Rabindranath Tagore’s “Where The Mind is Without Fear” is originally a Bengali poem that was published in the poetry volume called ‘Naibedya’ (1901). Later Tagore translated the original poem “Chitto jetha bhoyshunyo” into English and it appeared as poem 35 in the poetry collection Gitanjali (Song Offerings) in 1912.
During the time of the composition of the poem, India was fettered by the shackles of colonialism and India was trying hard to break the long chain of oppression and slavery. The poem “Where The Mind is Without Fear” is a prayer to the Almighty where the poet prays for the freedom of his nation and expresses what freedom should be like.
Where The Mind is Without Fear- Summary
Tagore envisions his ideal Nation as a place where people are free from fear, the head is held high with dignity and knowledge is free.
As it is mentioned above that during that time India was under the tyranny of British rule and people were living in fear. Tagore suggests that to be free implies having no fear of slavery or fear of domination or living a life without any fears. When people can think freely only then they can live a free life.
In the second line, Tagore dreams of India where knowledge is free. This line could mean that he dreams of India where knowledge is accessible to everyone. Anyone irrespective of caste, class can have the freedom to acquire knowledge which was not possible during the time of colonization.
Moreover, the colonizers never wanted Indians to be educated. But Tagore, as a benevolent thinker, wants education to reach out to every corner of the society. Tagore knows very well that education could lead India to its highest potential and therefore he advocates for free knowledge.
Tagore envisions that the free nation should not be divided by domestic walls, and people are honest and words come out of the heart and free from any filter or contamination.
The domestic walls could refer to the different walls based on region, caste, religion, or walls of discrimination. The poet knows that any kind of division would result in disharmony within ourselves and is not a good sign of strong healthy since it hinders progress. To remain strong people must leave narrow thoughts and welcome the board concept like unity in diversity.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. The British divided India by implementing the divide and rule policy before leaving India because they knew if India stood together it would be invincible.
Rabindranath Tagore wishes for a free nation where people are industrious and work hard for the betterment of the nation. Such action would make India a perfect nation and self-dependent, a vision that is now known as Atmnirbhar Bharat.
Tagore also wishes his countrymen reason don’t get lost in “the dreary desert sand of dead habit”. The phrase “dreary desert sand of dead habit” refers to the practices of superstition, illogical societal beliefs, etc. For the betterment of the nation, such evils in society need to be eradicated and society needs to accept reason over superstitious beliefs, blind faiths.
In the last three lines, Tagore prays to God and asks for his guidance in attaining freedom. The poet addresses God to awake his countrymen from the slumber of colonialism, inspires them to have noble thoughts, and does actions and finally leads them to the heaven of freedom.
Here freedom is referred to as heaven because heaven generally implies freedom and addresses God as Father, asking him to awaken his countrymen from the shackle of slavery and liberate them from the long history of oppression.
The poem is a simple poem, written in free verse. It is an eleven-line poem and the entire poem consists of one single sentence. No rhyming scheme is found in the poem. However, poetic devices such as metaphor have been used. For instance, in the line “‘dreary desert sand of dead habit”, alliteration is used in the phrase by using the ‘d’ sound.
The language of the poem is simplified and the simplicity of the poem lies in the selection of words that comes out of the poet’s heart.