Since Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom on January 30, 1948 this day was declared as the Martyrs’ Day in India. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated a little before the sunset when he was going to attend his evening prayers on January 30, 1948. On Martyrs' Day, the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the three service Chiefs gather at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and lay wreaths on the Samadhi decorated with multi-coloured flowers. The armed forces personnel blow the bugles sounding the Last Post. The inter-services contingent reverse arms as a mark of respect to the martyrs.
A two-minutes silence in memory of the Father of the Nation and other martyrs is observed throughout India at 11 am. At Rajghat, in front of the Samadhi of Gandhiji, all-religion prayers are held and bhajans dear to him sung. January 30, 1948 is the saddest and most poignant day in India's history. For on this day, 78-year old Mahatma Gandhi was killed in Birla House (now known as Gandhi Smriti) when he was going to join his evening prayers.
This was the biggest tragedy that India faced after we achieved our hard-won Independence under the leadership of Gandhiji. While Gandhiji was walking towards the prayer ground, a young man suddenly fired three shots from close range at Gandhiji. The Mahatma fell on the ground, his white khadi dress soaked in blood. A man of prayer, Gandhiji remembered God and said, "Hey Ram : Hey Ram." It was 5.17 pm.
Men, women and children, who came to join the prayers, were shocked and wept aloud to see the Father of the Nation being killed in front of their eyes. A bleeding Gandhiji was rushed to the room where he was staying. The news of his assassination spread like a fire. Despite one of the coldest nights in India’s capital, thousands of people crowded in front of Birla House and wanted to have Gandhiji’s darshan. Inside the room there were tragic scenes. Pandit Nehru, our first Prime Minister, wept like a child. Sardar Patel was seen consoling him. Doctors rushed into the room. They examined Gandhiji. They remained dumb. Slowly, they signified that the Mahatma was dead.
While Gandhiji's body lie inside the the room, outside there was a huge waiting and weeping crowd. The people were shouting in choked voice "Allow us to have last darshan of our beloved Bapuji". The entire area rent with repeated cries of "Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai".
In order to allow the people to have darshan of the Mahatma, his body was placed on the high table in the adjacent room. A powerful lamp was lit so that the people could have an easy darshan. As the doors of the room were opened, there was a huge rush. Everybody wanted to touch Gandhiji’s feet. In bitter cold, Gandhiji was given a bath at 1 am. The blood-soaked clothes were then removed from his body. Two bullets had pierced through his body. The third bullet remained in his body. The wounds were still bleeding.
After the bath, Gandhiji was dressed in khaddar loin cloth presented to him on his last birthday. He was garlanded with a hank of hand-spun thread. He was decorated with flowers and garlands. Gandhiji’s favourite Ram Dhun and bhajans were recited. Gandhiji’s watch then struck 3.30 a.m. Everyday, he was used to hold his morning prayers at that time. All-religion prayers were held that day as well. His grand daughters, Ava and Manu, sang a Hindi bhajan befitting the occasion.
Preparations for Gandhiji’s last journey to Rajghat were being made. A mass of humanity had crowded in Delhi on that occasion. The cremation at Rajghat was attended by world dignitaries. Gandhiji, alongwith millions of men and women who sacrified for India's cause, became a martyr.