"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.

This poem was most likely composed in 1900; it appeared in the volume Naivedya in the poem titled "Parthona" (July 1901, Bengali 1308 Bangabda). The English translation was composed around 1911, when Tagore was translating some of his work into English after a request from William Rothenstein. It appeared as poem 35 in the English Gitanjali, published by the Indian Society, London, in 1912. In 1917, Tagore read out the English version (then titled 'Indian Prayer') at the Indian National Congress session in Calcutta.

As in most of Tagore's translations for the English Gitanjali, almost every line of the English rendering has been considerably simplified. Line 6 in the English omits a reference to manliness (পৌরুষ, pouruSh), and the stern ending of the original, where the father is being enjoined to strike {the sleeping} nation without mercy," has been softened.

This poem has inspired Indians with its image of a free-thinking, undivided, dynamic nation, and it often appears in textbooks. "Chitto Jetha Bhoyshunyo" is also popular among liberals in Bangladesh.

Tagore had a very deep religious cast of mind and profound humanism. He was both a patriot and an internationalist. In the poem, ‘Where The Mind Is Without Fear’, Tagore sketches a moving picture of the nation he would like India to be - where everyone within the fold of the brotherhood is free to hold up one’s head high and one’s voice to be heard without having any tension of fear of oppression or forced compulsion; where the knowledge is not restricted by narrow ideas and loyalties.

The India of Tagore’s dream is a country where her people hold their heads high with their pride in knowledge and strength born of that knowledge. Where all countrymen must come out the aged - old world of people who have lost the vision of one humanity by the narrow loyalties of caste, creed and religion. Prejudice and superstitions which narrow the mind and divide people would be a thing of the past. Where the words of truth come out from the depths of the heart and are spoken out courageously in the open for the world to hear. People would work for perfections in the clear light of reason leaving aside all superstitious ritual.

Where everyone is free to toil and work hard for anything they desire either for their own or for the good of the nation. Everyone is encouraged to strive tirelessly till they attain full satisfaction in reaching their goals and perfection. Where blind superstitious habits of thought and action have not put out the light of reason. Where people’s mind should not dwell in the mistakes of the past nor be possessed by it. On the other hand they should be led by the power of reasoning to be focused on the future by applying scientific thought and action. Tagore’s only prayer to the Supreme Ultimate is leading the nation to such an ideal state of heaven. It is only by the universality of outlook and an abiding passion for the realization of great human ideals that India will achieve her true freedom. This way alone she will realize her destiny.

The poem combines patriotic zeal with fervent spritual longing. The urge for political freedom is enhanced and tranformed into a moral-intellectual freedom of the mind. The poem is also remarkable for its simplicity of diction and images. Figures of speech used by the poet are anaphora (the word ‘where’ is repeated in almost every line except the last one); alliteration (‘head held high’, ‘dreary desert sand of dead habit’); apostrophe (‘father’ referring to God); metaphor (‘clear stream of reason’) and personification ("Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection").

Last modified: Wednesday, 18 April 2018, 1:25 PM