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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 Noakhali. When Manu asked him to stop the practice, he said she wanted to back out since she had no control over her desire. The best thing about the Mahatma was that he had asked Manu and various other women to keep a record of the developments. He was unapologetic and not shy of speaking about his relationship with them. He wanted the world to know of his experiments. Alas! Most of the records seem to have been destroyed. Some of the characters who could throw light did not open their mouth. A construct, however, is still possible based on Gandhiji's writings and the writing of those who were involved.
Gandhiji persuaded Kanchan Shah and Prabhavati (wife of Jayaprakash Narayan) to practise married Brahmacharya. There were more than a dozen women who came to be closely associated with him at one time or the other. This included Millie Graham Polak, Sonja Schlesin, Esther Faering: Nilla Cram Crook, Margarete Spiegel, Prabhavati, Kanchan Shah, Sushila Nayyar and Manu Gandhi. Gandhiji was fond of Saraladevi Chowdharani, Rabindranath Tagore's niece, and often displayed her as his mannequin for popularizing khadi. He called her his 'spiritual wife'. His closeness to Sarala devi and arguments on brahmacharya with Premabehn Kantak created a storm in the ashram and exposed him to public glare. While the world was unsure, the Mahatma was sure of his actions.
There was a definite attraction in Gandhiji that brought womenfolk to him. Possibly they were looking for glory and he provided the opportunity. A few of them, such as Mirabehn, were inspired by his ideals and wanted to devote their entire 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 man-woman relationship involving one of the greatest men in living memory.
About the Author
Born in 1925, at Dera Ghazi Khan (Pakistan), Girja Kumar is a veteran research scholar. The man behind the Sapru House library, he has held many important positions including Chairman of the Delhi Library Board (1985-86) and President of the Indian Library Association (1983-85). HeN,.. was Associate, Oriental Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC during 1954-55. He retired as chief librarian Jawaharlal Nehru University Library in 1985. Besides being associated with various newspapers and magazines as a book critic, he has to his credit a number of books including definitive biography of world-renowned librarian Dr S R Ranganathan and The Book on Trial, Fundamentalism and Censorship in India.
Brahmacharya, Gandhiji and His Women Associates, based on extensive research, is a biography within/a biography.
Reviews Ever since the book was first published in 2006, critics and scholars have attested to Girja Kumar's writing. This has begun a fresh dimension in Gandhian studies.
In contrast to Bose, who encountered resistance everywhere when he tried to publish on this topic 50 years ago, Kumar's book, which is more explicit, judgmental, and comprehensive than Bose's, has been warmly received, signaling that most Indians are now ready to accept Gandhi as fully human. Kumaes sources are not secret or anonymous; in fact, most of the material comes from letters found in Gandhi's Collected Works." Nicholas F. Gier, Prof Emeritus, University of Idaho, in his paper Was Gandhi a Tantric, 2006. "The author does not take sides and deals respectfully with the subject of his study, and that is to his credit. Many Gandhians may object to this work. Some of the passages are revolting indeed. The truth, however, must be faced. As Gandhiji once said: 'Truth is God" MV Kamath in Organiser.