gandhi wrote a letter telling of his unending desire and branding his ex-wife “the most venomous woman I have met.” Kallenabach emigrated from East Prussia to South Africa where he first met Gandhi. The author describes Gandhi’s relationship with the man as, “the most intimate, also ambiguous relationship of [Gandhi’s] lifetime.”
“They were a couple,” said Tridip Suhrud, a Gandhi scholar who met Lelyveld in India.
The source of much of the detail of their affair was found in the “loving and charming love notes” that Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach, whose family saved them after the architect’s death. They eventually landed in the National Archives of India. Gandhi had destroyed all those from Kallenbach.
It was known that Gandhi was preoccupied with physiology, and even though he had a “taut torso,” weighing 106 to 118 pounds throughout his life, the author says Gandhi was attracted to Kallenbach’s strongman build.
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.”
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.”
Kallenbach died in 1945 and Gandhi died in 1948.