Famous Eulogies: Jawaharlal Nehru on Mohandas K. Gandhi

Some eulogies provide a profoundly meaningful, lasting tribute to the deceased

Gandhi & Nehru
Mohandas K. Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru in Bombay, India, 1946. Photo © Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Ideally, a well-crafted and well-delivered eulogy illuminates and elucidates special qualities about the deceased that enhance the existing emotional and spiritual connections between the person who died and the living, thereby focusing and increasing a listener's appreciation of the life lost. In some cases, the eulogy itself proves a memorable and meaningful embodiment of both the unique nature of the departed and the depth of feeling that endures in the hearts and minds of those who remain.

This article presents the (partial*) text of just such an enduring remembrance speech: the eulogy delivered by Jawaharlal Nehru, prime minister of India, via a nationwide radio broadcast on January 30, 1948, following the assassination of 78-year-old Mohandas K. Gandhi earlier that afternoon. Often called "Mahatma," Gandhi led his country's independence movement from Great Britain through non-violent methods, which finally occurred in 1947. Beloved by millions, the entire nation, and people throughout the world, mourned the murder of "Bapu," which means father.

* Author's note: The text below omits three paragraphs from Prime Minister Nehru's eulogy that informed his radio audience about the details of Gandhi's cremation the next day.

The Eulogy of Mohandas K. Gandhi by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru

January 30, 1948

Friends and Comrades: The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere.

I do not 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. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will never see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him -- and that is a terrible blow, not to me only, but to millions and millions in this country.

And it is a little difficult to soften the blow by any other advice that I or anyone else can give you.

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 be seen in this country, and the world will see it, and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past -- it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.

All this has happened when there was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary or that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.

A madman has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has had an 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.

The first thing to remember now is that none of us dare misbehave because he is angry. We have to behave like strong and determined people: determined to face all the perils that surround us; determined to carry out the mandate that our great teacher and our great leader has given us; remembering always that if, as I believe, his spirit looks upon us and sees us, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behavior or any violence.

So we must not do that. But that does not mean that we should be weak, but rather that we should, in strength and in unity, face all the troubles that are in front of us.

We must hold together, and all our petty troubles and difficulties and conflicts must be ended in the face of this great disaster. A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things of which we have thought too much. 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 India.

And at the appointed time for [Gandhi's] cremation, that is 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, people should go to the river or to the sea and offer prayers there. And while we pray, the greatest prayer that we can offer is to take a pledge to dedicate ourselves to the truth, and to the cause for which this great countryman of ours lived and for which he has died. That is the best prayer that we can offer him and his memory. That is the best prayer we can offer to India and ourselves.

Related Articles of Interest:
VIDEO: A Portion of Prime Minister Nehru's Radio Eulogy
• The Samadhi Marking Gandhi's Cremation Spot
5 Tips for Writing a Successful Eulogy
How to Write a Eulogy or Remembrance Speech