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Nathuram Vinayak Godse (19 May 1910 – 15 November 1949) was the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range in New Delhi on 30 January 1948.[1] Godse, an advocate of Hindu nationalism, from Pune, Maharashtra, who believed Gandhi to have favored the political demands of India's Muslims during the partition of India, plotted the assassination with Narayan Apte and six others. After a trial that lasted over a year, Godse was sentenced to death on 8 November, 1949. Although pleas for commutation were made by Gandhi's two sons, Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi, they were turned down by India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, deputy prime minister Vallabhbhai Patel, and the Governor-General C. Rajagopalachari.[2] Godse was hanged in the Ambala Central Jail on 15 November 1949.[3]

Nathuram Vinayak Godse
Nathuram Godse
Nathuram Godse at his trial for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi
Ramachandra Vinayak Godse

(1910-05-19)19 May 1910
Died15 November 1949(1949-11-15) (aged 39)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
OrganizationRashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Hindu Mahasabha
Criminal statusExecuted
Criminal chargeMurder (Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi)

Early life

Nathuram Vinayakrao Godse was born into a Maharashtrian Chitpavan Brahmin family.[4] His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was a postal employee; his mother was Lakshmi (née Godavari). At birth, he was named Ramachandra.[5] Nathuram was given his name because of an unfortunate incident. Before he was born, his parents had three sons and a daughter, with all three boys dying in their infancy. Fearing a curse that targeted male children, young Ramachandra was brought up as a girl for the first few years of his life, including having his nose pierced and being made to wear a nose-ring (nath in Marathi). It was then that he earned the nickname "Nathuram" (literally "Ram with a nose-ring"). After his younger brother was born, they switched to treating him as a boy.[6]

Godse attended the local school at Baramati through the fifth standard, after which he was sent to live with an aunt in Pune so that he could study at an English-language school.[citation needed] During his school days, he highly respected Gandhi.[7]

Political career and beliefs

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 D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

Godse dropped out of high school and became an activist with Hindu nationalist organizations Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organisation) and Hindu Mahasabha, although the exact dates of his membership are uncertain.[8][9]

Godse started a Marathi language newspaper for the Hindu Mahasabha called Agrani, which some years later was renamed Hindu Rashtra.[citation needed] Godse rejected Gandhi's philosophy, believing Gandhi repeatedly sabotaged the interests of Hindus by using the "fasting unto death" tactic on many issues. In Godse's view, Gandhi was giving in to interests that seemed to him anti-national.[10][11]

RSS membership

Godse joined RSS in Sangli (Maharashtra) in 1932 as a boudhik karyawah (ground worker), and simultaneously remained a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, both right wing organizations. He often wrote articles in newspapers to publicise his thoughts. During this time, Godse and M. S. Golwalkar, later RSS chief, often worked together, and they translated Babarao Savarkar's book "Rashtra Mimansa" into English. They had a falling out when Golwalkar took the entire credit for this translation.[citation needed] In the early 1940s, Godse formed his own organization, "Hindu Rashtra Dal"[12] on the Vijayadashami day of 1942, though he continued to remain a member of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha.[13]

In 1946, Godse claimed to have left the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha over the issue of the partition of India. His relations with many members of the RSS soured, and he felt that the RSS was softening in its stance.[14][15]

Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Godse approached Gandhi on 30 January 1948 during the evening prayer at 17:17. When Godse bowed, one of the girls flanking and supporting Gandhi, said to Godse, "Brother, Bapu ("Father", a nickname for Gandhi) is already late" and tried to put him off, but he pushed her aside and shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range with a Beretta M1934 semi-automatic pistol. Herbert Reiner Jr., a young vice-consul at the new American embassy in Delhi, was the first to rush forward and grasp Godse by the shoulders, spinning him into the arms of some military personnel, who disarmed him.[16][17] Reiner then held Godse by the neck and shoulders until he was taken away by the military and police.[18][19] Gandhi was taken back to his room in Birla House, where he died soon thereafter.[20]

Trial and execution

Godse was put on trial at the Punjab High Court, at Peterhoff, Shimla. On 8 November 1949, he was sentenced to death. Although pleas for commutation were made by Gandhi's two sons, Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi, they were turned down by India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, deputy prime minister Vallabhbhai Patel and the Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari,[2] and Godse was hanged at Ambala Jail on 15 November 1949.[3]

Ideological and political criticism of Gandhi

In his court trial speech Godse provides a detailed critique of Gandhian politics. The speech was banned but later became available in a book titled May it Please Your Honour[21] co-written by Nathuram's brother Gopal Godse.


