His enduring image is as the father of India, the loincloth-clad hero of his country’s struggle for independence.
But newly revealed letters have added to the speculation about a secret side to Mahatma Gandhi.
detail his close friendship with a South African bodybuilder, Hermann
Kallenbach, with some suggesting the pair may have had a physical
The letters, written by Gandhi, went on show in New Delhi yesterday, the 65th anniversary of his assassination.
One, handwritten to Kallenbach, is addressed to ‘My dear Lower House’ and signed ‘Sinly yours, Upper House’.
scholars looking for clear evidence of the full extent of the men’s
relationship, the subject of speculation for years, were left
The archive of letters and photos belonging to
Kallenbach was purchased by the Indian government last year, just before
it was due to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in London. Curators acknowledge
that they have put only a sample of the correspondence on display at
the National Archives museum.
Mushirul Hasan, chief of the
National Archives, denied that the collection had been screened and
controversial letters left out because of Gandhi’s iconic status. ‘These
are original letters and we have provided a sample of the
correspondence between Gandhi and Kallenbach. There is a lot that is new
and significant,’ he said.
‘Nothing controversial has been left out or necessarily included.
‘They had a marvellous relationship and the archives reveal the intensity of that relationship.’
moved to South Africa in 1893 after training as a lawyer. He already
had a wife, Kasturba, as a result of an arranged marriage in 1883,
according to local custom, when he was 13 and she was 14.
couple had four sons: Harilal, born in 1888; Manilal, born in 1892;
Ramdas, born in 1897; and Devdas, born in 1900. His wife joined him in
South Africa in 1897 and they lived there until returning to India in
1914 to join the gathering political movement against British colonial
Kallenbach, a German-born Jewish architect, lived with
Gandhi in Johannesburg for about two years from 1907 – a year after
Gandhi took a public vow of celibacy.
The relationship between
Gandhi and the wealthy South African was chronicled in a book two years
ago by Joseph Lelyveld, former editor of the New York Times.
Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India, Lelyveld quotes a
letter from Gandhi to Kallenbach in which he wrote: ‘How completely you
have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.’
Lelyveld defended his book against accusations that he had suggested
Gandhi was bisexual. ‘The word “bisexual” nowhere appears in the book,’
he wrote afterwards.
Raj Bala Jain, part of the National Archives
team that studied the Kallenbach collection in detail, said she was
surprised how their relationship had been misconstrued.
‘I did not find even a single letter with sexual overtones,’ she said.
‘Friendship can be misinterpreted. I think Gandhi was very normal and above such things.’
fret about auctions of Gandhi’s belongings, saying they insult the
memory of a man who rejected material wealth. ‘We are talking about
Gandhi. Such emotions are justified,’ said Mr Hasan/Dailymail/