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Where The Mind is Without Fear -- Rabindranath Tagore

Guest poem sent in by Sameer Siruguri
(Poem #177) 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.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
If you have been schooled in India, you couldn't possibly have not read this in
some English textbook or the other. I have always been captivated by the
simplicity and economy of this poem; how, through exquisite imagery, Tagore
expresses such profound thoughts. If you find that it reads more like a prayer
chant from a religious book, you won't be far from the truth: the original
Bengali poem which Tagore himself translated as above, was titled
"Prayer". Though this poem was chosen because today is the 52nd anniversary of
India's independence, it is really a plea, not for the political independence
that was being sought early this century when it was written, but for freedom
from parochialness and dogma, a prayer that is perhaps as relevant today as it
was then. Maybe human nature itself is such that it always turns
once-refreshing paradigms into stale tradition, forcing a Tagore in every
generation to thus complain.

This poem is from Gitanjali, lit. Offering of Songs, published in English in


 Tagore, Rabindranath (1861-1941), Indian poet, philosopher, and Nobel
 laureate, was born in Calcutta, into a wealthy family. He began to write
 poetry as a child; his first book appeared when he was 17 years old. After a
 brief stay in England (1878) to study law, he returned to India, where he
 rapidly became the most important and popular author of the colonial era,
 writing poetry, short stories, novels, and plays.  He composed several hundred
 popular songs and in 1929 also began painting.

 Tagore wrote primarily in Bengali, but translated many of his works into
 English himself. He was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in literature, and in
 1915 he was knighted by the British king George V.  Tagore renounced his
 knighthood in 1919 following the Amritsar massacre of 400 Indian demonstrators
 by British troops. Some of his more famous works are 'Balaka', 'Sonar Tari',
 'Chitali', and 'Gitanjali'.  His selected poems 'Sanchaita', and selected
 short stories 'Galpagucha' were published in India 1966. Two of his songs are
 national anthem of India and Bangladesh.

 In 1901 Rabindranath Tagore founded a school at Santiniketan, West Bengal,
 India, which later developed into an international institution called Visva
 Bharati, where he tried to revive the spirit of education of ancient India,
 the famed "Gurukula" system, when students spent their childhood at their
 teacher's house and studied there.

More resources:

1. The poem in Bengali: [broken link]

2. A more detailed bio: [broken link]
                        [broken link]

75 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

mathewsj said...

a really touching poem.

ENAKSHI said...

A poem which has really changed my outlook to life .

Deepali Sachdeva Kanjilal said...

This Poem is my inspiration from childhood


a_phatak59 said...

When will the world realise and see the walls put up by ambitious politicians
and the false leaders of all the religions.When will Tagore and the likes of him
ever be understood.

sana said...

tagore's first poem was written when he was just seven, inspired by an older nephew. And he has come a long way since then..........this poem is a constant reminder to not let the blood of the worlds freedom fighters go to waste.

Tariq Ali Khan said...

 Don't have words, except wondering could we be able to experience what Rabindranath Tagore experienced when he penned this poem and then read it to himself. It leaves me nostalgic.

Ankur Bhandari said...

Each time I read Tagore's poem, it brings tears of happiness into my eyes to see my country finally coming of age - out of the 'dreary desert of dead habit'...Also Gandhi's 'Sabko sammati de bhagwan' - resonate - as we charge as leaders into the knowledge economy of the new millenium !! Ankur

Pankaj V said...

a wonderful poem... it provides enlightment to its readers..

susmitbose said...

Can I please get the translation of the entire poem. Thank you
Susmit Bose
Postal Address: D3/D DDA Flats Munirka
New Delhi 110 067 India

david santosuosso said...

When I first heard this wonderful poem by Tagore...It took my breath away.
I had to commit it to memory because the plea is as relevant today in the
world and in my country. Thank you.
Boston, Massachusetts

Seshadri Kannan said...

