between Mahatma Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach are said to shed light on
their 'loving relationship'
They are among archive of documents which
cover Gandhi's time in South Africa, his return to India and his contentious
relationship with his family.
Papers were due to have been auctioned at
Sotheby's in London this week.
A year after a controversial biography of
Mahatma Gandhi claimed he was bisexual and left his wife to live with a
German-Jewish bodybuilder, the Indian government has bought a collection of
letters between the two men days before they were to be auctioned.
India paid around £700,000 (60million
rupees) for the papers, which cover Gandhi's time in South Africa, his
return to India and his contentious relationship with his family.
The auction was to be held at Sotheby's in London on Tuesday but was called
off at the last minute. The documents will now be placed with the National
Archives of India in New Delhi.
They previously belonged to relatives of
Hermann Kallenbach, a German-born Jewish architect who met Gandhi in South
Africa in 1904 and was impressed by his ideas.
Last year, a Gandhi biography by author
Joseph Lelyveld called Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With
India detailed the extent of his relationship with Kallenbach.
It claimed that the leader of the Indian
independence movement was deeply in love with Kallenbach. Mr Lelyveld denied
that his book said Gandhi was bisexual. But Gandhi's home state of Gujarat
banned it as an 'insult' to the father of the nation.
Most of the correspondence, which spans
five decades from 1905 to 1945, is from family, friends and followers of
Gandhi, but there are also 13 letters written by him to Kallenbach.
They reference Gandhi's early political
campaigns and the illness of his wife Kasturba.
He wrote in one letter: 'I no longer want
to be angry with her so she is sweet... She had a few grapes today but she
is suffering again. It seems to be me she is gradually sinking.'
In another, written before his return to
India from South Africa, Gandhi wrote: 'I do all my writing squatting on the
ground and eat invariably with my fingers. I don't want to look awkward in
Indian historian Ramchandra Guha discovered
the letters at the home of Kallenbach's grand-niece, Isa Sarid. Gandhi and
Kallenbach became constant companions after they met in Johannesburg in
Among the most illuminating of the
documents are dozens of letters written by Gandhi's sons which provide
details of his life in India, particularly in the period immediately after
his return, when he lived in relative obscurity.
'Father is becoming more and more awful,'
read one incomplete letter probably written by Harilal, his eldest son.
'It would not be strange if a time may come
one of these days when either those who are living with Father might have to
go or he might leave us all not being able to stand our life.'
India has in the past complained bitterly
about private auctions of Gandhi's belongings, saying they insulted the
memory of a man who rejected material wealth.
A senior official at the ministry of
culture in New Delhi said: 'These papers are of huge importance to India to
carry out research on the Gandhian view on various things, that is why we
decided to purchase them.'
Sotheby's had put a pre-sale estimate of
between £500,000 and £700,000 on the collection.
But the sale was pulled after Indian
authorities agreed to purchase the entire archive for around £700,000
Sotheby's said in a statement: 'The Gandhi-Kallenbach
archive... has been sold in a private transaction to the Indian government.'
Mr Lelyvel's book caused much controversy
when it was published last year. According to the book, Gandhi allegedly
told Kallenbach: ‘How completely you have taken possession of my body. This
is slavery with a vengeance.’
Kallenbach was born in Germany but
emigrated to South Africa where he became a wealthy architect.
Gandhi was working there and Kallenbach
became one of his closest disciples.
The pair lived together for two years in a
house Kallenbach built in South Africa and pledged to give one another ‘more
love, and yet more love... such love as they hope the world has not yet
At the age of 13 Gandhi had been married to
14-year-old Kasturbai Makhanji, but after four children together they split
in 1908 so he could be with Kallenbach, the book says.
At one point he wrote to the German: ‘Your
portrait (the only one) stands on my mantelpiece in my bedroom. The
mantelpiece is opposite to the bed.’
Although it is not clear why, Gandhi wrote
that vaseline and cotton wool were a ‘constant reminder’ of Kallenbach.
He nicknamed himself ‘Upper House’ and his
lover ‘Lower House’ and he vowed to make Kallenbach promise not to ‘look
lustfully upon any woman’.
'I cannot imagine a thing as ugly as the
intercourse of men and women,’ he later told him.
They were separated in 1914 when Gandhi
went back to India – Kallenbach was not allowed into India because of the
First World War, after which they stayed in touch by letter.
As late as 1933 he wrote a letter telling
of his unending desire and branding his ex-wife ‘the most venomous woman I