The paradoxes of Mahatma Gandhi: a spiritual leader who slept with underage girls and befriended Hitler

His way of proceeding divided opinions among society, while some applaud his teachings, others disapprove of his behavior.

More than 75 years have passed since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the most remembered spiritual leader and activist of the 20th century for promoting the non-violence movement as well as the independence of India in 1947; for many, his teachings are still valid today.

He was assassinated by a radical 75 years ago Photo: Especial
He was assassinated by a radical 75 years ago. Photo: Especial

He aimed to help the poorest achieve social justice and concord among religions. He showed the whole world that violence has no place in the struggle for the dignity of a people. That is why he was called Mahatma, which means “great soul.”

However, his way of proceeding has divided opinions among society; while some applaud his methods, others question his true intentions.

He slept with underage girls

He decided to take a vow of chastity to achieve spiritual fulfillment, and the politician also considered sex as “lust.” And he assured that his relationship with his wife Kasturba had become spiritual thanks to celibacy. But what caused controversy is that the leader decided to test himself by sleeping naked with girls from 7 years old and up. Even one of them was his 18-year-old niece. It was believed that he had an assistant with whom he also slept and bathed. He claimed that this way, he could contain his impulses and prove that he could not deceive anyone.

He claimed that by sleeping like this he was able to contain his impulses Photo: Courtesy
He claimed that by sleeping like this, he was able to contain his impulses Photo: Courtesy

He even preached that men and women should avoid sex in marriage, that it should only be for procreation, and even recommended bathing with cold water to control sexual desire. Some say that his repulsion to sex was because when his father died, he had sexual relations with his wife, which made him feel guilty and generated an aberration to the sexual act.


Some historians accuse him of racism and classism because, in some writings, he considers the African-American population inferior, even describing Africans as “savages.” South African writers Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed claim that during his stay in Africa, he kept the Indian struggle separate from that of Africans and people of color. Even the University of Ghana removed a statue of him on campus. Although some experts point out that Gandhi’s mentality changed over time.

Friend of Adolf Hitler?

His relationship with the German leader Adolf Hitler has also been criticized because some letters signed by the activist as “his most sincere friend” came to light. The writings are to ask him not to start a war, but many do not conceive that Gandhi was the promoter of peace. He addresses the Fuhrer in that way. Some believe that he did not intervene in the conflict because a victory for Germany would mean the defeat of England and could be a positive thing for India. He was also in contact with Benito Mussolini of Italy. Specialists assert that some of his reforms attracted him.

He wrote a letter to Hittler and signed him as "his most sincere friend" Photo: Especial
He wrote a letter to Hitler and signed him as “his most sincere friend” Photo: Especial

He is accused of letting his wife die

Kasturba Gandhi died on February 22, 1944, at 74, in the Aga Khan Palace; however, if her husband had allowed her to be given antibiotics, she would have been saved, but he did not accept it due to his naturopathic beliefs.

He did not allow his wife to receive medicines Photo: Special
He did not allow his wife to receive medicines. Photo: Special

In a letter, he revealed that his son was a rapist

In three letters, the thinker acknowledged that his son Harilal had abused a minor and expressed concern about the behavior. The minor he referred to could be Harilal’s daughter or Manu Gandhi’s daughter, the daughter of Jaisukhlal, Mahatma’s nephew. The letters reveal that he did not have a good relationship with his firstborn. An auction house acquired them through descendants of the renowned lawyer.

“You must know that your problem has become much more difficult for me, even more so than our national freedom. Manu tells me many dangerous things about you. She says that you had raped her even before she was eight years old and that she was so badly hurt that she had to have medical treatment,” Gandhi wrote to his son in 1935, according to information published by El Mundo.

In 3 letters he makes it clear that his son was an abuser Photo: Especial
In 3 letters, he makes it clear that his son was an abuser Photo: Especial

Who was Mahatma Gandhi?

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869, in the town of Porbandar, in the current state of Gujarat, in India, when it was a British colony. He studied law at the University College of London. He practiced law for twenty years in South Africa, an experience that opened his eyes to the racial discrimination of the white population against the “colored” (African and Hindu), which included the lack of equal rights. Thus, in 1906 he imposed himself on the so-called Black Law, starting his activism and non-violent resistance movement.

In 1915 he returned to India. The Black Act was a reality there, too, forcing all Indians aged eight years and older to register with the English authorities and to carry an identity card with their fingerprints. Within their protest tactics, related to civil disobedience and the development of non-violent actions, such as the Salt March of 1930, or the boycott of the English textile company Lancashire, which with its mass production, had destroyed the traditional Hindu distaff and loom work, they achieved a political, social and cultural change, which resulted in the independence of India on August 14, 1947.

The British gave in, as they had to reorganize their own country after World War II. Still, the territory of India was divided into two: India, with a Hindu majority, and Pakistan, with a Muslim majority. Gandhi continued to fight for reconciliation between the two social fragments and the reintegration of the community. On January 30, 1948, he was assassinated. He always rejected any violence, even opposing the violence they continually suffered from the colonial troops.

After almost 60 years of peaceful struggle he managed to see the independence of his country Photo: Especial
After almost 60 years of peaceful struggle, he managed to see the independence of his country Photo: Especial

Gandhi staged hunger strikes and peaceful protests in mines and factories, promoted boycotts against British products, and called on his followers to disobey discriminatory laws. Although the English responded violently, he managed to keep the people on the path of nonviolence. Their strength lay in unity: if most of the population defied the colonial system, it would eventually break down.

After almost 60 years of peaceful struggle, he saw his country’s independence from one of the major European powers without firing a bullet. But, beyond achieving political independence, Gandhi appeased numerous conflicts, advocated peaceful coexistence between Hindus and Muslims, and managed to reduce discrimination between castes, improving the living conditions of the most disadvantaged.

His struggle only stopped when he was shot dead by a radical, but his legacy lives on.

Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes

  • “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by how its animals are treated.”
  • “The most appalling of bad people’s bad things is the silence of good people.”
  • “A coward is incapable of showing love; doing so is reserved for the brave.”
  • “Nonviolence is not a garment that one puts on or takes off at will. Its place resides in the heart and must be an inseparable part of our being.”
  • “If you want to change the world, change yourself.”

Fun facts

  • He was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Received from Rabindranath Tagore the honorary name of Mahatma
  • He was a vegetarian