Where The Mind Is Without Fear

Central Idea
This poem is a reflection of the poet’s good and ideal nature. He has utmost faith in God. He prays to God with all his heart that He should guide the countrymen to work hard, speak the truth, be forward forward and logical logical in approach. Rabindranath Tagore aspires to see the country and his people to be in peace and prosper. He loves his country a lot and wishes for its welfare.

Summary of the poem

Tagore points the challenges faced by Indians under the British rule. He wants Indians to enjoy freedom not only from foreign rule, bat also from religious, social, moral and intellectual. He prays to the almighty God to let his country awake up. In this poem, he expresses his love for his country and prays to the Almighty for his well-being.

The first line of the poem, part of which is the title itself, has a rather important significance. ‘Fear’ in this line relates to the fear instilled in the minds of Indians under British rule. He is moved by the wretched condition of the people’s lives. He envisions India as a nation where people’s minds are free from terror and live a dignified life. He says that acquiring independence would also allow them the right to learn information and be self-reliant, which was limited under British rule. He talks of the different evils that have entered into society at that time. ‘Narrow Domestic Walls’ applies to the walls of faith, race, caste, people’s creed. He envisioned that his fellow countrymen would live that their lives with honesty and utmost truth. He says that one’s goal should be to attain perfection.

He refers to reason as a “clear stream” that is pure and uncontaminated. People should be simple, noble, trustworthy, and free from all forms of corruption. “Dreary desert sand of dead habit” often applies to the evils of society as superstitious rituals that ignore sense and justification. In the last three lines, the poet prays to the Almighty for help and encouragement in gaining liberation. He refers to freedom as a heavenly place and addresses God as the Lord, asks him to awaken his people and allow them to enter a magnificent place.

Understanding the Text

Answer the following questions.

1. What does the poet pray for in the beginning of the poem?

Ans. The poet prays for the fearless minds of his countrymen.

2. What does the poet mean by where knowledge is free?

Ans. It means that knowledge is not taxed or filtered and facilitated under conditioned circumstances.

3. What fragments is the poet talking about?

Ans. The poet is talking about boundaries created by humans that divide one nation from the other.

4. Where does the poet want the mind of the readers to be led to?

Ans. The poet wants the reader’s mind to be led to an ever-widening thought and action.

5. Explain what does the poet mean by heaven of freedom?

A. The poet refers to freedom of people as the ultimate heaven.

Think and answer

1. Why do you think the poet wrote this poem? According to the poet, what were the state of affairs in the country at the time when the poem was written?

Ans. The poet wrote this poem to empower his countrymen. According to the poet, people needed fearlessness, enlightenment and perfection in actions through clarity in thoughts.

Read and appreciate the poem

1. Critically analyse the poem and comment on the aptness of the figures of speech used here.

Ans. The figures of speech used in the poem are apt because they motivate the reader to not only think but to act towards perfection through enlightenment of thought.

Playing with Words

Q. Fill the blanks by using the given words with appropriate suffixes.

-er -ee -ly -able -ed -ish

1. I would like to put my head down on a (comfort) comfortable pillow.

2. Your anger is (child) childish, Tom. Try and you will conquer it.

3. Never mind! I need a new (cook) cooker to prepare the meal.

4. Don’t be so nasty! (friend) friendly behaviour must be our ideal.

5. I suppose you won’t help me! You (hard) hardly ever work.

6. Can you please show me how to work? I will be your (train) trainee.

7. You don’t realise that he could be (injure) injured.

Q. Read the sentences carefully and underline the word being personified.

1. The storm roared as the warriors fought.

2. The gardener lovingly added manure to make the flowers happy.

3. Time crawled as the hunter waited patiently for the tiger.

4. Ram chopped many trees as his chainsaw sang its deadly song.

5. When Rita reached the forest, each blossom called out to her.

6. After the hunter killed the man-eater, happiness danced in the village.

7. While Sita looked around for any danger, the dark forest screamed at her.

8. When Saloni broke the cookie jar, guilt began to poke her.

Q. Choose the correct alternative.
(a) What is meant by “mind is without fear and head is held high ?
(1) to be fearless and self respecting
(2) to be proud of one’s high position
(3) to stand straight and be carefree
(4) All of the above

Ans. (1) to be fearless and self respecting
(b) What are we striving for ?
(1) Freedom
(2) Love
(3) Perfection
(4) All of the above

Ans. (3) Perfection

(c) Why has the word ‘tireless’ been used to describe ‘striving’?
(1) because it is a continuous process
(2) because it is a slow process
(3) because it is a late process
(4) None of the above
Ans. (1) because it is a continuous process

(d) The ‘domestic walls’ are usually associated with safety, comfort and love. Which phrase evolves these feelings.
(1) small houses which make us feel cramped.
(2) ideas which are petty and narrow-minded.
(3) a house divided into rooms by walls.
(4) None of the above

Ans. (2) ideas which are petty and narrow-minded.

Extra Questions

(a) What does the poet pray to the Almighty for ?
Ans. : The poet prays to the Almighty for a ‘heaven of freedom’ for his country where people would be fearless, knowledgeable, truthful, dignified, hard-working, logical and broad minded.

(b) What are ‘reason’ and ‘dead habit’ compared to ?
Ans. : In the poem”Where the mind is without fear the poet compares ‘reason’ to a clear stream and ‘dead habit’ to harmful old customs and rituals.

