Gandhi: A Sex Maniac? We Can’t Buy That

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He’s too sacrosanct a personality to discuss about. He is seen as the foremost torch- bearer of a nation that was once struggling to stand on its rickety knees. To some he is the greatest Indian to have ever seen the light of the day; to others, he is the most distinguishable identity that India has.

Yes, M K Gandhi in more ways than one, epitomizes the essence of India. His twin principles of truth and non- violence have carved an indelible niche in the nous of mankind, worldwide. He is a lot, lot more that what has been portrayed on celluloid or what has trickled down to us in printed material. It’s been over 65 years since he was last seen in flesh and blood, yet, he continues to evoke awe, admiration and incomparable intrigue.

However, there’s one more facet to his life that is often mentioned in hush- hush tones. We often abstain from discussing about it, fearing it might strip the man of the veneration he commands. But then, there has been the odd murmur that we have often overlooked. However, biographer Jad Adams has gone beyond the occasional murmur. Gandhi’s wisdom about his ‘ways on the bed’ have been dissected and brought to the public eye in his latest publication.

It’s always advisable to make certain things crystal clear- this isn’t an attempt to disparage the dignity of the man we call the ‘Father of the Nation’, and neither are the views expressed in this piece ours. This can be interpreted as an ‘opinion’, a ‘notion’ or an ‘affirmation’, whichever way you might want to look at it.

According to Adams, He constantly discussed sex and gave meticulously detailed, often provocative instructions to his legion of followers about how they might best observe ‘chastity’. And his views didn’t always hit the bull’s eye; “abnormal and unnatural” was the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru’s explanation, when he described Gandhi’s advice to newlyweds to stay ‘celibate’ for the sake of their souls. Ahh, well, Gandhi had reasons to back up his ‘advises’.

But was there something far more perplexing than a harmless, pious plea for chastity by Gandhi and even his unusual personal practices (which included, alongside his famed chastity, sleeping naked next to nubile, naked women to test his restraint) was bamboozling. Adams says, ‘In the course of researching my new book on Gandhi, going through a hundred volumes of his complete works and many tomes of eye-witness material, details became apparent which add up to a more bizarre sexual history.’

Much of this material was known during his lifetime, but was distorted or suppressed after his death during the process of elevating Gandhi to the impregnable status of the “Father of the Nation”. Was the Mahatma, in fact, as the pre-independence prime minister of the Indian state of Travancore called him, “a most dangerous, semi-repressed sex maniac”? Gandhi was born in the Indian state of Gujarat and married at 13 in 1883; his wife Kasturba was 14, not early by the standards of Gujarat at that time. The young couple had a normal sex life, sharing a bed in a separate room in his family home, and Kasturba was soon about to deliver their first child.

With his father on his death- bed, Gandhi left his bedside for ‘coitus’ with Kasturba. Meanwhile, his father breathed his last. He compounded his grief with guilt that he had not been present, and represented his subsequent propensity towards “lustful love” as being related to his father’s death.

. On long marches in sparsely populated land in the Boer War and the Zulu uprisings in Southern Africa, Gandhi considered how he could best “give service” to humanity and decided it must be by embracing poverty and ‘chastity’.

At 38, in 1906, he took a vow of brahmacharya, which meant living a spiritual life but is normally referred to as chastity. Gandhi found it easier to embrace poverty than chastity. So he made several complex rules which meant he could project himself as a chaste while still engaging in explicit sexual conversation, letters and dare we say, behavior.

As a thorough chaste, he told readers of Indian Opinion: “It is the duty of every thoughtful Indian not to marry. In case he is helpless in regard to marriage, he should abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife.”

Gandhi challenged that abstinence in his own way, things you might have heard from here and there. He set up ashrams in which he began his “experiments” with sex; boys and girls bathing and sleeping together, chastely, but were punished for any amorous talk. Men and women were segregated, and Gandhi’s adviced the husbands not be alone with their wives, and to go for a cold bath when orgasm was on their minds.

The rules did not, though, apply to him. Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi’s secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, he explained how he ensured decency was not offended. “While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut,” he said, “I do not know … whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap.” The provision of such personal services to Gandhi was a much sought-after sign of his favour and made the ashram inmates jealous.

