Nathuram Vinayak Godse (19 May 1910 – 15 November 1949) (pronunciation) was the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a Hindu nationalist[1] from Maharashtra[2] who shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range at a multi-faith prayer meeting in Birla House in New Delhi on 30 January 1948.[3][4]

Nathuram Vinayak Godse
Nathuram Godse
Godse at his trial for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948
Ramachandra Vinayak Godse

(1910-05-19)19 May 1910
Died15 November 1949(1949-11-15) (aged 39)
Ambala Central Jail, East Punjab, India
(present-day Haryana, India)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Organization(s)Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
Hindu Mahasabha
Known forAssassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Criminal statusExecuted
Criminal penaltyDeath
Capture status
Captured by Herbert Reiner Jr.
VictimsMahatma Gandhi
Date30 January 1948
WeaponBeretta M 1934 semi-automatic pistol
Writing career
Notable worksWhy I Killed Gandhi
RelativesGopal Godse (brother)

Godse was a member of the political party, the Hindu Mahasabha;[5] and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu paramilitary volunteer organization;[6] and a popularizer of the work of his mentor Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who had created the ideology of Hindutva.[7]

Godse had two unsuccessful attempts to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi in 1944 before he succeeded the third time.[8] After the 1948 assassination, Godse claimed Gandhi favoured the political demands of British India's Muslims during the partition of India of 1947.[3][9][10] Soon after Mahatma Gandhi had fallen from the fatal shots at the prayer meeting, and while the attendant crowd was in shock, Godse was grasped and restrained by Herbert Reiner Jr., a vice-consul at the new American embassy in Delhi who was also attending; eventually, Godse was taken away by the police.[11][12][13] Godse had 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 clemency 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 Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari,[14] and Godse was executed at the Ambala Central Jail on 15 November 1949.[15]

Early life

Nathuram Vinayakrao Godse was born into a Maharashtrian Chitpavan Brahmin family.[16] His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was a postal employee; his mother was Lakshmi (née Godavari). At birth, he was named Ramachandra.[17] Nathuram was given his name due to his parents' fear that a curse targeted their male children, caused by the loss of their three previous sons. Young Ramachandra was therefore 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.[18]

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]

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 organisations Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organisation) and Hindu Mahasabha, although the exact dates of his membership are uncertain.[19][20]

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 organisations. 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 organisation, "Hindu Rashtra Dal"[21] on the Vijayadashami day of 1942,[22] though he continued to remain a member of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha.[23]

In 1946, Godse claimed to have left the RSS and moved to the Hindu Mahasabha over the issue of the partition of India. However, historical sources do not corroborate this claim; an investigation published by The Caravan in January 2020 revealed that up until his final days, Godse was listed as a member in records kept by the RSS of meetings that took place long after he was supposed to have left the organisation.[24] His family has also said that he had never left the RSS, highlighting that he held membership at the RSS as well as the Hindu Mahasabha.[25] Godse's 1946 claim is also refuted by his first deposition in Marathi after he assassinated Gandhi, where he says that while he did join the Hindu Mahasabha, "I remained active in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh."

Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

In May 1944, Godse attempted to assassinate Gandhi with a knife. He led a group of 15 to 20 young men who rushed at Gandhi during a prayer meeting at Panchgani. Godse and his group was prevented by the crowds from reaching Gandhi. He was released due to Gandhi's own policy of declining to press criminal charges.[8]

On September 1944, Godse again led another group to block Gandhi's passage from Sevagram to Mumbai. This time Godse was arrested with a dagger and he uttered threats to kill Gandhi. He was released again owing to Gandhi's policy of not pressing criminal charges.[8]

At 05:05 pm on 30 January 1948, as Gandhi made his way to a prayer meeting on a raised lawn behind Birla House, a mansion in New Delhi, where he was staying, Godse stepped out of the crowd flanking his path to the dais. He fired three bullets into Gandhi's chest.[11] Gandhi fell immediately, sending the attendant crowd into a state of shock.[11] Herbert Reiner Jr., a 32-year-old 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.[26][11] Reiner then held Godse by the neck and shoulders until he was taken away by the military and police.[13][12] Reiner reported later that in the moments before he apprehended him, Godse looked a little stunned at how easily he had carried out his plan.[27] Gandhi was taken back to his room in Birla House, where he died soon thereafter.[28]

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 Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari,[14] and Godse was hanged at Ambala Central Jail on 15 November 1949.[15]


Millions of Indians mourned Gandhi's assassination; the Hindu Mahasabha was vilified and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was temporarily banned.

The RSS has consistently denied any connection with Godse. It has maintained that Godse "left RSS in the mid-1930s".[20] 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.[29] The other members of the Godse family too have denied that he ever left the RSS. "He remained a boudhik karyawah till his death."[23]

Attempts at image rehabilitation

Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy (This is Nathuram Godse Speaking) is a two-act play written in the Marathi language by Pradeep Dalvi.[30] It is based on the book May It Please Your Honour written by Gopal Godse. According to Karline McLain, the play "enacts Godse's defense plea" and thus "explores the assassination of Gandhi and the trial of Godse from Godse's point of view.[31]

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 a 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.[32] There were attempts to build a temple for Godse and to celebrate 30 January as a Shaurya Diwas ("Bravery Day").[33] A civil suit was filed in Pune Court asking for a ban on the documentary film.[34]

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".[35] Facing intense backlash, she apologised later.[36]

As Hindutva politics became more widespread in India, there have been attempts to commemorate Godse. The city of Meerut was proposed to be renamed after him but the possibility of such a name change was ruled out by the District Magistrate.[37][38]

