Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

1948 assassination

Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 at age 78 in the compound of Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), a large mansion in central New Delhi. His assassin was Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a Hindu nationalist from Maharashtra. Godse considered Gandhi to have been too accommodating to Pakistan during the Partition of India of the previous year. Godse tried to assassinate Gandhi two times in 1944 but failed.

Memorial at the location of Gandhi's assassination in 1948. His stylised footsteps lead to the memorial.
Group photo of people accused in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. Standing (L to R): Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madan Lal Pahwa, Digambar Ramchandra Badge]. Seated (L to R): Narayan Apte, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkare


  • My own view is that great men are of great service to their country but they are also at certain times a great hinderance to the progress of their country. There is one incident in Roman History which comes to my mind on this occasion. When Caesar was done to death and the matter was reported to Cicero, Cicero said to the messengers, "Tell the Romans your hour of liberty has come." While one regrets the assassination of Mr Gandhi, one can't help finding in his heart the echo of the sentiments, expressed by Cicero on the assassination of Caesar. Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all free-thought. He was holding together the Congress, which is a combination of all the bad and selfseeking elements in society who agreed on no social or moral principle governing the life of society except the one of praising and flattering Mr Gandhi. Such a body is unfit to govern a country. As the Bible says 'that sometimes good cometh out of evil', so also I think that good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to a superman, it will make them think for themselves and it will compel them to stand on their own merits.
  • After the ceremony, Nehru and other Congress leaders addressed a mass meeting on the river bank. As the meeting ended, Ran Ahmed Kidwai whispered to me: "Jawaharlal has performed the last rites not only of Gandhi but of Gandhiism as well. Now that the master has gone, there will be no one to discipline the crowd. The High Command is dead."
    • India from Curzon to Nehru and after Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Quoted by Ram Gopal from Durga Das: India from Curzon to Nehru and After. Quoted also in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Why I killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse's defence. New Delhi : Rupa, 2018.
  • If I am to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips. And you promise me one thing. Should such a thing happen, you are not to shed one tear.
  • The accumulating provocation of years culminating in his last pro Muslim fast, at last, goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhiji should be brought to an end immediately. When the top rank leaders of the Congress with the consent of Gandhiji divided and tore the country – which we consider as a deity of worship – my mind became full with the thoughts of direful anger. I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. I have resorted to the action I did purely for the benefit of the humanity. I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack (sic) and ruin and destruction to lacs of Hindus.
  • Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere and I do not quite know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.
  • The light has gone out, I said and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years and a thousand years later that light will still be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented the living truth and the eternal man was with us with his eternal truth reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.
  • A mad man has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough of poison spread in this country during the past years and months and this poison has had effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison. We must root out this poison and we must face all the perils that encompass us and face them not madly or badly but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them.
  • That great disaster is a symbol to us to remember the big things of life and to forget the small things. We have thought too much of the small things. Now the time has come again, as in his death he has reminded us of the big things of life, the living truth, and if we remember that, then it will be well with us and well with India.
  • It is shame to me as an Indian that an Indian should have raised his hand against him, it is shame to me as a Hindu that a Hindu should have done this deed and done it to the greatest Indian of the day and the greatest Hindu of the age.
  • Yet, he must have suffered — suffered for the failing of this generation whom he had trained, suffered because we went away from the path that he had shown us. And ultimately the hand of a child of his — for he after all is as much a child of his as any other Indian — a hand of that child of his struck him down.
  • Organising the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…apart from this, their opposition to the Congress, that to of such virulence, disregarding all considerations of personality, decay of decorum, created a kind of unrest among the people. All their speeches were fill of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In face opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions, it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS…Since then over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration, the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.
    • Sardar Patel, letter to Golwalkar, September 11, 1948. In Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, pp. 26-28.