Was Mohandas Gandhi In Love With His Bodybuilder Friend?

The Wall Street Journal has published a review of Joseph Lelyveld's new book about Mohandas Gandhi titled, Great Soul. From the review:

G "Yet as Mr. Lelyveld makes abundantly clear, Gandhi's organ probably only rarely became aroused with his naked young ladies, because the love of his life was a German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom Gandhi left his wife in 1908. 'Your portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom,' he wrote to Kallenbach. 'The mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.' For some reason, cotton wool and Vaseline were 'a constant reminder' of Kallenbach, which Mr. Lelyveld believes might relate to the enemas Gandhi gave himself, although there could be other, less generous, explanations."

"Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about 'how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.' Gandhi nicknamed himself 'Upper House' and Kallenbach 'Lower House,' and he made Lower House promise not to 'look lustfully upon any woman.' The two then pledged 'more love, and yet more love . . . such love as they hope the world has not yet seen.'"

"They were parted when Gandhi returned to India in 1914, since the German national could not get permission to travel to India during wartime—though Gandhi never gave up the dream of having him back, writing him in 1933 that 'you are always before my mind's eye.' Later, on his ashram, where even married 'inmates' had to swear celibacy, Gandhi said: 'I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the intercourse of men and women."

In the above photograph, taken in 1913, Gandhi is to the left and Kallenbach to the right. Gandhi's secrerary, Sonia Schlesin, is in the center.

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  1. this news story just made me throw up a little

    Posted by: christopher | Mar 26, 2011 5:05:52 PM

  2. Another example of how gay heroes, and heroes that were gay, are hidden from history, even "gay" history. I've never heard it even hinted that Gandhi was gay. In fact I've never heard any mention of Gandhi's sexual or romantic inclinations.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Mar 26, 2011 5:14:52 PM

  3. What do they mean by "other, less generous, explanations"? Is that a homophobic remark?

    Posted by: mike128 | Mar 26, 2011 5:46:32 PM

  4. @Christopher: uh..why?

    Posted by: Danny | Mar 26, 2011 6:05:35 PM

  5. Well look, if Gandhi does not want to date a German Bodybuilder I sure will. Not current you say? Oh sorry, never mind.

    Posted by: Sargon Bighorn | Mar 26, 2011 6:23:33 PM

  6. Yes, Danny I would like to know that too. Why, Christopher?

    Posted by: RW | Mar 26, 2011 6:37:30 PM

  7. Why? It's that beloved old standard: "Internaliozed Homophobia Your Magic Spell is Everywhere."

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 26, 2011 6:44:25 PM

  8. Gandhi seems to have been more of an omnisexual with multiple overlapping and experimental relationships with women and men

    Posted by: Patrick M | Mar 26, 2011 6:55:40 PM

  9. Didn't Gandhi infamously try to destroy India's pre-colonial history of homosexuality in art, literature, etc.? I also thought - as a product of his time in homophobic colonized India, to be fair - he was more on the homophobic side...

    Posted by: John | Mar 26, 2011 8:21:50 PM

  10. cotton + wool + vaseline = enemas?

    I'm baffled.

    And why would enemas make Gandhi think of the German, if not for preparing for the "other, less generous explanation"?

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Mar 26, 2011 9:06:08 PM

  11. People create worlds that are a reflection of their minds. If you want to believe Gandhi was gay, you will find evidence to support it. If you want to believe Gandhi was born a woman, or a secret cross-dresser, or any other claim, you will find evidence to support it. Having read much of Gandhi's writings, it is obvious that he was Mahatma in mind, body and spirit. I have Indian heritage and know how much he is still loved in India by men and women of all walks of life, just as he gave love to all during his life. Whether or not he was gay is a moot point made by an American academic. Read about Gandhi's life for yourself, talk to Indians, investigate his teachings, and then decide whether you think the love he felt for this man is any different to the love he felt for all humanity.

    Posted by: GE | Mar 26, 2011 9:23:36 PM

  12. Well said, GE

    Posted by: Steve | Mar 26, 2011 9:30:46 PM

  13. GE, can one be Mahatma and be gay? I know nothing about this topic, but it sounds like you think it unseemly to speculate that Gandhi was gay.

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Mar 26, 2011 9:34:04 PM

  14. The only story that I’ve read about is that Ghandi along with Nehru were given to the task of moralizing India, destroying –for instance- innumerable statues and friezes depicting homosexual sex on temples and buildings all over India, testimony of many of them luckily survive in photograph taken before that worse than colonial campaign. If all of that were collateral victims of Gandhi’s discourse against bold sex –the same that could make him uneasy as he apparently disliked women-, I don’t know, but clearly the homosexual images were the mainly targeted, so much that many today’s Indians were left with the conviction that homosexuality was never part of their legacy or culture.
    If the referred accounts about his beloved German are true, there is no doubt that –even for the cozy standards of male to male affection of his culture- something else was being cooking there. Sadly as always, there is no worse enemy to the LGTB communities than the closeted self hating cases.

    Posted by: Lexxvs | Mar 26, 2011 9:38:07 PM

  15. He was the Roy Cohn of India.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 26, 2011 10:57:47 PM

  16. I most certainly would not 'hit' it.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Mar 26, 2011 11:02:48 PM

  17. Shocking if true. He's normally regarded as an extreme prude.

    Posted by: anon | Mar 27, 2011 12:28:17 AM

  18. Talk about internalized homophobia, GE! Except you could stand to internalize yours a bit more. I don't think being gay makes Gandhi one iota less a Mahatma then his being straight would have, had he been, which he clearly was not.

