Group of pictures showing symbols of India    

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In this lesson
-Learn about a remarkable head of state
-Explore a slice of contemporary history
-Learn about a different form of government
-Learn about a female leader and explore gender roles in leadership

Video Resources

Extension activities
-Explore the parliamentary form of government
- What qualifies a person to be a leader?
- When do you think your country might elect a female head of state?

Indira Gandhi

Keywords: Indira Gandhi, women in history and politics, gender roles, leadership,autocratic, dynasty, caste, nonalignment,communalism, parliament, populist, totalitarian, impeachment, Parsee (Parsi), Sikh, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Congress Party

The objectives of this lesson plan are as follows:Cover of Time magazine - Indira Gandhi, November 12, 1984

  • To provide biographical information about Mrs Gandhi who was Prime Minister of India.
  • To offer links to resources through which students and teachers can explore a slice of contemporary history.
  • Offer talking and thinking prompts that will encourage further independent inquiry.

Cover of Time magazine - Indira Gandhi, November 12, 1984

When she died in 1984, Mrs. Gandhi had been Prime Minister of India for just over 16 of the 37 years since Independence.  This lesson aims to introduce students to this remarkable person, offer a glimpse of the turbulent political history of those years and offer thinking prompts that will hopefully lead them and their teachers to explore these themes further.

Her terms in office were from January 1966 to March 1977 and from January 1980 to October 1984.




Find Your Way Around the Article


autocratic, dynasty, caste, nonalignment, quixotic, chronic, communalism, parliament, populist, totalitarian, serenity, impeachment, hindu, Parsee (Parsi), Sikh


Afghanistan, Allahabad, Amritsar, Andhra Pradesh, Bangladesh, Britain, China, India, Karnataka, Kerala, Moscow, New Delhi, Pakistan, Punjab, Sikkim, Soviet Union, United States, Uttar Pradesh

Scavenger Hunt:  In the article find the following:

India’s first prime Minister

A “dynasty” family name

An election slogan

A place of worship

Two publications – a magazine and a newspaper

Two Indian states

Two sons

Three religions

Where in the world?

Can you find them on a map?    Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Britain, China, India, Pakistan, Soviet Union, United States



Questions From the Article

  • When was Mrs. Gandhi in office?
  • Can you trace her path to this position of power?
  • What legislation and policies is she associated with during her early and then her later years as Prime Minister of India?  How would you characterize these policies?
  • What do we learn of her as a person from the article and what can we infer about her as a parent?
  • The writer of the article says “she was born to politics and power” and later a friend of Mrs. Gandhi is quoted as saying “She knew that politics was something she could not escape”: Do you think that someone whose parents are in politics is likely to become a politician?  If your parent were an elected official, do you think that you would be drawn into a political career?  Why and why not?  Do you know of other countries where elected leaders have been from generations of the same family?
  • Make a list of questions about things you would like to know more about Mrs Gandhi or India during those years.  Share this list with your class.

(Family Tree of the Nehru-Gandhi family and a related story from the 2009 elections )



A Birthday Letter

A writing activity

Indira Gandhi’s father, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister wrote many letters to his daughter as she was growing up.  He was often in jail and this was how he communicated with her.  A recent compilation of these letters is in Two Alone, Two Together: Letters Between Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru 1940-1964 (Hardcover) by Sonia Gandhi (Editor).

A lesson plan from the National Institute of Open Schooling reproduces a letter Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Indira on her 13th birthday.  Click here to see this lesson plan and letter.



Women in History and Politics       

Consider the following: 

  • Are you aware of elected women leaders in other countries – who are currently in office or have recently been so?
  • Why do you think there are relatively fewer female than male elected heads of government around the world? 
  • How and when might this change?  When might your country elect a female head of state?

Some links to follow:




Updated March 2011