Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian lawyer, politician and the first Prime Minister of independent India. He was one of the principal leaders of the Indian independence movement and was often referred to with the epithet of ‘Panditji’.


Early Life of Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru was born on 14th November 1889 to Motilal Nehru and Swaroop Rani in a Kashmiri Pandit family in Allahabad in the North Western Province of British India. He was educated in India and Britain. 

During his study in England, he attended the independent boy’s school, in Cambridge named Harrow and Trinity College. Jawaharlal Nehru was also known as Joe Nehru in Britain. 

On 7th February, 1916, Jawaharlal Nehru married Kamala Nehru. Kamala Nehru gave birth to their only child, Indira Priyadarshini in the first year of their marriage.

Nehru's Entry in Politics

Jawaharlal Nehru was a charismatic leader and he became a leader of the left wing of the Congress party when he was fairly young. He rose to become the Congress party president under the mentorship of Mahatma Gandhi. 

He advocated democratic socialism during his lifetime and a strong public sector as the means by which economic development could be pursued by poorer nations. Jawaharlal Nehru raised the flag of independent India on 15th August 1947 in New Delhi. 

This was the day India got her independence from the British rule. Jawaharlal Nehru has formulated many socialist policies for the development of India. His policies are applicable even to this present day economy. 

His appreciation of virtues of parliamentary democracy, secularism and liberalism in addition to his concerns for the poor and underprivileged has guided him in formulating the socialist policies. 

During his association with Mahatma Gandhi, many people said that Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were estranged due to conflicts. However, Mahatma Gandhi clarified that there were no estrangements and Jawaharlal Nehru will be the only successor to him.

Jawaharlal Nehru in India freedom Movement with GandhiJawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues have been in and out of jail during their struggle for Indian independence. 

He was released when the British Cabinet Mission arrived to propose plans for transfer of power. 

When he was elected, Jawaharlal Nehru was impaired by the outbreaks of communal violence and political disorder as well as by the opposition of the Muslim League headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

 They were demanding a separate Muslim state of Pakistan. After Nehru failed to form alliance, he reluctantly supported the partition of India. 

He took office as the Prime Minister of India on 15th August and delivered his inaugural address titled ‘A Tryst with Destiny’. 

He was elected by the Indian national Congress as the first Prime Minister. However, this period was marked by intense communal violence which swept across the Punjab region, Delhi, Bengal and some other parts of the country. 

During that time, Jawaharlal Nehru conducted joint tours with different Pakistan leaders to encourage peace and to calm angry and disillusioned refugees.

Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad

Jawaharlal Nehru also worked with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other Muslim leaders to safeguard and encourage Muslim people to remain in India. The violence which occurred during that time deeply affected Jawaharlal Nehru, who called for a ceasefire and intervention of the United Nations to stop the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947.

He also hesitated in supporting the annexation of Hyderabad state fearing communal conflicts. Jaswant Singh, who is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), upheld Jawaharlal Nehru as the major cause of the partition of India. 

According to him, it was Nehru and his highly centralized policies for an independent India in 1947 that Jinnah opposed in favour of a decentralized India and the split and personal animosity caused the partition.

During the later years after Indian independence, Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru often accompanied him.  Indira Gandhi managed his personal affairs and also looked after him. 

Indira Gandhi later moved to Nehru’s official residence after Congress win in 1952 and virtually became his chief of staff. Later on, both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, Nehru’s grandson, served as Prime Ministers of India.

Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister

Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the introduction of a modified Indian version of state planning and control over the economy. He created the Planning Commission of India and drew the first Five-Year Plan in the year 1951. He was re-elected as the Prime Minister when the Congress party won India’s first general election in 1951 and 1952.  

This charted the government’s investment in industries and agriculture. Subsequently by increasing business and income taxes, Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged a mixed economy where the government would manage strategic industries such as mining, electricity and heavy industries thus serving public interest and keeping a check on private enterprise. 

Nehru also pursued land redistribution and launched programmes to build irrigation canals, dams and urged the use of fertilizers to increase agricultural production. 

Jawaharlal Nehru also pioneered a series of community development programs which were aimed at spreading diverse cottage industries and increasing efficiency into rural India. He also launched programs to harness and develop nuclear energy of India.

However, during Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure as a Prime Minister, India faced a lot of serious food shortage issues despite the progress and increase in agricultural production. 

Jawaharlal Nehru’s industrial policies, like the Industrial Policy Resolution of 1956 encouraged the growth of diverse manufacturing heavy industries. However, the Indian economy still suffered problems like poverty and unemployment in spite of the progress.

Nehru and Reforms

Jawaharlal Nehru also favored education for India’s children and youth and he believed that it was necessary for India’s future progress. His government saw the establishment of many institutions of higher learning including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the National Institute of technology. 

Nehru also incorporated a commitment in his five year plan to guarantee free and compulsory primary education to all Indian children. He also oversaw the creation of the mass village enrollment programmes and the construction of thousands of schools for the fulfillment of this goal. 

Jawaharlal Nehru too launched the provision of meals in schools and adult educational centers for adult education. Under him, the Indian Parliament enacted many changes in Hindu law to criminalize the caste discrimination and to increase the legal rights and social freedom of women. 

