ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Affairs of the Mind

Since the days of the Bhakti movement, the ideal that love should only be spiritual has left an indelible mark on the Indian imagination. 

Much heat was generated among the moral police when some youngsters organised a “Kiss of Love” festival in Kerala, which was followed by similar events in Hyderabad and Delhi. The discomfort generated once again reaffirmed that Indians are uncomfortable with any manifestation of carnality, even the innocent kiss. Since the days of the Bhakti movement, the ideal that love should only be spiritual has left an indelible mark on the Indian imagination. This tendency to forswear bodily contact is exemplified in our everyday discreet “namaste” salutation.

The freedom movement is replete with examples of asceticism, the relationships of Indian leaders and their female devotees being markedly spiritual. Everyone knows how the father of the nation battled his libido, having decided to be celibate at 36. Mahatma Gandhi commanded the tall and beautiful Madeleine Slade, daughter of an English Admiral, to shave off her golden locks so that she could serve him as Miraben without rousing those feelings in himself that he so deplored. She was in love with Gandhi. In 1925 she wrote him her first letter: “My being is filled with a great joy and a great anguish. The joy of giving all I have to you and to your people and the anguish of being able to give so little.” She signed it as his humble and most devoted servant. Poor Madeleine soon grew into the role of a sannyasin, though, like most women around Gandhi, she could rarely suppress the jealousy of the others.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top