Supporters of Mahatma Gandhi say claims that the Indian political leader left his wife for a male bodybuilder are blasphemous and wrong.

Great Soul, by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, describes the deep relationship between Gandhi and German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach.

It also claims Gandhi held racist views towards black South Africans.

Reviews of the book said it was clear that Mr Lelyveld was claiming Gandhi was in love with Kallenbach but the author denied this, arguing that the press had distorted his words.

“I do not allege that Gandhi is racist or bisexual,” he said in a statement. “The word ‘bisexual’ nowhere appears in the book.”

“The word ‘racist’ is used once to characterise comments by Gandhi early in his stay in South Africa… the chapter in no way concludes that he was a racist or offers any suggestion of it.”

According to reviews, the book says: “Gandhi wrote to Kallenbach about ‘how completely you have taken possession of my body. This is slavery with a vengeance’.”

It claimed that Gandhi nicknamed himself “Upper House” and Kallenbach “Lower House.”

Mr Lelyveld wrote: “He made Lower House promise not to ‘look lustfully upon any woman.’ The two then pledged ‘more love, and yet more love . . . such love as they hope the world has not yet seen’.”

Gandhi left his wife Kasturbai Makhanji for Kallenbach, the book said, quoting intimate letters between the two men.

Tushar Gandhi, the leader’s great-grandson, told India Today: “I wouldn’t put it past any American writer to not be able to understand relationships without adding a sexual connotation.

“These western writers have a morbid fascination for Gandhi’s sexuality.”