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951 LESSON 15-06-2013 SATURDAY-FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research and Practice UNIVERSITY
Here’s a look at excerpts from Manuben’s diaries.
told Bapa (Amritlal Thakkar was popularly called Thakkar Bapa) that
Brahmacharya is one of the five commandments of religion and he was
trying to pass that test. He said this was his yagna for atmashuddhi
(self-purification) and he can’t suspend it because of the public
opinion against it. Then Bapa told him that his definition of
Brahmacharya was quite different from that of the common man and asked
what would happen if the Muslim League comes to know about it and uses
it to make innuendos. Bapu replied saying he won’t leave what he saw as
his religion because of a certain fear and that he had told Birla (G.D.
Birla, industrialist) that if his mind is impure during the experiment
and he was being hypocritical, then he would die a miserable death. Bapu
also told Bapa that even if Vallabhbhai (Patel) or Kishorebhai
(Mashruwala) leave him, he will continue the experiment.
Here’s a look at excerpts from Manuben’s diaries:
December 28, 1946, Srirampur, Bihar
asked me today why I was sleeping with Bapu and that I would have to
face dire consequences on that count. She also told me to think about my
marriage with her brother Pyarelal, to which I said I had no interest
in him and she shouldn’t broach that topic again. I told her I had full
faith in Bapuji and regarded him as my mother.
is madly in love with me and is imploring me to marry him. But I am
totally against it as I don’t suit him in age, knowledge, education and
even in looks. When I told this to Bapu, he said Pyarelal admired my
qualities more than anything else. Bapu said Pyarelal even told him that
I am very guni (virtuous).
January 31, 1947, Navgram, Bihar
controversy over the celibacy experiments is taking a serious turn. And
I suspect Amtussalamben, Sushilaben and Kanubhai (Gandhi’s nephew) are
behind it (spreading rumours). I told Bapu so and he agreed with me
saying he couldn’t fathom why Sushila should be so jealous. In fact, the
manner in which Sushila spoke to me about it yesterday, I felt she is
trumpeting it with all her might. Bapu told me that if I come out
unscathed from this experiment, it would take my character to greater
heights, impart me a big lesson in life and the clouds of controversy
over my head would disperse. Bapu said this is the yagna of his celibacy
and I was a sacred part of it. He said he only prayed to God to keep
him pure, give him strength to stand by the truth and make him fearless.
Then he told me even if all desert us, we shall carry out this
experiment successfully with the blessing of God and then tell the
entire world about this great test.
saw my diary today and asked me to ensure that it doesn’t fall into the
hands of unknown people because they can misuse its contents even
though we have nothing to hide (about the celibacy experiments). He said
this diary will be very helpful towards giving a true account to
society in case he suddenly dies. He said for me too, this diary will
prove very useful.
Then Bapu told me that if I agreed, I should
show the entries (recent ones) in the diary to Pyarelal so that he could
improve upon the language and puts facts in chronological order.
However, I refused because I felt if Pyarelal sees the diary, its
contents would surely reach his sister, Sushilaben, and that could cause
a lot of rancour.
asked him whether Sushilaben also sleeps with him naked because when I
asked her about it, she said she never took part in the experiments and
never slept with him naked. Bapu said Sushila was not speaking the
February 7, 1947, Prasadpur, Bihar
atmosphere is really getting hot about the celibacy experiment.
Amritlal Thakkar (a social worker who was associated with Gandhi and
Gopal Krishna Gokhale) came today and brought with him mails which were
very “hot” on this issue. On reading them, I was shaken.
was very distressed today but Bapu told me he wants to see me smiling.
He said any other person in his place would have gone mad after reading
the hard-hitting letters on the issue from Kishorelal Mashruwala, Sardar
Patel and Devdas Gandhi but he was unmoved. One more thing. Today Bapu
wrote a strong letter to Amtussalamben saying that the element of regret
that his celibacy experiment didn’t start with her was apparent in her
letter to him. He wrote that it was a shame that she should regret it.
He told her that if she could explain, he would want to understand what
she wanted to say. Bapu wrote to her that this was a yagna of shuddhi
February 26, 1947, Haimchar, Bihar
I became very angry when Amtussalamben told me to marry Pyarelal and
told her why doesn’t she marry him if she feels so much for him. I told
her these (celibacy) experiments started with her and now she was
jealous of me because my photos appear in newspapers and she doesn’t
like my popularity.
