Where The Mind Is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
– Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore is one of the greatest poets of India. He has composed various poems, stories, essays, novels, dramas and songs. The poem "Where the mind is without fear" was written during the period when India was struggling for freedom from the British rule. It was a part of ‘Gitanjali’, a compilation of all his poems which was published in English in 1912.
In this poem, Rabindranath Tagore expresses his love for his country and prays to the Almighty for its well being. In his prayer, the poet says that his countrymen should not live in fear anymore and must do away with the evils of society. They must live with respect, dignity, honesty and perfection. He prays to God for the freedom of his beloved nation.
The poem has been written in one single sentence. There or no rhymes or a regular rhythm as the poem is written in free verse.
The language is simplified; metaphor and personification has been used in various parts of the poem.
The first line of the poem, a part of which is the title itself, holds a very significant meaning.
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high", ‘fear’ in this line refers to the fear inculcated in the minds of Indians under the British rule. Here the poet is speaking about the miserable life led by people dominated by the British. The poet envisions India as a country where the people’s minds are free from fear and they live a dignified life. He also wants to convey that freedom can be attained only when the mind is fearless and the head is held high with respect and dignity.
In this line "Where knowledge is free" the poet says that gaining independence would also give them the freedom to acquire knowledge and be self reliant which was restricted during the British rule.
"Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls", here the poet speaks about the various evils that crept into the society at that time. The British used the divide and rule policy by creating rivalries among different sections of the society. ‘Narrow domestic walls’ refers to the walls of religion, race, caste and creed created by the people. It may also refer to the various superstitious beliefs that prevailed in the society during that time.
"Where words come out from the depth of truth", implies that the poet envisioned his countrymen to live their lives with honesty and utmost truth.
"Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection", here personification has been used for ‘tireless striving’. The poet says that one’s goal should be to attain perfection i.e. to be an ideal country and all those years of struggle would finally reach its goal of attaining freedom and perfection.
"Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit", the poet uses metaphor for reason and habit. He refers to reason as a ‘clear stream’ that is pure and not contaminated. Here, he is speaking about the thoughts of people which he says should be clear, noble, honest and free from all sorts of corruption. ‘Dreary desert sand of dead habit’ also refers to the evils in the society like the superstitious practices that lack logic and reason.
"Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."
In the last three lines the poet prays to the Almighty for his guidance and support to attain independence. The poet wishes his countrymen to be led forward by their noble thoughts and actions. He refers to freedom as a heavenly place and addresses God as Father, asking him to awaken his people and help them reach that glorious place.
Rabindranath Tagore was saddened by the miserable lives of his countrymen under the British rule and the state of his country in their struggle for independence. In this poem, he shows his love for his country and prays to God to help them attain freedom.
The poet envisions India as a country where the people live without any kind of fear or oppression and hold their head high with pride, dignity and self reliance. He also says that knowledge should be attained without any restriction. There should be no discrimination based on caste, creed, race or religion. India must reach towards its goal of attaining freedom and being an ideal nation. The countrymen must possess noble thoughts and do away with all the superstitious beliefs that defy logic and reason.
The poet prays to God, seeking his support and guidance for his countrymen to have noble thoughts and actions. He asks God to awaken them into this heaven like place of an independent nation.
The poem was composed in the early 1900s when India was struggling for independence from the British rule. It is the poet’s prayer to the Almighty, seeking his guidance and support to help the countrymen attain freedom. The poem is patriotic in nature. The poet expresses his love for his country and speaks about the vision he has for India and its people. Through his poem he gives us an idea about the kind of life people were living during the British rule. The stringent rules, policies, economical and political uncertainty were some of the factors that caused fear in the minds of Indians. They could not live a dignified and respectful life in their own country. Obtaining a proper education was restricted for various classes of the society, causing illiteracy among people and making them believe in superstitions. The British used the ‘divide and rule policy’ against the Indians to make them fight among themselves. There was discrimination based on caste, creed, race and religion.
It was during this struggle for independence, the poet says that he envisions a country where there is no fear in the minds of people and education is attained by all. The people are enlightened and do not create walls of discrimination. He wants his countrymen to be honest and thoughtful. He prays to God, seeking his guidance for attaining independence and awakening his countrymen into that beautiful heaven of freedom.