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Gandhi's Experiments With Celibacy / Brahmacharya

Gandhi with his women associates- Manuben and Abhaben

Gandhi tried to test and prove to himself his brahmacharya. The experiments began when he aged more than 75 years and some time after the death of his wife in February 1944. At the start of his experiment he had women sleep in the same room but in different beds. He later slept with women in the same bed but clothed, and finally he slept naked with women. According to the 1960s memoir of his grandniece Manuben, Gandhi feared in early 1947 that he and she may be killed by Muslims in the run up to India's independence in August 1947, and asked her when she was 18-year-old if she wanted to help him with his experiments to test their "purity", for which she readily accepted. Gandhi slept naked in the same bed with Manu with the bedroom doors open all night. Manu stated that the experiment had no "ill effect" on her. Gandhi also shared his bed with 18-year-old Abhaben, wife of his grandnephew Kanu. Gandhi would sleep with both Manu and Abha at the same time. None of the women who participated in the brahmachari experiments of Gandhi indicated that they had sex or that Gandhi behaved in any sexual way. Those who went public said they felt as though they were sleeping with their ageing mother.

Gandhi in his final year of life was an ascetic, looked ugly and a sickly skeletal figure. Gandhi's public experiments, as they progressed, were widely discussed and criticised by his family members and leading politicians. However, Gandhi said that if he would not let Manu sleep with him, it would be a sign of weakness. Nirmalkumar Bose, Gandhi's Bengali interpreter, for example criticised Gandhi, not because Gandhi did anything wrong, but because Gandhi was not concerned about the psychological effect on the women who participated in his experiments.

Mahatma Gandhi was widely know as a saint and a revolutionary leader in the early 20th century in India. He introduced ashram system where everyone irrespective of caste, creed, colour, religion, and eating habits could stay under one roof. People living in the Ashram had to cook food, clean vessels, wash clothes and work for everyone.

Gandhi dedicated his life to discovering and pursuing truth, or Satya, and called his movement as satyagraha, which means "appeal to, insistence on, or reliance on the Truth". Gandhi summarised his beliefs first when he said "God is Truth". He would later change this statement to "Truth is God". Thus, satya (truth) in Gandhi's philosophy is "God".

Gandhi began experiments with the virtues such as non-violence, patience, integrity, lack of hypocrisy, self restraint and abstinence. Gandhiji was so openminded that in his book "My Experiments with Truth", Gandhi says that the sexual desires of his were so overwhelming that… "as his father lay dying, Gandhi left his bedside to have sex with Kasturba, his wife." Meanwhile, his father drew his last breath. In 1906 at age 37, although married and a father, he vowed to abstain from sexual relations. Gandhi's experiment with abstinence went beyond sex, and extended to food. Gandhi began abstaining from cow's milk in 1912 believing that milk would stimulate sexual passion. Tagore described Gandhi as someone who did not abhor sex or women, but considered sexual life as inconsistent with his moral goals.

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