In thinking about the modern history of India, two names stand out, that of Gandhi and that of Nehru. Most people focus on Mahatma Gandhi, while Indira Gandhi created considerable controversy during her time in political power. Jawaharlal Nehru is the bridging figure between these two and an important influence on India in his own right.
Jawaharlal Nehru spanned the decades during which India sought its independence and gained freedom after World War II. Born in 1889, Nehru actually died in office in May of 1964. He was the predominant political figure in India during the period between 1947 and 1964, shaping the modern Indian state as a federal, democratic, and secular state. As Paul (1995) noted, this is primarily Nehru's legacy, and despite threats since his death, it has not been altered by the strong forces impacting Indian politics.
Clearly the dominant figure in Nehru's life, and his political development, was that of Mahatma Gandhi. Nonetheless, there were other influences and these should be explored.
One of those influences was the British Empire itself. Nehru was actually a member of a family that was among the most Anglicized in all of India. They lived a life that was based on a British model, including education, language, and conduct of social life. The aim of the family was to become more and more civilized on the British model, not to retain, or regain, connection to the indigenous culture. Thus, Nehru, until his contact with Gandhi, was influenced more by Western ideas and movements than by those from his own country and culture. This at least partly explains some of his decision after Indian independence, particularly his support of India's continued membership in the British commonwealth of nations (Nanda, 1996).
The childhood and adolescence of Nehru prepared him for one thing. He was a member of one of the privileged classes of Kashmiri Brahmin, and his early life prepared him for assumin...