On January 30, 1948, Nathuram Vinayak Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in the compound of Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), a large mansion in central New Delhi. Fondly called as ‘Bapu’, Mahatma Gandhi was 78 when he was shot three bullets into the chest and abdomen at point-blank range. Moments later, he succumbed to his injuries. 


Nathuram Vinayak Godse was a Chitpavan Brahmin from Maharashtra’s Pune. He was a Hindu nationalist and a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Godse was also a member of the Hindu Mahasabha.

Godse was born into a Maharashtrian Chitpavan Brahmin family. His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was a postal employee, while his mother was Lakshmi Godse. 


Nathuram Godse never denied killing Bapu, rather he made long statements explaining his motives. He said he did not hate Mahatma Gandhi, but performed his ‘moral duty’ by killing him. 

Godse gave the below reasons for killing Bapu – 

  • Godse felt that the massacre and suffering caused during and due to the partition could have been avoided if Gandhi and the Indian government had acted to stop the killing of the minorities (Hindus and Sikhs) in West and East Pakistan. Godse said Gandhi did not protest against the atrocities. 
  • Godse claimed the Indian government reversed its policy decision after Gandhi sat on a fast to pressurise the government to release the final payment to Pakistan that it had previously frozen because of the war in Kashmir. Godse said Gandhi had to be removed from the political stage, so that India can begin looking after its own interests as a nation.
  • According to Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s stance on religious tolerance and non-violence had already caused India to cede Pakistan to Muslims, along with uprooting millions of homes. Godse believed that if not stopped, Gandhi would bring destruction and more massacres to Hindus.

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According to witnesses, Mahatma Gandhi had climbed to a raised lawn behind Birla House at nearly 5 pm on January 30, 1948. 

It was the spot where Bapu had been conducting multi-faith prayer meetings every evening.

As Gandhi began to walk toward the dais, Godse stepped out from the crowd flanking Gandhi’s path and fired bullets at him. 

Gandhi fell to the ground and was carried back to his room in Birla House.

Some time later, a representative announced Mahatma Gandhi’s death. 

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Godse was captured by the crowd and was handed over to the police. The Gandhi murder trial opened in May 1948 at Delhi’s historic Red Fort, with Godse – the main defendant, and his collaborator Narayan Apte and six more deemed co-defendants.

Godse and Apte were sentenced to death on November 8, 1949. 

Pleas for commutation by Gandhi’s two sons – Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi were turned down by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel and the Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari.

Godse and Apte were hanged in the Ambala jail on November 15, 1949.

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By editor

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