Brahmacharya: Gandhi & His Women Associates

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Girja kumar explores Gandhiji’s attempts to banish sex from his life ever since he took the vow of brahmacharya in 1906. Various women who came close to him were subjects of his experiments in which he weighed himself against his passion. By the time Gandhiji was 79, he conducted his most phenomenal experiment at Naokhali. When Manu asked him to stop the practice, he said she wanted to back out since she had no control over her desire.

Mahatma Gandhi was not shy of speaking about his relationship with his women associates, except in a few cases. He wanted the world to know of his tryst with Brahmacharya in which women constituted an integral part. He kept a meticulous record and tried to make the players keep the records too. Alas! Most of them seem to have either destroyed the records or refused to disclose the intensity of their feelings. A construct, however, is still possible based on Gandhiji's writings and on the basis of writings of some of them, who were involved.

Gandhiji persuaded Kanchan Shah, his role model for Married Brahmacharya, and Prabhavati, wife of Jaiprakash Narayan, to practice married Brahmacharya. It was a difficult odyssey and the book tries to analyse why it was difficult. It was the revolution from sex that forced Gandhiji to take the vow of Brahmacharya in 1906. Then onwards, till the laboratory experiment in Noakhali, Gandhiji kept trying to find out if it was possible to overcome desire and remain a brahmachari. There were more than a dozen women who come to be closely associated with him at one time or the other. Some of them were foreigners - Millie Graham Polak, Sonja Schlesin, Esther Faering, Nilla Cram Cook, Margarate spiegel and Mirabehn, Prabhavati, Kanchan Shah, Sushila Nayyar and Manu Gandhi.

Gandhiji was too fond of Saraladevi Chowdharani, Rabindranath Tagore's Niece, and often displayed her as his mannequin for popularising Khadi. He called her his "spiritual wife". His closeness to Saraladevi or arguments on Brahmacharya with Premabehn Kantak created a storm in the ashram and exposed him to public glare. He was undaunted and made a tactical retreat to allow the storm to subside. Soon things were back to normal. While the world was unsure, the Mahatma was sure of his actions.

There was a definite attraction in Gandhiji that brought womenfolk to him. It is quite possible that they were looking for glory and he provided the opportunity. Some like Mirabehn were inspired by his ideals and wanted to devote their life to his cause. But once they came close, Gandhiji and not his cause became their obsession. They hardly knew this was the next step to losing him, as the Mahatma could not be chained. He had higher goals. The book is a psycho-biography and a study of a man-women relationship involving one of the greatest men in living memory.

Selling Rights Indian Sub-Continent Only
Packing Weight 0.75 kg
ISBN 9788189766600
Author Girja Kumar
Publisher Vitasta Publication
Language English
Page count 411
Book Format Paper Back

Categories: History Literature

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