In popular culture


  1. ^ Howlett, Charles F. (2015) [2006], "Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand", in Ryan, James Gilbert; Schlup, Leonard C. (eds.), Historical Dictionary of the 1940s, London and New York: Routledge, ISBN 978-0-7656-0440-8, retrieved 30 January 2022, Because of Gandhi's sensitivity to India's Muslim minority, he was blamed for the partition. In January 1948, in New Delhi, he was assassinated by Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a militant Hindu nationalist.
  2. ^ Hardiman 2003, pp. 174–176.
  3. ^ a b Cush, Denise; Robinson, Catherine; York, Michael (2008). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Taylor & Francis. p. 544. ISBN 978-0-7007-1267-0. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 31 August 2013. Quote: "The apotheosis of this contrast is the assassination of Gandhi in 1948 by a militant Nathuram Godse, on the basis of his 'weak' accommodationist approach towards the new state of Pakistan." (p. 544)
  4. ^ Noorani, A.G. (8 February 2013). "The BJP and Nathuram Godse". Frontline. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  5. ^ Nash 1981, p. 69.
  6. ^ Hansen 1999a, p. 249.
  7. ^ McDermott, Rachel Fell; Gordon, Leonard A.; Embree, Ainslie T.; Pritchett, Frances W.; Dalton, Dennis, eds. (2014), "Mahatma Gandhi and Responses", Sources of Indian traditions: Modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, vol. 2 (3rd ed.), New York: Columbia University Press; total pages 1024, pp. 338–452, 439, ISBN 978-0-231-51092-9, retrieved 30 January 2022, Nathuram Godse (1910–1949), though rarely discussed in histories of modern India ranks among its significant figure, if only as the assassin of Gandhi and popularizer of the teachings of his own mentor, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the inventor of 'Hindutva.' As early as 1927, Savarkar had ridiculed the philosopy of non-violence ...
  8. ^ a b c Newton, M. (2014). Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-61069-286-1. Retrieved 30 January 2023.
  9. ^ Markovits 2004, p. 57.
  10. ^ Mallot 2012, pp. 75–76.
  11. ^ a b c d Pronko, N. H.; Bowles, J. W. (2013), Empirical Foundations Of Psychology, Taylor & Francis, p. 343, ISBN 978-1-136-32708-7
  12. ^ a b 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
  13. ^ a b Obituary, May 21 (21 May 2000), "Herbert Reiner Jr., Diplomat, 83; Captured Gandhi's killer in 1948", The Boston Globe{{citation}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Devare, Aparna (3 April 2013). History and the Making of a Modern Hindu Self. Routledge. ISBN 9781136197086. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Early life | Nathuram Godse". Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  18. ^ Jeffrey, Robin (1990). India, Rebellion to Republic: Selected Writings, 1857–1990. Sterling Publishers. p. 105.
  19. ^ The Hindu (18 August 2004). [1] "RSS releases 'proof' of its innocence". Retrieved 26 June 2007
  20. ^ a b IANS, RSS denies Godse was its member, rebuts Cong claim, Zee News, 30 December 2010
  21. ^ Hansen, Thomas Blom (1999). The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton University Press. p. 249. ISBN 1-4008-2305-6.
  22. ^ "EXPOSED: The Hindu Rashtra Dal: Inside India's most violent far right groups". India News Co. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  23. ^ a b Venugopal, Vasudha (8 September 2016). "Nathuram Godse never left RSS, says his family". Economic times. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  24. ^ Jha, Dhirendra K. "The Apostle of Hate". The Caravan. Delhi Press. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  25. ^ Venugopal, Vasudha (8 September 2016). "Nathuram Godse never left RSS, says his family". The Economic Times.
  26. ^ Obituary, May 26 (26 May 2000), "Herbert Reiner Jr.; Captured Gandhi's killer", Los Angeles Times, retrieved 27 January 2017{{citation}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Stratton, Roy Olin (1950), SACO, the Rice Paddy Navy, C. S. Palmer Publishing Company, pp. 40–42
  28. ^ "Controversy over "Hey Ram"". Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2013.
  29. ^ A.G. Noorani. "The BJP and Nathuram Godse". Frontline.
  30. ^ Kurian, Susamma (4 February 2011). "Political drama surrounds play on Nathuram Godse". New Delhi: HT Media. Archived from the original on 24 March 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  31. ^ Karline McLain (11 February 2009). India's Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes. Indiana University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-253-22052-3. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  32. ^ Ghose, Debobrat (21 December 2014). "Hindu Mahasabha head speaks to FP: Godse was a 'martyr' and 'patriot'". Firstpost. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  33. ^ "Hindu Mahasabha announces Godse temple". Deccan Chronicle. 24 December 2014.
  34. ^ PTI (25 December 2014). "Pune court to hear suit against Godse film". The Hindu.
  35. ^ "'Nathuram Godse was a patriot,' says BJP's Pragya Thakur; sparks outrage". 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  36. ^ "Under fire, BJP's Pragya Thakur apologises for calling Godse a 'deshbhakt'". The Indian Express. 16 May 2019. Retrieved 16 May 2019.
  37. ^ Yasir, Sameer (4 February 2020). "Gandhi's Killer Evokes Admiration as Never Before". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  38. ^ Mamtany, Sidhant (24 December 2019). "'Meerut will not become Pandit Nathuram Godse Nagar', DM rules out possibility of name change". Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  39. ^ Long, Roger D. (2004). Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays Presented to Stanley ... - Google Books. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 9788125026419. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  40. ^ Choudhury, Samrat (2 April 2022). "Review: Gandhi's Assassin by Dhirendra K Jha". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 February 2023.


External links