In 2013, an exhibit of Mahatma Gandhi's personal correspondence triggered some speculation about his private life:

The Daily Telegraph raises the question:

The bond between Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach has been a subject of speculation and gossip for years owing to their closeness, with previously published correspondence suggesting they may have had a physical relationship. [...] However scholars looking for clear evidence on the full extent of the men's relationship were left disappointed, with curators acknowledging that they had only put a sample of correspondence on display at the National Archives museum.

The Daily Mail

They detail his close friendship with a South African bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, with some suggesting the pair may have had a physical relationship. [...] However scholars looking for clear evidence of the full extent of the men’s relationship, the subject of speculation for years, were left disappointed.

Did Mahatma Gandhi have a physical relationship with another man?

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    Hi, welcome to Skeptic SE. Could you add for each of your sources their name and nature (journal, blog, video, etc.) and one line summarizing their claims ? Sep 19, 2016 at 11:53
  • This claim has been made, and so far seems to be unsettled either way.
    – Ofir
    Sep 19, 2016 at 12:16
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    Welcome to Skeptics! This seems a weak set of claims - the two papers basically say "People are speculating and spreading rumours without any evidence." What more is there to say? Note that "gay" is ill-defined. You seem to be asking if he had sex with another man, rather than identified as gay. [I have stated my desire before for a "None of our damned business" close reason; this is an obvious candidate.]
    – Oddthinking
    Sep 19, 2016 at 15:55
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    This may be because I'm not a big fan of Gandhi, but I don't think this question should be downvoted too heavily. A lot of people have a great deal of interest in this person, and some of that is as a person himself, rather than as a political figure (whereas people are mainly interested in Martin Luther King Jr as a political figure). A lot of speculation of historical figures being gay is ill-founded nonsense, but that's what Skeptics is for. And two major newspapers making the claim is rather notable.
    – Golden Cuy
    Sep 20, 2016 at 2:20
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    I'd almost downvote (I'm not), because the sources cited by the author state that Ghandi scholars were unable to find any kind of information, one way or the other, about this very question. What possible answer could this community be expected to offer that would be sourced or cited that the community of historical scholars would not know about? The way the question is framed pretty much defines it as impossible to definitively answer. Sep 22, 2016 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Hermann Kallenbach

Hermann Kallenbach is the person that is alleged to have possibly had a homo-sexual relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, according to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, Hermann Kallenbach

Dr. Hermann Kallenbach (1 March 1871 – 25 March 1945) was a German-Jewish architect who was one of the foremost friends and associates of Mahatma Gandhi. Kallenbach was introduced to the young Mohandas Gandhi while they were both working in South Africa and, after a series of discussions, they developed a long-lasting friendship.

Mahatma Gandhi & Wife + Hermann Kallenbach, from Wikipedia Gandhi (left), Sonia Schlesin, his secretary, and Dr. Hermann Kallenbach. Kallenbach sewed this photo in the collar of his jacket before joining Gandhi in England during the First World War. Being of German origin, he feared being arrested and the image seized. He was effectively arrested, but the police never discovered the photo. This photo has been retouched to diminish the creasing of the picture

Joseph Lelyveld

It is claimed in the Hindustan Times by former New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld that Muhatma Gandhi and Hermann Kallenbach were a "couple".

Hindustan times

Former New York Times editor Joseph Lelyveld has written a book in which among other lines, he quotes Tridip Suhrud, a cultural historian: "They were a couple".

Indian government

This theory was further fuelled when the Huff post reported that the Indian government spent $1.3 Million to purchase Gandhi's letters in order to prevent them from being purchased at auction as the letters prove Gandhi was homosexual. However this was denied by the Indian government which insists they purchased the letters purely because they are of historic and national importance regards to research in to Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy.

Huff post

Indian Government Spends $1.3 Million To Stop Auction Of Gandhi Letters That May Show He Was Gay

Despite the rumored relationship, an unnamed senior official at the Ministry of Culture in New Delhi told Reuters the acquisition was purely to aide research into Gandhi's philosophy.

Soul mate

It appears however that Mahatma Gandhi had never mentioned in any public writings anything about a physical relationship with Hermann Kallenbach, and the closest he ever came was when he referred to Herman Kallenbach as his "soul mate", according to pareltank.


This story which was reported a few days back in all leading newspapers of the English speaking world, mentions a German friend of the Mahatma who was a stout and loyal supporter of Gandhiji during his experiments in passive resistance in South Africa. I dedicate this post to that little known man whom Gandhiji, in his writings, referred to as his ‘soul mate’.

Did Mahatma Gandhi have a physical relationship with a man?

There appears to be currently no evidence to suggest he did, and therefore it should perhaps not be assumed that his close friendship with Herman Kallenbach was anything more than that. Ultimately however, there is no way of knowing what goes on behind closed doors.


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