Gandhi was a child bridegroom
The concept of an arranged marriage in not by any means unique to India, but it certainly is one the bedrock social institution of that society. Gandhi, therefore, growing up in the late 1800s, was expected to marry according to the arrangements of his family. He and his wife Kasturba were united at the age of thirteen, having been âengaged’ as it were, by arrangement of the two families, since they were seven.
One of Gandhi’s most charming attributes was always his candor and honesty, and in his autobiography, he relates the utter revelation of his discovery of sex. He found himself unable to concentrate on anything else, and would often during the course of a day interrupt what he was doing and visit his young wife to relieve that itch.
Kasturba Gandhi did not have a particularly easy life as the wife of a mercurial and eccentric individual like Gandhi, and for most of their married life they lived apart. Four sons were born of the marriage, but quite early on in Gandhi’s spiritual development he took a vow of chastity, after which their relationship was strictly platonic. Her role in his active life was steady, but low-key, and so diverse was Gandhi’s spectrum of friends and followers that in the end she appears to be something of an appendage to his life. He remained loyal to her, of course, but she could hardly compete with some of great women of the age who sought access to Gandhi as his fame increased.
Some of these women had names that would intimidate anyone. Lady Edwina Mountbatten, for example, Emily Hobhouse, the great British feminist and philanthropist, and Olive Schreiner, the celebrated Victorian author.
Nonetheless, with quiet force of character, her role in Gandhi’s work can never be diminished. In February 1944, as Gandhi was held in detention in Poona, she died alongside him, at the age of seventy-four, having suffered ill-health for some years. âBut for her.’ He wrote. âI might have been in the abyss.’