In A Nutshell
Gandhi was a saint in his time, a man who overthrew British rule in India without a single act of violence. He was also a class-obsessed, closet racist and kinky pervert who slept surrounded by naked women and may have had an affair with a German bodybuilder.
The Whole Bushel
Gandhi is one of the most widely revered figures of the 20th century, a peaceful protester who stands shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. in the pantheon of great leaders. However, he was also an excellent PR man, managing to hide the less savory aspects of his character until long after his death.
How unsavory? Well, there’s no doubting that Gandhi had little time for black people. During his 21 years in South Africa, he repeatedly expressed contempt for the native population, claiming they were no better than the “untouchables” of Indian society. One speech in particular stands out. In 1896, he was quoted as referring to black South Africans as the “raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness.” For those of you who aren’t up on your South African slang, “kaffir” is a direct equivalent of our N-word.
Another time, he complained about finding himself in a “kaffir” prison, claiming Indians were “above” natives, who “are troublesome, very dirty and live like animals.” It’s at this point we should probably mention he also admired Mussolini and once happily reviewed a black-shirt parade in Italy.
But it wasn’t just racism and dictators that Gandhi enjoyed—weird sex was an integral part of his daily routine. Or make that “weird non-sex,” because Gandhi was absolutely committed to celibacy, fuming every time he suffered “involuntary discharges.” Apparently, so determined was he to rid his body of its propensity to accidentally ejaculate that he took up sleeping naked, surrounded by nubile young women—including his grandniece, Manu.
In fact, the only sexually normal relations Gandhi may possibly have had are with (male) German bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach, of whom he wrote, “How completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance.” Unfortunately, public Gandhi was less tolerant of homosexuality than this relationship supposes, ordering all the ancient homoerotic art to be cleared from Hindu temples as part of a “sexual cleansing” campaign.
Examined with hindsight, Gandhi looks less now like a saint than a strange, perverted weirdo who just happened to achieve some extraordinary things. Yet achieve them he did and for that he should always be remembered—no matter what he liked to do with nubile, naked girls.