    As to your utterly absurd statement that you can find evidence for anything, why did you stop short of saying "Martian" or "Time Traveler"? Why pretend that words of gay love are somehow a figment of the imagination? Or worse, evidence of a base desire that's not worthy of a Mahatma?

    Sorry you hate the gays and that it grates on you that Gandhi obviously was one. You could learn a lot from him if you'd only be open to it. One thing's for sure: you're no Mahatma.

    Posted by: ohplease | Mar 27, 2011 2:06:43 AM

  19. gandhi's sexual activities does not stop either with his German male body builder but he has slept with several naked teenage girls in the name of experiment?. They call him Mahatma or saint. Once the great Humanitarian and Father of Indian constitution and a Columbia Doctorate Dr.B.R.Ambedkar said, quote:" If a man with God's name on his tongue and a sword under his armpit deserved the appellation ... then Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a Mahatma. - Babasaheb Ambedkar"

    This man gandhi abused not just the young teenage girls, he was known for beating up his own wife, his sexual dealings with other woman was a cause of marital issue with his wife.

    These are all trivial things when considering what he said about India's caste system, the dangerous social evil. He said there is a meaning, thee is a scientific meaning of caste system and we must preserve, let a shomaker keep doing that job, or a cleaner clean up the toilet but a temple preacher preach so on and so forth, he was the ultimate racist you would have never heard, he called the blacks much worst than animals. He also abused the outcasts in India, the outcasts were originally Buddhists who do not believe or follow the brahminic caste system, that lead to untouchability and human rights abuse, woman and childrens abuse. This guy gandhi took several past until to death in the name of various issues but he also took untouchability issue simply for name sake and did crocodile tears on discrimination, how is it possible for a man of his stature to say we need to keep caste system, but then he fights for eradication of untouchability..

    this man is an evil, people develop so much perception without knowing an iota of knowledge or having knowledge from movies like gandhi and some books that procrastinated to this liar and abuser of social system. Would there be a day, the world learn about the real gandhi?.

    You must also read "gandhi behind the divinity of mask" and gandhi under cross examination, the later book, the authors provide well investigated report about how gandhi and his S.African journey been concocted and glamorised, there was no incident of gandhi was thrown out of train from white's compartment, as gandhi a black man travelling on whites compartment in a train during 1892 at a train station in Pietermaritzberg in Germany, that incident was conspiracy to create a personality that would later named as Saint of non violence and peace. Give me a break guys, for chirst sake, the Non violence and peace is Buddha's teachings, this guy used as a shield to bring himself up in the world, as matter of fact he and his man were behind the killing of an American Citizen William Doherty, Gandhi hushed-up murder of US citizen.
    I did not realize that 98% of this world and Indians are ignorant and utterly flawed in their knowledge about gandhi.

    Hope, they will realize when the information is available with proof.

    Posted by: Saint | Mar 27, 2011 4:47:22 AM

  20. the year is 1893 not 1892, typo.

    Posted by: Saint | Mar 27, 2011 4:51:27 AM

  21. Saint, and your extreme hate of Ghandi is equally as irratonal as ANY human putting another on a pedestal. Humans are flawed!

    My problem with people like you is that you are just as bad as the people you insult. I bet you as well are either super religious and beleive in Jesus being this messiah or if you're an atheist you think Richard Dawkins I NEVER wrong.

    Please. All a load of tosh if you ask me.

    Americans are so extreme in their thinking and feelings. Even when you go to an academic institution, what you are taught is still so...rigid. I guess this all stems from this obsessive religious culture that exists within the fabric of the society.

    But really, this isn't a shock. AT ALL. Even when I was doing my A levels as an 17 year old, we learnt in history and English about the blurring of the lines in sexuality, as well as that so much was written to create men as gods when they were deeply flawed.

    With these tools, when you go on to University, you then start your academic journey away that their are two sides to every story and only researching one will give you a fail because the point becomes moot.

    Furthermore sexuality is so fluid. Just because more English writers, poets etc came out, doesn't mean we have more gay people here. It just meant within a creation class of men, same sex behavior was not thought as disgusting because that is just insane. Even between the lower class of men decades ago.

    I guess the one thing we have which has encouraged this has been that we have separated state and church. Our judicial and political system prides it's self on rational thinking, hysterically.

    The conservatives may have tried and banned a load of gay behavior but any man with a brain understood this was seeps in hypocrisy and homophobia-not common sense.

    Posted by: Rowan | Mar 27, 2011 7:48:39 AM

  22. He was not only obviously gay, Gahndi was also important fashion icon.

    Posted by: Stephen | Mar 27, 2011 11:00:31 AM

  23. I totally knew it! Just look at the way he tied his robes! Or that obsession with spinning his own cotton. Hello?!?! I was so on to you, Miss Mahatma.

    Posted by: gwyneth cornrow | Mar 27, 2011 8:13:48 PM

  24. Rowan, you're sounding pretty extreme and rigid there yourself, or at least painting with a broad brush. Americans and our academics are wildly diverse, and Saint doesn't even sound like an American to me. His writing suggests that English isn't his first language, anyway. (I'm not trying to be rude; I just edit people all day for whom English is a second language and a few for whom it's their first, and this sounds like the former.)

    Posted by: Paul R | Mar 27, 2011 10:16:01 PM

  25. Important fashion icon? I thought that was Nehru.

    I just saw the movie, Gandhi, I know it took me a while to get to it and now I find out that it was a white wash? No mention of the gay stuff at all.

    I hope Oliver Stone gets a hold of this and does a remake.

    Posted by: Who Knew??? | Mar 27, 2011 11:15:16 PM

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