March 18, 1947, Masudi, Bihar
Bapu revealed a very important thing. I asked him whether Sushilaben
also sleeps with him naked because when I asked her about it, she said
she never took part in the experiments and never slept with him naked.
Bapu said Sushila was not speaking the truth because she had slept with
him in Bardoli (in 1939 when she first joined him as his physician) as
well as in Aga Khan Palace (in Pune). Bapu said she also took a bath in
his presence. Then he said why should I ask him all this when I already
knew about it. Bapu said Sushila was very depressed and her mind had
become very unstable and therefore he wouldn’t want to seek her
clarification on all this.
He also employed other yogic
powers, however, including Aparigraha, his vow of poverty, and
Brahmacharya, the traditional Hindu vow of celibacy, solemnly taken by
Gandhi after his fourth son was born in South Africa in 1906 when he was
37, after which he never again slept with his wife, Kasturba. “I must
relinquish the desire for children and wealth and live the life of one
retired from household cares,” he resolved. “I vow to flee from the
serpent which I know will bite me.” Initially, Gandhi found it easy to
abstain from sex and procreation, noting that “where…desire is gone, a
vow of renunciation is the natural…fruit.” But after launching his
first nationwide Satyagraha fifteen years later, Gandhi confessed that
“the danger is greatest when victory seems the nearest…God’s last test
is ever the most difficult. Satan’s last temptation is ever the most
he resolved to do something, Gandhi rarely abandoned its practice,
pursuing every “experiment” until his “inner voice” dictated otherwise.
to Lord Rama remained Gandhi’s first line of defence in warding off
evil thoughts, deeds, or diseases of any kind, but he also relied
heavily on a very strict dietary code, as he told G.D. Birla: “If you
give up salt and ghee…it will certainly help you in cooling down your
passions. It is essential to give up spices as well as pan and the like.
One cannot subdue one’s sex and allied passions merely with restricted
Mirabehn became so dependent on Gandhi that whenever he
was obliged to leave their ashram she grew depressed, at times writing
him daily of how she felt. “If the separation becomes unbearable, you
must come,” he responded, warning her not to “break down…You must
develop iron nerves. It is necessary for our work.”
|Gandhi had hoped, through the yogic powers of his celibacy, to help restore Hindu-Muslim unity across India.|
Gandhi was 69 when Rajkumari Amrit Kaur,
princess of Kapurthala state, took Mira’s place in his ashram as his
“sister”, to whom he confessed: “The sexual sense is the hardest to
overcome in my case… It has been an incessant struggle.” To “test” and
“strengthen” his Brahmacharya, Gandhi started to sleep naked with
several of his young ashramites.
He had hoped, through the yogic
powers of his celibacy, to help restore Hindu-Muslim unity and the
“heart-peace” of Ahimsa to burning villages of East Bengal and Bihar,
and ultimately to all of Mother India. After searching his own
conscience, however, Gandhi decided that the “mother’s love” he felt in
intimate proximity to young women was somehow mystically strengthening
his own Ahimsa, as well as his Brahmacharya. “I may neither tempt God
nor the Devil,Ã¢â¬ he cryptically noted. He regarded his secretary
Pyarelal’s sister, Dr Sushila Nayar, much the same way as he did his
wife Kasturba, also calling her his ’sister’.”
Gandhi and his
ailing wife spent their last two years together imprisoned by the
British in the Aga Khan’s old palace in Pune. After Kasturba died on
February 22, 1944, Gandhi was comforted by his adopted “grand-daughter”
Manu, considering himself her “mother”.
In the last year of his
life, Gandhiji undertook his final padayatra in trying to restore peace
between Hindus and Muslims in East Bengal, initially walking alone from
village to village, but then joined by Manu, who remained his last
“walking stick”. Gandhi’s Bengali secretary, Nirmal Bose, reported that
he heard Gandhi “slap” himself, and later say, “I am not a Mahatma…I
am an ordinary mortal like you all and I am strenuously trying to
practise Ahimsa.” Sushila Nayar also came to join him and Manu, but soon
left. His typist and shorthand secretary also left him when he saw them
sleeping naked, and Pyarelal reported he heard Gandhi mutter to
himself: “There must be a serious flaw deep down in me which I am unable
to discover…could I have missed my way?”
