Decoding the mystery of Mahatmas and sex

In the hagiography of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi is a near-divine superstar.

Published: 07th October 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th October 2018 02:42 PM   |  A+A-

Mahatma Gandhi with Dr Sushila Nair (Photo | EPS)

In the hagiography of modern India, Mahatma Gandhi is a near-divine superstar. The year of his 150th birthday is being celebrated with great pomp starting this week with a tribute to his ‘swachhata’ philosophy. But how clean was Bharat’s greatest moral force really?

Gandhi’s driving obsession after satyagraha was sex. The man who became a father at 16, and went on to have four more children ranted vehemently against sex in marriage, advising his followers not to marry and if they did, to live separately from their wives. Like all mass leaders, Gandhi’s monumental arrogance was both a weapon and a flaw. In the contradictory terrain of his spiritual imagination, desire and denial nourished each other. He was so convinced about his own charisma that he expected riots to stop when he went on fast—and they did. However, his dark side tormented him to perverse excess.

That he slept naked with his nieces and other women and got massages in the nude are well-documented. Gandhi’s quest for “purity” mesmerised his victims who felt they were part of something greater than themselves: his grand niece Manu, who he caressed in bed in the buff, died a sick, 40-year-old spinster. His personal physician Dr Sushila Nayar was made to sleep and bathe with him naked: reasons why his close aide P Parasuram left Sabarmati Ashram. On January 1, 1947, he berated Gandhi’s experiments with brahmacharya: “How many are the days when she (Dr Nayar) has not wept? She is a doctor and yet she is always a patient, always is ill.” Vallabhbhai Patel accused Gandhi of ‘adharma’, which the Mahatma dismissed, claiming it was his ‘moral duty’ to sleep naked with girls.

Was Gandhi a dirty old man? In today’s age, his sexual experiments seem lecherously similar to Asaram Bapu’s (no pun intended) or Ram Rahim’s; men who claimed divine sanction to sexually exploit women who trusted them. Gandhi’s affair with the married Sarla Devi, when he was himself married to Kasturba, was nothing short of infidelity for such an extreme moralist: a ‘spiritual marriage’ he had to end on the insistence of C Rajagopalachari.

Sex is a historical force that has toppled many reputations. Two foreign Gandhians, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, were no paragons of virtue: recently declassified FBI documents revealed King hired prostitutes and was a sexual deviant. Mandela married thrice, and many women later claimed he had fathered their love children.

When revolutions overturn the established order, their leaders are invested with superhuman virtue, which discounts the frailty of human character. Newborn India and the Congress party needed a patron saint in 1947. Mahatma Gandhi was it. But let it not be forgotten that the pedestal was built with sacrifice, all of which was not his.

Ravi Shankar

ravi@newindianexpress.com

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Comments(16)

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  • Does it matter?

    Complete bullshit. If you don’t have any work do some good to the society....
    2 months ago reply
  • biased journo

    What the author does not say is that there was also the other man who slept with the white skin and in the process may have sold his country to the Brits and also possibly to Jinnah. That man too should be brought down to earth.
    2 months ago reply
  • Bharat L

    There r 100s of desires. 1 negative desire should not destroy the remaining positives. After Gandhi there was enough time to mend the partial country division.
    2 months ago reply
  • Paramita Saha

    His autobiography My Experiments with Truth contains these facts and surprisingly enough
    2 months ago reply
  • Badshah

    This looks more like a character certificate than an article. And how one is so ungrateful to someone who woke the entire nation from a long sleep of slavery.
    2 months ago reply
  • SUBHASISH CHAUDHURI

    The content not sufficiently substantiated with references.
    2 months ago reply
  • Ram

    I applaud the author for exposing the legendary Indian hypocrisy. Big talk on spirituality and public morality while just being a criminal and a sexaul predator. Sadly Gandhi abused and destroyed so many women's lives while allowing himself being worshipped as a 'saint'.
    2 months ago reply
  • john

    This man together with the British cultured congress faithful heads
    2 months ago reply
  • Unni Nair

    Brilliant piece. More truths about the Man of Truth should come out.
    2 months ago reply
  • Ashok Desai

    He was faqir-in-chief. (faqir pronounced the way Churchill did).
    2 months ago reply
    • ANILA MALKANI

      Well put! Don't forget Churchill also said" sanctimonious " naked faqir. Thanks to Gandhi today there is a divided India..with Pakistan. He had to keep both Jinnah and Nehru happy! He should have spent more time on figuring out his politics instead of hanging out naked with women!
      2 months ago reply
  • SSC

    Don't agree with major chunks of this article due to extremely biased interpretation laced with an agenda. You are measuring spirituality with a materialistic lens. Much of these experiments
    2 months ago reply
  • SANJAY

    Such poorly written article
    2 months ago reply
  • Saurabh

    Right
    2 months ago reply
  • Saravanan

    Minus the "mahathma" he is human too.
    2 months ago reply
    • ANILA MALKANI

      Should be called " maha shameless" and his modern day followers too!
      2 months ago reply
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