Summary and Explanation
Where The Mind Is Without Fear poem is written by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Originally it was composed in 1900 in Bangla with the ‘Prarthana’ title which he later translated into English and included in the English version of ‘Gitanjali’ as its 35th poem, which was published in the year 1912. ( ‘Gitanjali’ is a collection of poems by this great polymath. Its English translation went on to win the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1913). This poem has found a place in our history many times. In 1917, Gurudev read it at the Indian National Congress session in Kolkata. In 2010, then-US President Barack Obama quoted lines from this poem during his address to the Indian Parliament.
The poem is about the India of his dreams. When Gurudev composed this poem India was under the cruel clutches of British rule and was enslaved by several social evils of corruption, conservatism, illiteracy, casteism, regionalism, etc. Gurudev felt deeply for his motherland and his countrymen. He wanted them to be awakened and realize the value of living in free air with a free mind without fear.
In this poem Gurudev urges the people of India to free themselves from the shackles of slavery and fear; and dreams of a free country where people live with dignity and freedom. This poem is written in form of a prayer to God that invokes deep patriotic feelings. It explains the India of Gurudev’s dream, a free India.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Gurudev is urging God to make his countrymen realize the importance of freedom and honor. He is dreaming about a country where people live without fear, and with dignity. Where nobody is enslaved or oppressed and enjoys the basic human need of feeling worthy. Here, the freedom he is praying for is not only from the then-existing British rule but also from the social prejudices of caste, religion, color, creed, regionalism, etc. He is also praying for the liberation of the minds of his fellow countrymen from the fear of oppression, subjugation, and personal biases so that they walk on the path of freedom, growth, and prosperity.
Where the knowledge is free
Gurudev requests God for a country where education is accessible to all and all sorts of education are available for all irrespective of any social, religious, or financial differences. He wishes for a country where everyone is educated, awakened, and enlightened.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Gurudev earnestly appeals to God that the people of his country should not remain divided due to their narrow outlooks. They should unshackle the chains of physical and mental suppression. They should free themselves from all the limitations and be united to fight against enslavement. Here Gurudev is advocating the idea of world unity where all cultures coexist with mutual respect. This is very similar to the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means all living beings on the earth are a single family. Gurudev wishes for a world that functions beyond the narrow-sightedness of divisions and boundaries.
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Gurudev imagines a land where the intentions and actions of the people are honest, the words and thoughts of the people are not corrupted and they come out of the depth of truth. He wants his countrymen to be industrious and persistent in their efforts which will lead them to reach perfection in the long run. And all the individual efforts put together will collectively help our country to reach the pinnacle of success.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Gurudev urges people to choose reason and logic over conservative thinking and illogical practices. He says people must be open-minded and welcoming towards new ideas and thoughts so that they can have an unprejudiced approach to the challenges and changes in life paving the way for the foundation of a free, strong, and new India.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that t heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Gurudev is requesting God to guide his countrymen into that heaven of freedom where there would be no shackles in the minds and no restrictions on thoughts which then get converted into worthy actions leading to an awakened nation at large which is heading towards a happier future. He is praying to the Almighty to make India the country of his dreams where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, a heaven of freedom in its true sense.
This thought-provoking and remarkably inspiring poem is infused with a spiritual kind of patriotism. It shows Gurudev’s firm faith in God and his deep love for his people and motherland. He prays to God to grant true freedom to his country, freedom that is based on truth and logic, without any fear and prejudice.