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Indira Gandhi, then prime minister, embraces her daughter-in-law Sonia in March, 1977.Neal Ulevich/The Associated Press

Jawaharlal Nehru

India's founding father was jailed repeatedly during its liberation struggle, but triumphed as the independent country's first prime minister. He was the son of Motilal Nehru, a prominent lawyer and political activist who joined Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi in the early years of the independence movement.

Indira Gandhi (Daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru)Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru's only child, was born into a political family and thrust into power upon the death of her father's successor as prime minister. She went on to become one of India's most popular – and feared – politicians. She was accused of violating election laws and she declared an "emergency" in the 1970s, during which she imprisoned foes and ruled by decree. She was assassinated in 1984. (She took the last name Gandhi after marrying Feroze Gandhi, also a politician. Mahatma Gandhi is not part of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.)

Rajiv Gandhi (Son of Indira, husband of Sonia)

Educated in Britain, Rajiv Gandhi – one of Indira's two sons – returned to the subcontinent, where he worked as a pilot for Indian Airlines. After his more political brother, Sanjay Gandhi, was killed in a plane crash, Rajiv entered politics. A few years later, his mother was assassinated and Rajiv was sworn in as prime minister. Rajiv was also later assassinated in 1991.

Sonia Gandhi (Wife of Rajiv, mother of Rahul and Priyanka)

One of the most prominent and unlikely members of the dynasty, Sonia Gandhi is an Italian by birth who met Rajiv Gandhi at Cambridge University, and married him in 1968. After Rajiv's assassination in 1991, Ms. Gandhi was offered top leadership roles but refused – relenting only in 1998, when she became Congress party president. After her Italian heritage became a controversy – many critics still derisively call her "The Italian" – she later chose not to head the Congress government in 2004, and invited economist Manmohan Singh to serve as prime minister in her stead.

Rahul Gandhi (Son of Sonia)

Rahul Gandhi and his sister, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, are the young generation of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, but Rahul is the more prominent: He is currently leading the Congress party in India's 2014 general election, which the party is widely expected to lose. Despite his proud lineage and position as flag bearer of India's establishment centre-left party, he has been widely criticized in India and abroad as an uninspiring, untested and reluctant leader.