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
Introduction …. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the author of this poem, lived during a time when India was in chains, Europe was in the throes of another world war after recovering from the ruins of the First World War, and the totalitarian ideology of Communism was sweeping across Europe and Asia. India, too, was striving to break free of the colonial yoke. Momentous changes, upheavals, revolutions and mayhem of the most horrendous proportions were ripping the world apart. Nations were divided, neighbours fought with one another with savage brutality, and oppression of dissent was considered a fair practice of statecraft.
Tagore had a very restless mind. He was pained to see the excesses of nationalism, the cruel subjugation of people by masters from distant lands, and the un-ending miseries at home. He pined for freedom, liberation of the mind, and the banishment of fear. The philosopher in him rebelled to breathe free, walk free and think free. This short poem was penned by the poet extraordinaire to give vent to the torment of his soul seething with unease.
Meaning … The poet beseeches God to take his motherland to the ‘heaven of freedom’, where the mind is not fettered, culture is not constrained by moth-balled ideologies, pursuit of knowledge is not constrained, where people think themselves as members of the entire humankind, and there is no one to persecute a citizen for the flimsiest of reasons. With no fear of state-sponsored coercion, no narrow nationalism, and complete freedom of expression, the creative instincts of the human mind can blossom to its full capacity. In such environment, striving of perfection in every field of human endeavour becomes a universal passion.
The poet thinks of such utopian world, and wants God to lead India forward to this ‘perfect’ world.