When Mira heard the
reports of Manu’s sleeping alone with Gandhi she expressed grave alarm.
“Do not ever worry how I am faring or what I am doing here,” Gandhi
replied. “If I succeed in emptying myself utterly, God will possess me.
Then I know that everything will come true.” Yet he continued to worry
about a “deep flaw” within himself. “God’s grace alone is sustaining
me,” he confided to his diary. “I can see there is some grave defect in
me…All around me is utter darkness.”
- Stanley Wolpert is a
professor emeritus of Indian History, University of California, Los
AngelesAll the quotes are from Wolpert’s Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and
Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi (Oxford UP, 2001).
Here’s a look at excerpts from Manuben’s diaries:
November 10, 1943, Aga Khan Palace, Pune
Bapu, suffering from anaemia, fainted while taking a bath with
Sushilaben. Then Sushilaben held Bapu with one hand and wore her clothes
with the other and brought him out.
when Bapu, Sushilaben and I were sleeping on the same cot, he embraced
me and patted me. He put me to sleep with great love. He embraced me
after a very long time. Then Bapu praised me for remaining innocent (of
sexual urges) despite sleeping with him. But this isn’t the case with
the other girls. Veena, Kanchan and Lilavati (other associates of
Gandhi) told me that they won’t be able to sleep with him.
January 1, 1947, Kethuri, Bihar
is imploring me to marry her brother Pyarelal. She told me she would
help me become a nurse only if I agreed to her proposal for her brother.
But I ticked her off on this and spoke to Bapu about it. Bapu told me
Sushila is not in her senses. He said till recently, she used to bathe
before him naked and also sleep with him. But now he has to lean on me.
He said I must remain clean and have patience (with the celibacy
February 2, 1947, Dashdharia, Bihar
has told his followers during the morning prayer that he was carrying
out celibacy experiments with me. Then he explained to me why he spoke
about it. I felt very relieved as it will stop tongues from wagging. I
told myself I don’t care now. Let the world say whatever it wants.
She is one of the most recognised faces in Indian history, always by
Mahatma Gandhi’s side as his “walking stick” in his last two years. Yet,
she remains a mystery. Just 17 when she rejoined the Mahatma as one of
his personal assistants in 1946, she was the great man’s constant
companion till his assassination. Yet, Mridula Gandhi, or Manuben as she
is widely known, died a lonely spinster at the age of 40 in Delhi.
The diaries, in which Gandhi often signed on the
margins, reveal a girl devoted to him. In an entry on December 28, 1946,
at Srirampur, Bihar, nine days after joining the then 77-year-old
Gandhi who was on a walk through of troubled villages after massacres in
Noakhali in then East Bengal, she writes: “Bapu is a mother to me. He
is initiating me to a higher human plane through the Brahmacharya
experiments, part of his Mahayagna of character-building. Any loose talk
about the experiment is most condemnable.” Pyarelal, Gandhi’s
secretary, endorsed this view in Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase, “He did
for her everything that a mother usually does for her daughter. He
supervised her education, her food, dress, rest, and sleep. For closer
supervision and guidance, he made her sleep in the same bed with him.
Now a girl, if her mind is innocent, never feels embarrassment in
sleeping with her mother.” She, in turn, was his primary personal
attendant-massaging and bathing him as well as cooking for him.
the flames on the funeral pyre were consuming Bapu’s body, I felt like
sitting till well after the funeral was over…Bapu was there two days
ago, yesterday at least his body was there and today I am all alone. I
am totally distraught.”
The diaries, which found their way to the
National Archives in Delhi in 2010, also show Pyarelal, despite being 47
years old, making repeated overtures to Manuben with Sushila Nayar
pushing the case. Manuben finally makes a telling entry on February 2,
1947, at Dashdharia, Bihar: “I see Pyarelalji as my elder brother and
nothing else. The day I decide to marry my guru, my elder brother or my
grandfather, I shall marry him. Don’t force me on this any further.”
jottings also give an insight into the growing disquiet among Gandhi’s
followers over his celibacy tests. In a diary entry of January 31, 1947,
when she was at Navgram, Bihar, Manuben refers to a letter to Gandhi
from his close follower Kishorelal Mashruwala where he calls her “Maya”
(an illusion or a temptress) and asks the Mahatma to free himself off
her clutches. To this, Gandhi replies: “You do whatever you want but I
am firm in my belief regarding this experiment.” Even as Manuben and
Gandhi walked through Noakhali in Bengal, two of his entourage- R.P.