Millions of Indians mourned Gandhi's assassination; the Hindu Mahasabha was vilified and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was temporarily banned. However, investigators could find no evidence that the RSS bureaucracy had formally sponsored or even knew of Godse's plot. The ban on the RSS was lifted in 1949.

The RSS has consistently denied any connection with Godse. It has maintained that Godse "left RSS in the mid-1930s".[9] However, Nathuram Godse's brother Gopal Godse stated that all the Godse brothers were members of the RSS at the time of the assassination and blamed the RSS for disowning them.[22] The other members of the Godse's family too have denied that he ever left the RSS. "He remained a boudhik karyawah till his death."[13]

Brahmins in Maharashtra became targets of violence after the assassination, mostly by elements from the Maratha, Jain and Lingayat communities.[23][24][25]

Attempts at rehabilitation

In 2014, following the Bharatiya Janata Party's rise to power, the Hindu Mahasabha began attempts to rehabilitate Godse and portray him as a patriot. It requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to install the bust of Godse. It created a documentary film Desh Bhakt Nathuram Godse (Patriot Nathuram Godse) for release on the death anniversary of Gandhi on 30 January 2015.[26] There were attempts to build a temple for Godse and to celebrate 30 January as a Shaurya Diwas ("Bravery Day").[27] A civil suit was filed in Pune Court asking for a ban on the documentary film.[28]

In May 2019, in the lead up to the final phase of Indian elections, BJP's candidate from Bhopal, Pragya Thakur, called Godse a "patriot".[29] Facing intense backlash, she apologized later.[30]