Jawaharlal Nehru also favored secularism and religious harmony thus increasing the representation of minorities in government. Jawaharlal Nehru led the newly independent India from the years 1947 to 1964 during the initial years of freedom from the British rule. His stand in the international scenario was of pacifism and he was a strong supporter of the UN. 

He pioneered the policy of non alignment and also founded the Non-Alignment Movement of nations by professing neutrality between the rival blocs of the nations led by the US and the USSR. He also favored cordial relations between all nations. 

His policy of pacifism and appeasement with respect to China also came unraveled when border disputed led to the Sino-Indian War in 1962. Nehru was hailed by many people for working to defuse global tensions and the threat of nuclear weapons. 

He also signed the Indus Water treaty with Pakistani ruler Ayub Khan to resolve the long standing disputes about sharing the resources of the major rivers of the Punjab region. 

Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned the developing of nuclear weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in the year 1948. He also called Dr. Homi. J. Bhabha, a nuclear physicist and entrusted him the authority to all nuclear related affairs and programs.

Jawaharlal Nehru led the Congress party to a major victory in the 1957 elections, though his government was facing rising problem and criticism. 


Although the Pancha Sila was the basis of the 1954 Sino-Indian border treaty, in the later years, Nehru’s foreign policy suffered through increasing Chinese assertiveness over border disputes and Nehru’s decision to grant political asylum to the 14th Dalai Lama. 

After years of failed negotiations, Jawaharlal Nehru authorized the Indian Army to liberate Goa in the year 1961 from Portuguese occupation and formally he annexed it to India. Though this increased his popularity, he was criticized for the use of military force. In the 1962 elections, Nehru again led the Congress party to victory.

From the year 1959, in a process that accelerated in 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru adopted the ‘forward policy’ of setting up of military outposts in the disputed areas of the Sino-Indian border, including in 43 outposts in the territory not previously controlled by India. 

China then attacked some of the outposts which led to the Sino-Indian War. This war exposed the weakness of the Indian military and Jawaharlal Nehru was widely criticized for his government’s insufficient attention to defense. In response to this, Nehru sacked the defense minister K. K. Menon and sought military aid.

Jawaharlal Nehru also was a prolific writer in English and wrote a number of books such as the ‘Glimpses of World History’ and ‘The Discovery of India’ and his autobiography ‘Towards Freedom’.

Death of Jawaharlal Nehru

Jawaharlal Nehru’s health began to deteriorate steadily during the time in 1959 and after his return from Kashmir in May 1964, he suffered a stroke and later a heart attack. 

He was ‘taken in ill in the early hours’ on 27th May 1964 and he died in the early afternoon on the same day. 

Nehru was cremated according to Hindu rights in Shantivana on the banks of the Yamuna River. His cremation and funeral procession was witnessed by thousands of mourners who flocked the streets of Delhi and the cremation ground.

Chacha Nehru

History of Jawaharlal NehruAs India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru played an important role in shaping modern India’s government and political culture along with imparting a sound foreign policy. 

He is also highly regarded for developing the educational system. During his lifetime, Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed an iconic status and was widely acclaimed for his statesmanship, idealism and development policies. 

His birthday, 14th November, is celebrated as Children’s Day (Baal Divas) in recognition of his lifelong passion and work for the education, welfare, and development of children and young people. Children across India fondly remember and call him ‘Chacha Nehru’. 

He is a popular symbol of the Congress party. Jawaharlal Nehru’s personal preference for the ‘Sherwani’ ensured that it continues to be considered formal wear in North India and he also lends his name to a cap and the Nehru jacket named in his honor due to his preference for that style.

There are also numerous public institutions and memorials across India dedicated to his memory. The Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi is among the prestigious universities in India. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port near the city of Mumbai is a modern port and dock designed in order to handle a huge cargo and traffic. 

Nehru’s residence in Delhi is preserved as the Teen Murti House and has Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. The Nehru Planetariums are also there in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Allahabad and Pune. 

The complex also houses the offices of the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund’ which was established in the year 1964, and the chairman during that time was  Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India. 

The foundation also gives away the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fellowship’ which was established in the year 1968. The Nehru family homes in Anand Bhavan and Swaraj Bhavan are also preserved to commemorate Nehru and his family’s legacy.

Portrayal of Nehru and Films and Literature

There are many documentaries which portray Jawaharlal Nehru’s life. He also has been portrayed in fictional films. The most powerful portrayal performance of Nehru is by Roshan Seth, who played him three times in the Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film ‘Gandhi’; in Shyam Benegal’s 1988 television series ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ based on Nehru’s ‘the Discovery of India’ and in the 2007 film titled ‘The Last Days of the Raj’. Jawaharlal Nehru was also portrayed by Banjamin Gilani in Ketan Mehta’s film ‘Sardar’. 

He was also stayed by Ebrahim Alkazi in a Girish Karnad’s historical play ‘Tuglaq’ which was an allegory about the Nehruvian era. This play was staged with the National School of Drama Repertory in Purana Qila, Delhi in the 1970s and later in London in 1982, during the Festival of India.

Awards and Recognition

Jawaharlal Nehru was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor in the year 1955.

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