I am 78 years old. As a student in the National High School Nagapattinam (then Hegapatam) in 1942-43, this Tagore's poem "Where the mind is without fear" was one of the poems in the text. I remember that poem and cite it very often when I see people fear to face the truth. In today it is very much important and even the RTI (Right to Information) act cannot match the Tagores' poem. People are still timid and afraid of speaking truth, because after the hard-earned freedom, we have succumbed to beuracratic governments and ruthless political plunderers, who are worse than the foreign invaders.
Dr. Seshadri Kannan
38/1-B, Devi Apts
South Mada St
Chennai 600041

Sushil Prasad said...

I had a Kannadiga collegue in Bangalore, who informed me that this poem
in kannada translation was taught to him in school (during sixties) in

I have read the poem literally 100s of times, but each time it excites
me as before. The poem is not just profound but also timeless.

India may have achieved a modicum of political freedom (from British
imperialists) but what about achieving freedom from poverty,
discrimination (racial, sexual, religious), deprivation, inequality of


Sushil Prasad

SR Chander said...

I wonder if we shouldn't broadcast this from all channels as part of the
euphoric celebrations of the 60th year of Independence -- and leave the
question open in everyone's mind: Is India there yet?

mukesh_prasad said...

wish the world would be like this one day

Swasti S Prasad

Anonymous said...


Minaz Porbanderwala said...

I had sent this poem to president obama on winning the election.
yes i learnt this poem in school and has and will always remain in my heart for ever.

sanjiv jha said...

wish my country would be like this.

Anonymous said...

Tagore is the poet I love most. His poems are always meaningful.

Ratnadeep said...

Tagore's simplicity and the way he depicts emotion in his work fills the heart with pathos..

Anonymous said...

I luuuuuurve RBT's poems....his wrtiting skills fascinate me...I think girls like me age 14 should read such good poems more often...WE LOVE RBT XXX

Anonymous said...

this is one of the best poems ..i'v ever come across.. its deep thoughtful message, delights the heart of a soul...Wish the world would revive n have the same spirit.. as our Guru Rabindranath Tagore wanted it to be...
..Todays generation (most of the youngsters) aren't seems to be interested at these side of our juvenile literature.. but however one must not forget that these are the roots of our Great Nation INDIA... Sadhana

Anonymous said...

wow!what a thought.

dde said...

A poem which urges any man to be committed with truth, fearlessness, revolution, and his love towards his nation

my god within said...

Yeah a fear free mind gives the strength to take right decisions.

Anonymous said...


sanjana said...

a great poem by Rabindranath Tagore. i have read this poem in my English text book.

Anonymous said...

this is a good stry

Anonymous said...

So simple, yet so vivid, brings out a sense of nostalgia and promise for the future at the same time..

Anonymous said...

lovely and thoughtful

i love to read again and again

micheal srm university

patt said...

Recently, Smt Mamata Banerjee cited the first line of the poem in her TV interview when she won the election.It reminds many Indians about the fact that this single poem should be their guiding light into real Freedom.

CJ said...

I beg to differ with the comment "If you have been schooled in India, you couldn't possibly have not read this in some English textbook...".

I was schooled in India, & I read poem by Tagore as a part of my 10th grade ICSE in the mid 80s. The name of the text book was "Panorama: A collection of Poems". This peom of Tagore was a part of our syllabus - there were other poems in the book by Longfellow, Shelley, Eliot etc.

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roy said...

just tooo good and awesome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

swapna said...

i went to a Marathi medium school and my teachers used to get me to recite this every 15th August celebration. :)
Good memories.

Showkatt said...

the poem is without head and tail

Showkatt said...

the poem is without head and tail

Anonymous said...

I have read this poem in my English Textbook and I have asked for the summary of that poem but you have provided an explanation of Rabindranath Tagore.

Jeanny Dominic said...

the lines are really amazing and have great depth of feelings hidden.......really inspiring n brings up the emotions from inner soul........

Anonymous said...

thank you for uploading this poem by Tagore. Learned it in school and reading it always inspires patriotism and raises hopes for my country! Stirs great depth of feeling.

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Anonymous said...

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