Gandhi, India's God-Like Founding Father, Was Bisexual, According to New Book

Book challenges Mahatma Gandhi's reputation; a ban is threatened in India.

ByABC News
March 30, 2011, 11:10 AM

March 30, 2011 -- Was Mahatma Gandhi gay? A new book by 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.

Gandhi, who led India to independence and is a universal symbol of peaceful resistance, had another side -- a more human one. In a biography that hit stores this week -- "Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle With India," former New York Times reporter Lelyveld insists that Gandhi was gay, or at least bisexual.

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, Lelyveld writes.

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 new 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, have asked the central government to bar publication nationwide.

"This is a non-issue," said Bidyut Chakrabarty, resident scholar at The Gandhi Center for Global Non-Violence. "In India, especially, they tend to think the mahatma is perfect. Mahatma means great soul and they put him on a pedestal, thinking he cannot be human, he's a god."

"And if he's a god, how can he be homosexual?" he asked.