(c) What does the poet wish for?

Ans. : The poet wished his country to get freedom from the hands of the British rulers. The external rulers were here to fulfil their own cause. So they didn’t care about the sufferings and poor governance his countrymen received. He was concerned about the progress of the nation, and he knew that only a free country can be progressive. So in short, it is the poet’s patriotic nature that made him think and wish about the freedom of the country.

(d) What does the phrase “tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection” mean?

Ans. : In this line, the poet emphasizes the need for developing a work culture which is necessary for the progress of a nation. Tagore says that we should strive tirelessly to achieve perfection in the longer run. To make it easy, we should work hard and not get tired by working. Our aim should be to attain perfection in whatever we do.

Complete the sentence with words/phrases from the poem.

(a) Mind should be………… (b) Worlds should come out of ……….

(c) Thought and action should be …………. (d) World is broken by into …………….

Ans. : (a) without fear, (b) the depth of truth, (c) ever Widening (d) fragments.

Poetic Devices

Determine the figure of speech used in the following phrases.

(a) Head is held high

(b) Broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

(c) Come out from the depth of truth.

(d) Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection.

Ans. : (a) Alliteration, (b) Hyperbole, (c) Metaphor, (d) Personification.

Personal Response

(a) The poet has expressed his ideas of ideal freedom in the poet. Do those ideas hold any truth in today’s modern world?

Ans. Yes, the poet’s concept of true freedom holds true even today. His ideas are relevant enough in the modern world. The simple reason is that though science and technology have progressed a lot, we have got the political freedom and people’s financial position is much better today, the prejudicial and the curses of ignorance, disunity and divisions among people in the form of caste, class, religion, colour and so on are still present in the society. The feeling of ideal freedom is yet to be felt and the progress of the nation is often halted due to these social evils.

(b) Can you suggest an alternative name/title for the poem?

Ans. : Another good title for the poem can be “Heaven of freedom”.

Answer the following questions in your own words.

(a) How is the world broken into fragments?

Ans. The narrow domestic walls which caused barriers of caste, creed, religion, language, communalism and gender discrimination made the world broken into fragments.

(b) Explain what the ‘tireless striving’ should be for.

Ans. The poet wants his countrymen to strive without getting tired to achieve perfection leaving behind prejudices and old traditions. This will help to achieve our goals and gain success.

(c) ‘Where come out from the depth of truth’. Explain in your own words.

Ans. The words spoken by his countrymen should be done very earnestly and honestly. The words that have been spoken from the very core of the heart and are truthfully and sincerely spoken. If the people are not good at heart, how can they lead a happy and peaceful life? So even if political freedom is allowed to them, they cannot enjoy it, fully. We can achieve true success, respect, fearlessness and real freedom. Tagore wants a nation where people are truthful. They should not be superficial and words should come out from the depth of their hearts.

(d) Who is ‘Thee’ in the poem? What does the poet appeal to ‘Thee’ to do?

Ans. : ‘Thee’ refers to the almighty God. The poet appeals to the almighty God that his country should win such freedom in which the people live fearlessly and their head is held high with pride. He also wants freedom from illogical and impractical things, superstitions, blind faith, narrow – mindedness, caste, class, gender differences etc.

(e) What qualities does the poet wish to inculcate in his countrymen?

Ans. : The poet wants his countrymen to be fearless, broadminded and confident to pursue their excellence. He also wants them to be laborious and put in endless efforts to achieve the best in their work. He wants his countrymen to forget the differences made on caste, creed, religion, gender, outdated practices etc. These are the qualities that the poet wants to inculcate in his countrymen.

(a) Is the poem a prayer for India alone?

Ans. : No, the poem is not a prayer for India alone. The poet wishes that the world should not be fragmented by prejudice based on caste, creed, colour, religion and other baseless superstitions. He wants the people of the country to be free from fears, where knowledge would be free to all individuals and people of all religions to be united.

(b) What should the words we speak reflect?

Ans. : The words are spoken should reflect earnestness and honesty. The words should emerge from the very core of the heart and must be truthfully and sincerely spoken. The words, the head is held high, is to have self-respect, dignity and pride.

(c) What should people keep on widening? How can it be done?

Ans. : People should keep on widening their thoughts and actions, they should be not be narrow in their mentality. People should have a broad mind and a broad heart. They should enrich their thinking day by day. The poet wants that their minds are led forward to ever-widening thoughts and actions by the almighty.

(d) From what darkness of night should our nation awaken?

Ans. : The poet wishes that the countrymen become fearless, gain knowledge and self-dignity, become truthful, hardworking, broad-minded and logical in order to raise or awaken the whole country. After all, to make a country awake, we need to awaken the people. He wants the countrymen to be awakened and come out from the darkness of ignorance.

(e) What attributes to Rabindranath Tagore does the poem (prayer) reflect?

Ans. : The poem is written in the form of a prayer, an invocation to the almighty. It is written in free verse. In the concluding lines of the poem, the poet addresses the ‘God’ as ‘Father’. He wants him to awaken his country to such heights where freedom would be realized at its best in the heaven of freedom. In turn, he is actually praying that God awakens his countrymen so that they come out from
the darkness of ignorance, prejudices, disunity and all other evils.

For more notes click Where The Mind is Without Fear.


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