Indira Gandhi

"The Iron Lady of India"


Indira Gandhi was born on November 19, 1917 in Allahabad, India. Her family were all political icons, deeply invested in the future of the country, and as a result she would be swept along in the wave of independence movements. At the age of twelve she joined the movement by organizing hundreds of Indian children to run errands for adults who were working or taking part in the independence movement for India. Her education, while at a high level, came in bits and pieces. She attended school in India and Switzerland, but more often than not she studied at home. She never had a normal childhood, and would often be alone as a child, with only her grandfather to keep her company. In 1934 she studied Manipuri, a traditional dance form of India, and art at the university at Santiniketan. She took her entrance exam for Oxford, but did not get in at first. However, she was later admitted and left her quick stay at Badmiton School in Bristol. Her mother finally died in 1936 from a long battle against tuberculosis. At a young age of 18 she was left with just her father, and continued on with college. Throughout the 30's she would become a member of a radical pro-independence group. On March 1942 Indira Nehru married Feroze Gandhi at age 23. This was not a traditional marriage, but a love marriage that many people disproved of because Feroze was a Parsi and she was a Gujarati. Her own father was not thrilled about their marriage, but the young Indira was adamant, and so they had a Hindu wedding. The two continued on independence movements and were both in the Indian National Congress. They were put in jail when they took part in the Quit India Movement in 1942. After achieving independence, Feroze went on to run for election and became a member of Parliament from Raebareli Uttar Pradesh in 1952. The couple had two children, Rajiv and Sanjay Gandhi, but Feroze and Indira had differences that led to separation. Soon after his re-election, Feroze suffered from a heart attack, which lead to a reconciliation, and the relationship continued until Feroze died in September 1960. Her father died 4 years later on May 27, 1964 in New Delhi, living to be 75 years old. She herself would only live up to 66 because she was assassinated by two of her bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, on October 31, 1984.
A young Indira Gandhi sitting next to Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi as he goes through one of his famous fasts.


As a child Indira was active in politics, and was the creator of the Vanara Sena movement for young girls and boys. She once smuggled out in her schoolbag an important document from her father's house under police observation which outlined plans for a major revolutionary initiative in the early 1930's.


Indira Gandhi was a complex individual who fought for what she believed in, even when the people around her disagreed. She was the third prime minister of India, and the first woman prime minister who would in total serve for 3 terms or 15 years from 1966-77 and 1980-84. In 1938, 9 years before India got independence, she joined the National Congress Party, and her father became the first prime minister of India in 1947. In 1959 she was appointed the position of the president of the Congress party too. However, Mrs. Gandhi was not formally voted into her first term of office by the people, but because Shastri passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack, she was voted within to finish the term after much deliberation. Many people thought it would be a good opportunity to influence and manipulated a weak, womanly prime minister. However, the men that had doubted her were to be proved wrong, as she showed that she possessed extraordinary political skills and quick judgment. She was greatly respected after India won the war of 1971 against Pakistan. Her push in nuclear devices earned her love from the middle class Indians, and was increased by the explosion of a nuclear device. Mrs. Gandhi helped develop India's space program and launch the first Indian onto the Moon, along with many other scientific pushes. Slowly over time however, more Indians became frustrated at the poor state of economy, rampant corruption throughout the country, and poor living conditions of the people. She would her political fame would go up and down throughout the years to her death, and she would almost be put in prison. She would declare a state emergency, and lose severely in an election. Through her 18 years of serving India, Indira is known as a very powerful woman who was able to accomplish many things, and take the first steps to solving large issues about woman, education, and economy.


Indira Gandhi met First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in New Delhi, on March 1962.
"You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist." -Indira Gandhi

Indira Gandhi meeting and shaking hands with Pakistan's first president Benizir Bhutto.


Towards the end of Indira Gandhi's career, she became less and less popular to the Sikhs, and to parts of India. At the ending of her reign she was governing India at a very difficult time. The Sikhs of India and Pakistan, mainly Punjab, were fighting. These people were a minority religion and people, and terrorism was inflected upon the country soon. However, in June of 1984 she gave the infamous orders that would ultimately be the reason for her death. In her attempt to crush the movement, she ordered an assault by the Indian troops to enter the most holiest of places for Sikhism, the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple was entered and searched, and they found terrorists. "Operation Bluestar" continued in June, and led to the death of the leader of the group Jarnail Singh Bindranwale. However, he wasn't the only one that died; because Indira met an untimely death. She was on her way to meet a reporter, when she was walking through her garden. Her two bodyguards named Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, on October 31, 1984. The irony was, during her terms she lead the Green Revolution. In her effort to address the starvation and food shortages that affected the extremely poor Sikh farmers of the Punjab region, she decided to increase crop diversification and food exports as a way out of the problem. The tragedy was shocking to the world, but her legacy lives on.

Works Cited/Bibliography

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"Gandhi, Indira." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Sczcepanski, Kallie. "Biography of Indira Gandhi." Asian History., 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. <>.

ArgarPreswal, Priya. "Complete Biography of Indira Gandhi." Complete Biography of Indira Gandhi. Preserve Articles, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2013. <>.

Ulicny, Maria. "Indira Gandhi." Indira Gandhi. MMV Prof. Women's History Site, 16 Nov. 2004. Web. 27 Apr. 2013. <>.

"Indira Gandhi Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <>.