As he grew older (following Kasturba’s death) he had more women around him and would oblige women to sleep with him whom – according to his segregated ashram rules – were forbidden to sleep with their own husbands. Gandhi would have women in his bed for his “experiments” which probably were, from his letters, an exercise in strip-tease or other non-contact sexual activity. Much explicit material has been decimated but tantalizing remarks in Gandhi’s letters remain such as: “Vina’s sleeping with me might be called an accident. All that can be said is that she slept close to me.” One assumes that getting into the spirit of the Gandhian experiment meant something more than simply sleeping close to him.

It can’t have helped with the “involuntary discharges” which Gandhi experienced more frequently after returning to India. He had an almost magical belief in the power of semen: “One who conserves his vital fluid acquires unfailing power,” he said.

Meanwhile, challenging times required greater efforts of spiritual strength, and for that, more attractive damsels were required. Sushila, who in 1947 was 33, was now due to be supplanted in the bed of the 77-year-old Gandhi by a woman almost half her age. While in Bengal to see what comfort he could offer in times of inter-communal violence in the run-up to independence, Gandhi called for his 18-year-old grandniece Manu to join him – and sleep with him. “We both may be killed by the Muslims,” he told her, “and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked.”

Such behaviour didn’t adhere to the norms of ‘bramacharya’. He described his ‘reinvented’ concept of a brahmachari as: “One who never has any lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually excited … who is making daily and steady progress towards God and whose every act is done in pursuance of that end and no other.” That is, he could do whatever he wished, so long as there was no apparent “lustful intention”. Simply put, he had redefined the concept of chastity to suit his practices.

Thus far, his reasoning was spiritual, but in the mayhem that was in India approaching independence he ensured that his sex experiments had national importance: “I hold that true service of the country demands this observance,” he stated.

Gandhi’s behaviour was scathingly criticised by family members and politicians. Some members of his staff resigned, including two editors of his newspaper who left after refusing to print parts of Gandhi’s pyrotechnics dealing with his ‘sleeping’ preferences.

But Gandhi found the objections as a reason to continue. “If I don’t let Manu sleep with me, though I regard it as essential that she should,” he announced, “wouldn’t that be a sign of weakness in me?”

Eighteen-year-old Abha, the wife of Gandhi’s grandnephew Kanu Gandhi, rejoined Gandhi’s bandwagon in the monsoon of 1947 and by the end of August he was sleeping with both Manu and Abha simultaneously.

When he was assassinated in January 1948, Manu and Abha were by his side. Despite  having been his constant companion in his last years, family members removed Manu from the scene. Gandhi had written to his son: “I have asked her to write about her sharing the bed with me,” but the protectors of his image were eager to eradicate this element of the his life. Devdas, Gandhi’s son, accompanied Manu to Delhi station where he took the opportunity of ordering her to keep mum.

In the 1970s, Sushila revealingly placed the elevation of this lifestyle to a ‘brahmacharya’ experiment was only a clever response to criticism of this behaviour. “Later on, when people started asking questions about his physical contact with women – with Manu, with Abha, with me – the idea of brahmacharya was developed … in the early days, there was no question of calling this a brahmacharya experiment.”

It seems that Gandhi lived as he wished, and only when challenged did he turn his own preferences into a cosmic system of rewards and benefits. Like many other greats, Gandhi would make and break rules according to his own whims and fancies.

While it was commonly discussed as damaging his reputation when he was alive, Gandhi’s sexual behaviour was ignored for a long time after his death. It is only now that we can piece together information for a rounded picture of Gandhi’s excessive self-belief in the power of his own sexuality. Tragically for him, he was already being sidelined by the politicians at the time of independence. The preservation of his vital fluid did not keep India intact, and it was the power-brokers of the Congress Party who negotiated the terms of India’s freedom.

Allow us to remind you that none of the content that you just read was our take on the issue, neither are we opinionated or biased. These have been brought to the limelight by a certain Mr. Joe Adams, and he has chosen not to sweep things under the carpet here. We don’t know the truth, but the evidences are pointing towards a direction we would rather not look at.

Gandhi is and would always remain the Father of the Nation, irrespective of his shenanigans on bed. He should be remembered and reverred for all the sacrifices he made for the country, not for his suspicious ways on bed.

Let’s not dissect his image too much,because that would hardly serve any purpose now. We respect and love him, irrespective of what Joe Adams has to say.

Article By Kaustav Deb

Posted In India

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