Parasuram, who had acted as his secretary, and Nirmal Kumar Bose, also
his secretary and later director of Anthropological Society of
India-left in anger over Gandhi’s behaviour. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,
in a letter to Gandhi on January 25, 1947, currently among the Patel
papers housed in the National Archives, asked him to suspend the
experiment which Patel called a “terrible blunder” on Gandhi’s part that
pained his followers “beyond measure”.
The deep imprint the
Mahatma left on Manuben’s psyche is best reflected in a letter to
Jawaharlal Nehru from Morarji Desai on August 19, 1955, soon after he
called on Manuben in August at the Bombay Hospital where she had been
admitted for an “unknown” ailment. Desai writes: “Manu’s problem is more
psychological than physiological. She appears to have despaired for
life and developed allergy to all kinds of medicines.”
was one of two persons by the Mahatma’s side when he was shot by
Nathuram Godse at 5.17 p.m. on January 30, 1948, at Birla House in
Delhi, the other being Abhaben Gandhi, wife of his nephew Kanu Gandhi.
Manuben writes the next day: “While the flames on the funeral pyre were
consuming Bapu’s body, I felt like sitting till well after the funeral
was over. Sardar Patel comforted me and took me to his home. It was just
unimaginable for me. Bapu was there two days ago, yesterday at least
his body was there and today I am all alone. I am totally distraught.”
The next and last entry in the diary is on February 21, 1948, when she
left for Mahuva near Bhavnagar from Delhi by train. It says: “Today I
left Delhi.” In Last Glimpses of Bapu, one of five books Manuben wrote
after Gandhi’s death, she notes: “Kaka (Gandhi’s youngest son Devdas)
warned me not to disclose the contents of my diary to anyone and at the
same time forbade me to divulge the contents of the important lettersâ¦
He said, ‘You are very young but you possess a lot of valuable
literature. And you are also unsophisticated.’”
Even in her
68-page memoir, Bapu: My Mother, Manuben never revealed her feelings
about Gandhi’s experiments with his sexuality in which she was a part.
In one of the 15 chapters, she writes that soon after the death of
Kasturba, which happened within 10 months of her moving to Pune, she
received a very moving note from Bapu as he was in maunvrat (vow of
silence) and could communicate only by writing. Gandhi advised her in
that note to go to Rajkot and resume her studies. “From that day Bapu
became my mother,” Manuben writes in the chapter. The teenaged Manuben,
who had studied till Class V in Karachi where her father, Gandhi’s
nephew Jaisukhlal, worked in the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, also
needed a mother-like anchor since she had just lost her mother when she
came to Pune.
Manuben’s final years were spent by herself. She
lived in Mahuva near Bhavnagar in Gujarat for almost 21 years after
Gandhi’s assassination. She ran a children’s school besides floating
Bhagini Samaj, which espoused women’s issues. Among those who were
associated with Manuben during this last phase of her life is Bhanuben
Lahiri, from a family of freedom fighters. She was one of the 22 women
members of the Samaj. Lahiri recalls the profound impact Gandhi left on
his grandniece. Once, she says, when Manuben took a chunari (a
scarf-like piece of cloth) from her for the marriage of one of her poor
followers, she said: “I see myself as Mirabai (the great medieval saint
who worshipped Lord Krishna) who lived only for her Shyamlo (Krishna).”
on the diaries, psychoanalyst and scholar Sudhir Kakar writes: “So
focused was the Mahatma on his own feelings during these experiments
that I believe he may have ‘chosen’ to overlook their consequences for
the women involved. Except for the flaring up of violent jealousy
between the various women, we do not know the psychological effects, if
any, that these experiments left on each of the women.”
thanks to the recovery of Manuben’s diaries, we can assess the
psychological impact the Mahatma had on his intimate companion.