January 30, 1948. The unfortunate day which took away India’s beloved Bapu. On his 69th death anniversary, let’s look at some of the last moments of Mahatma Gandhi.
V Kalyanam, the personal secretary to Mahatma Gandhi had recounted in this 2009 article the fateful day, moment-by-moment, when the Mahatma was shot.
Here are some excerpts from the same:
“Friday, 30 January 1948, dawned like any other day. We never knew what was going to happen in the evening. We got up as usual for our prayers at 3.30. We went about our daily routine with no thought about what the day had in store for us.”
On Sardar Patel’s meeting with Bapu
“Prayer was scheduled to start at 5 pm. The discussion between Gandhiji and Patel continued beyond 5 pm. In view of the importance and seriousness of the talk, none of us dared to disturb them. The girls gestured to Sardar’s daughter Maniben and the talk ended at 5.10 pm. After that, Gandhi went to the toilet and immediately proceeded to the prayer ground, which was nearly 30-40 yards away.”
On his last prayer meeting
“As he emerged, I heard people saying, ‘There comes Gandhiji’. The word went round when all necks craned and eyes stared in his direction. Gandhiji walked briskly as usual with his head bent and his glance glued to the ground, supporting himself on the shoulders of the two grand nieces. I was following closely to his left.”
The moment when Gandhi was shot (V Kalyanam was just behind Gandhi when Naturam Godse fired his shots)
“Gandhiji had walked hardly five or six paces when the assassin Nathuram Godse fired some shots in quick succession from close range resulting in the Mahatma’s instantaneous death. He fell behind bleeding profusely and in that melee, his spectacles and footwear were thrown asunder.”
On how he broke the tragic news to Nehru (V Kalyanam was the one who informed both Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel of Gandhiji’s death)
“The news spread fast. Within minutes, a crowd started gathering outside Birla House and the gate had to be closed to prevent people entering the premises. Patel had already left. I rushed to my room and conveyed the news to Nehru’s office by phone. In those days we had free access to Ministers’ residences. I pushed my way through the crowd, got into a waiting car and sped to Patel’s house, hardly five minutes drive, to inform him of the calamity.
On the events that transpired immediately after his death
“Meantime, his body was lifted and carried to his room. There he lay on the mat with people around him. He looked as if he was asleep. His body was warm for quite some time. Night was passed with distress and tears—not for a few chosen ones, but for the millions all over the world for whom he lived and died.”
“Immediately after Gandhiji’s body was carried away to his room, there was a scramble from the public to possess something belonging to Gandhiji as a souvenir. They started removing a handful of earth from the place where Gandhiji fell to the assassin’s bullet, leaving a big pit there within hours. Arrangements were then made to have the area cordoned and a guard was posted there.”
On Gandhi’s last words
(It is widely believed that Gandhiji invoked God saying, “Hey Ram” as he was assassinated but Kalyanam refutes that)
“There was no possibility at all of his uttering a single syllable although he had often proclaimed that he would like to die with the name of Ram on his lips. This speculative comment by some enterprising, shrewd reporter has gained worldwide currency, the authenticity of which has never been verified.”