Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

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Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit 1965b.jpg
Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit in the Netherlands in 1965
Born (1900-08-18)18 August 1900
Allahabad, North-Western Provinces, British Raj
Died 1 December 1990(1990-12-01) (aged 90)
Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India
Spouse Ranjit Sitaram Pandit
Children Nayantara Sahgal

Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit (18 August 1900 – 1 December 1990) was an Indian diplomat and politician, the sister of Jawaharlal Nehru,[1] the aunt of Indira Gandhi and the grand-aunt of Rajiv Gandhi, each of whom served as Prime Minister of India.

Personal life[edit]

Vijaya Lakshmi's father, Motilal Nehru (1861–1931), a wealthy barrister who belonged to the Kashmiri Pandit community,[2] served twice as President of the Indian National Congress during the Independence Struggle. Her mother, Swaruprani Thussu (1868–1938), who came from a well-known Kashmiri Brahmin family settled in Lahore,[3] was Motilal's second wife, the first having died in child birth. She was the second of three children; Jawaharlal was eleven years her senior (b. 1889), while her younger sister Krishna Hutheesing (b. 1907) became a noted writer and authored several books on their brother

In 1921 she married to Ranjit sitaram pandit (1893-1944), a successful Maharashtrian barrister from Kathiawad and classical scholar who translated Kalhana's epic history Rajatarangini into English from Sanskrit. He was arrested for his support of Indian independence and died in Lucknow prison jail in 1944, leaving behind his wife and their three daughters Chandralekha Mehta, Nayantara Sehgal and Rita Dar. She died in the year 1990. Her daughter Nayantara Sahgal, who later settled in her mother's house in Dehradun, is a well-known novelist.

Gita Sahgal, the writer and journalist on issues of feminism, fundamentalism, and racism, director of prize-winning documentary films, and human rights activist, is her granddaughter.

Political career[edit]

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit in 1938

She was the first Indian woman to hold a cabinet post. In 1937 she was elected to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and was designated minister of local self-government and public health. She held the latter post until 1939 and again from 1946 to 1947. In 1946 she was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the United Provinces.

Following India's freedom from British occupation in 1947 she entered the diplomatic service and became India's ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1947 to 1949, the United States and Mexico from 1949 to 1951, Ireland from 1955 to 1961 (during which time she was also the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom), and Spain from 1958 to 1961. Between 1946 and 1968, she headed the Indian delegation to the United Nations. In 1953, she became the first woman President of the United Nations General Assembly[4] (she was inducted as an honorary member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in 1978 for this accomplishment[5]).

In India, she served as Governor of Maharashtra from 1962 to 1964, after which she was elected to the Indian parliament's lower house, Lok Sabha, from Phulpur, her brother's former constituency from 1964 to 1968. Pandit was a harsh critic of her niece, Indira Gandhi's Prime Minister years specially after Indira had declared the emergency.

Pandit retired from active politics after relations between them soured. On retiring, she moved to Dehradun in the Doon Valley in the Himalayan foothills.[6] She came out of retirement in 1977 to campaign against Indira Gandhi and helped the Janata Dal win the 1977 election.[7] She was reported to have considered running for the presidency, but Neelam Sanjiva Reddy eventually ran and won the election unopposed.[8]

In 1979, she was appointed the Indian representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, after which she retired from public life. Her writings include The Evolution of India (1958) and The Scope of Happiness: A Personal Memoir (1979).


She was the member of Aligarh Muslim University Executive Council.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ President of 62nd session, General Assembly of United Nations. "Vijay Lakshmi Pandit (India)". Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Moraes & 2008 4.
  3. ^ Zakaria, Rafiq A Study of Nehru, Times of India Press, 1960, p. 22
  4. ^ Oxford Dictionaries, online. "Vijay Lakshmi Pandit". Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Alpha Kappa Alpha 1978". Retrieved 14 December 2014. 
  6. ^ Indira Gandhi's Aunt Says She Is 'Profoundly Troubled' at Direction India Is Taking, NY Times, 31 October 1976
  7. ^ Sister Burnishes Nehru's Image, Lest India Forget, NY Times, 22 May 1989
  8. ^ Nehru's Sister Campaigning for Presidency of India, NY Times,
  9. ^ Batori (10/12/2015). "Nayantara Sahgal delivers 6th K P Singh Memorial Lecture". Batori. Retrieved 10/12/2015.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)

Further reading[edit]

Gupta, Indra. India’s 50 Most Illustrious Women. ISBN 81-88086-19-3. 

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Asaf Ali
Indian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Gaganvihari Lallubhai Mehta
Preceded by
Lester B. Pearson
President of the United Nations General Assembly
Succeeded by
Eelco N. van Kleffens
Preceded by
Ambassador of India to the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Preceded by
B. G. Kher
High Commission of India to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
M. C. Chagla
Preceded by
P. Subbarayan
Governor of Maharashtra
Succeeded by
P V Cherian