Modern Asian Studies

Research Article

Performing Peace: Gandhi's assassination as a critical moment in the consolidation of the Nehruvian state


a1 Department of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0PX, UK Email:


The consolidation of the Nehruvian state's sovereignty after Independence is traced here as a contingent event which was tightly linked to the impact of Gandhi's assassination and the mourning rituals which followed his death in 1948. The Congress was able to use the funeral, mortuary rituals and distribution of Gandhi's ashes to assert the power of the state and to stake the Congress Party's right to sovereignty. This intersected with localized and religious expressions of grief. Gandhi's death therefore acted as a bridge, spatially and temporally linking the distant state with the Indian people and underscoring transitions to Independence during the process of postcolonial transition from 1947–1950.