In art


  1. ^ Noorani, A.G. (8 February 2013). "The BJP and Nathuram Godse". Frontline. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Gandhi, Rajmohan (2006), Gandhi: The Man, His People, and the Empire, University of California Press, p. 660, ISBN 978-0-520-25570-8
  3. ^ a b Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar (2009), Decolonization in South Asia: Meanings of Freedom in Post-independence West Bengal, 1947–52, Routledge, p. 146, ISBN 978-1-134-01824-6
  4. ^ Devare, Aparna (3 April 2013). History and the Making of a Modern Hindu Self. ISBN 9781136197086. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Early life | Nathuram Godse". Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  6. ^ Jeffrey, Robin (1990). India, Rebellion to Republic: Selected Writings, 1857–1990. Sterling Publishers. p. 105.
  7. ^ Time (14 February 2000) [1] "His Principle of Peace Was Bogus". Retrieved 3 July 2007
  8. ^ The Hindu (18 August 2004). [2] "RSS releases 'proof' of its innocence". Retrieved 26 June 2007
  9. ^ a b IANS, RSS denies Godse was its member, rebuts Cong claim, Zee News, 30 December 2010
  10. ^ Kumar, Girja (1997). The Book on Trial. ISBN 9788124105252.
  11. ^ Bharat Bhankal. "Bha Bha Blogship: Nathuram Godse – His Last Speech".
  12. ^ Hansen, Thomas Blom (1999). The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton University Press. p. 249. ISBN 1-4008-2305-6.
  13. ^ a b Venugopal, Vasudha (8 September 2016). "Nathuram Godse never left RSS, says his family". Economic times. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  14. ^ Venugopal, Vasudha (8 September 2016). "Nathuram Godse never left RSS, says his family" – via The Economic Times.
  15. ^ Karawan, Ibrahim A.; McCormack, Wayne; Reynolds, Stephen E. (2008). Values and Violence: Intangible Aspects of Terrorism. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-4020-8660-1.
  16. ^ Obituary, May 26 (26 May 2000), "Herbert Reiner Jr.; Captured Gandhi's killer", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 27 January 2017
  17. ^ Pronko, N. H.; Bowles, J. W. (2013), Empirical Foundations Of Psychology, Taylor & Francis, p. 343, ISBN 978-1-136-32708-7
  18. ^ Obituary, May 21 (21 May 2000), "Herbert Reiner Jr., Diplomat, 83; Captured Gandhi's killer in 1948", The Boston Globe
  19. ^ Trumbull, Robert (31 January 1948), "Gandhi is killed by a Hindu; India shaken; World mourns; 15 die in rioting in Bombay", The New York Times
  20. ^ "Controversy over "Hey Ram"". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  21. ^ Godse, Nathuram Vinayak; Godse, Gopal Vinayak (1977). May it Please Your Honour.
  22. ^ A.G. Noorani. "The BJP and Nathuram Godse". Frontline.
  23. ^ Ullekh N P (2018). The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox. Random House India. p. 39. ISBN 9789385990816.
  24. ^ Mariam Dossal; Ruby Malon, eds. (1999). State Intervention and Popular Response: Western India in the Nineteenth Century. p. 11. ISBN 9788171548552.
  25. ^ Koenraad Elst (2001). Gandhi and Godse:A review and Critique. pp. 12, 13, 14. (pg 13,14)Destruction was even larger in kolhapur...(pg14)Shahu Maharaj had actively collaborated with the British against the freedom movement, which was locally identified with Chitpawan Brahmins like B.G.Tilak...(pg14) The biggest violence took place in the seven Patwardhan (Chitpawan) princely states such as Sangli, where the remarkably advanced factories owned by Chitpawans were largely destroyed/ Here, Jains and Lingayats joined the Marathas in the attacks. The events hastened the integration of Patwardhan states (by march 1948) into the Bombay province, an integration opposed by the Brahmins - fearing Maratha predominance in the integrated province.
  26. ^ Ghose, Debobrat (21 December 2014). "Hindu Mahasabha head speaks to FP: Godse was a 'martyr' and 'patriot'". Firstpost. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Hindu Mahasabha announces Godse temple". Deccan Chronicle. 24 December 2014.
  28. ^ PTI (25 December 2014). "Pune court to hear suit against Godse film". The Hindu.
  29. ^ "'Nathuram Godse was a patriot,' says BJP's Pragya Thakur; sparks outrage". 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  30. ^ "Under fire, BJP's Pragya Thakur apologises for calling Godse a 'deshbhakt'". The Indian Express. 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  31. ^ Rediff on the NeT.[3] "Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy – The Transcript"
  32. ^ Nathuram Vinayak Godse; Gopal Vinayak Godse (1993). Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi?. Surya Bharti Parkashan. p. 176. My friends had greeted me, and arranged a small ceremony. Late Shri ... On completion he published the series in a book form titled 'Gandhi Hatya Ani Mee' (Gandhi assassination and I) in October 1967. The Government being allergic to the truth which exposed their falsehood, banned the book two months later
  33. ^ Girja Kumar (1 January 1997). The Book on Trial: Fundamentalism and Censorship in India. Har-Anand Publications. p. 443. ISBN 978-81-241-0525-2. The axe was to fall on the Marathi memoirs of Gopal Godse. ... and "spurned", he decided to publish his memoirs. It was immediately banned in several parts of India and copies of the book forefeited to the State
  34. ^ Frontline - Google Boeken. May 1998. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  35. ^ Long, Roger D. (2004). Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays Presented to Stanley ... - Google Books. ISBN 9788125026419. Retrieved 30 January 2014.

Further reading

External links

  • [5] Time Magazine's February 2000 interview of Gopal Godse
  • [6] Article discussing Why Godse Killed Gandhi
  • [7] Rediff's January 1998 interview of Gopal Godse
  • [8] Article discussing pro-Godse play
  • [9] Eyewitness to Gandhi assassination
  • Eyewitness: Mahatma Gandhi Assassination on YouTube
  • [10] First Information Report (FIR) by police
  • [11] "An Assassin Speaks" written by Gopal Godse, narrated by Navneet singh