Where The Mind Is Without Fear. Rabindranath Tagore Poem. Reintroduced By P.S.Remesh Chandran.
By PSRemeshChandra, 16th Sep 2014. Short URL http://nut.bz/39ayzbno/ Posted in Wikinut;Writing;Essays
Tagore was one of the most musical-minded poets of the 19th century who lived to see the glories and advancement of the 20th century also. India’s supreme educational visionary, he started Saanthi Nikethan in Calcutta which grew into the Viswa Bhaarathi World University. Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Where The Mind Is Without Fear is the 35th song in Gitanjali, his Nobel collection of poems, Gitanjali meaning Dedication of Flowers.
Tagore grew up in an unbelievably intoxicating atmosphere of music and dance and literature. Who will believe he would ever write poems with no music at all?
Tagore was born in a house where veena, tamburu, harmonium, mridamgam, tabala and flute resounded day and night from every room, and that great house in Calcutta had so many rooms too. It was a large family, every member being artists, painters, singers, poets, musicians or dancers. Father, mother, uncles, aunts, in-laws, brothers, sisters, nieces- everyone immersed in art or music or dance. He grew up in an unbelievably intoxicating atmosphere of music and dance and literature. Who will believe he would ever write poems with no music at all? He himself wrote and tuned more than Five Hundred songs in his Bengali language; they gained wide popularity in Bengal and constituted that famous branch of Bengali Music which later came to be known as Rabindra Sangeetham. So, we have a real musician with us, who also cared to write songs, plays and short stories, in Bengali as well as in English, all excelling one another.
In exquisiteness of the music in his poems, Tagore is comparable only to Omar Khayyam, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Slide From Video Where The Mind Is Without Fear
Even though the tunes of almost all his Bengali songs are known, as he himself had tuned them, the tunes of songs which he wrote in English still remain a mystery. That they also had exhilarating tunes hidden in them was certain but he never cared to reveal them to public. It seems this expert and visionary in the field of education, literature, music and art, wished to keep them as a challenge to the whole English-speaking world, for them to rediscover in their time and leisure. He hardened the challenge by locking his lines too. The standard locking method he used was positioning the start and end of lines where they should not be. In general appearance, his English poems would look like prose-poems, generally known in English literature as free-verse. But once we shed academic pride and approach these poems as enjoyers, we have the option to try and try and try sincerely to sing them in their tunes and in some unexpected moment, they will click and unlock themselves and the original tunes without which these poems could not have been written will be revealed to us. In exquisiteness of the music contained in his poems, Tagore is comparable only to Omar Khayyam, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The fact was the world came nowhere near what he expected the world to do in this intellectual challenge of his, with the result that Tagore still remains widely mistaken as a free-verse poet in English.
The most paradoxical thing about recognizing Tagore as a writer is, his Nobel Prize Collection Gitanjali of 1913 was Tagore in his least brilliance.
Educated in England, firm-rooted in traditional Indian style of teaching, and open to the whole world’s literary influence, we see him in counsel with Gandhi, agreeing and disagreeing, conferring with Einstein in closed rooms and they never revealing the subject of their discussions, touching musical chords in Sarijini Naidu, the Nightingale of India, switching Romaine Rolland to oriental themes, moving Kahlil Gibran to read and enjoy him and causing Haldane to accept Indian citizenship. What shall we call this person with wide acceptance, reputation and influence? The National Poet of India is too narrow a title for Rabindranath Tagore. His poems made people awakened and alert. His plays made people roused and kinetic. His stories made people weep, and occasionally, laugh. The treasure-trove of Bengali and English literature he produced remains unparalleled and unique in this world. Even his love-songs were classic creations of harmony with nature, mostly in Bengali. He was in actual love with nature! The most paradoxical thing about recognizing Tagore as a writer is, his Nobel Prize Collection Gitanjali of 1913 was Tagore in his least brilliance.
He instituted Santhi Nikethan as a school where classes were conducted in the lap of nature, amid bird-cries and murmuring streams, under shades of trees, in mango gardens.
A school is an assembly of teachers and a class is an assembly of learners, with no walls and buildings. When Tagore conceived an educational institution, he conceived it without walls and buildings. He instituted his Santhi Nikethan, the Abode of Peace, as a school where classes were conducted in the lap of nature, in the midst of bird-cries and murmuring of streams, under shades of trees, in mango gardens. We have noted his openness to the world, his firm-rootedness in Indian teaching styles and his dislike for bondage, slavery and intellectual darkness. To celebrate these three important views, he created three of his most musical and famous poems, and sure, locked their lines too, intellectually challenging the world in general, and the academic community in particular, asking can they ever unlock and sing these lines. Who will deny he was playful also? Anyway, his stories and plays are full of little children. He could easily have revealed their original tunes but he chose not to and to leave it to time. They still remain the most challenging and unyielding in musification and musical recitation, eternally mistaken as free-verse poems. They are, Leave This Chanting, Govinda’s Disciple and Where The Mind Is Without Fear, respectively.
Slide From Video Leave This Chanting
Without knowing the cosmopolitan world Tagore lived in and the broad world perspective he cultivated and held, we cannot understand the meaning, depth and relevance of his poem Where The Mind Is Without Fear. Only when we are able and intellectually equipped enough to enjoy the liquidity and clearness of the waters that fed into the pool of his imagination can we understand and enjoy fully this trio of poems and laugh with heartiness at the skill with which Tagore pointed fingers at the whole world’s ignorance, fear and exploitation, like Shelley did in his Song To The Men Of England, without actually pointing fingers at anyone. It was the time of industrial revolution and exploitation and economic slavery throughout the world, in Russian, British and German Empires. The world was on the brink of October Revolution. Temperatures were high everywhere in the world. What state of affairs are described in this poem existed in British India and in the other inhuman empires as well. The Russian Empire collapsed within three years in 1917 and the British and German around 1947. It was only natural and logical that all these three empires collapsed within 25 years of his envisioning and a little breeze, sunshine and freshness seeped into the world just as Tagore prayed in this song.
The poem’s dual purpose of unveiling the position to which Britain brought a country and being a scale of measure to gauge if India has progressed any, after half a century of independence.
When we pray, if we pray for riches, it is clear we are very poor. If we pray for health, we are then certainly sick. And if we pray for freedom, we are sure in shackles, bondage and hands and feet fettered. Written in the peak hours of the cruelty and brutality of the British administration in India, around 1910, Where The Mind Is Without Fear is Tagore’s Utopia, in a sense, in which he presents his dream world of liberation, freedom and upliftment for his country and his world. The distance between his dream and the real state of affairs in his country is far, and he skillfully brings to world's attention the state into which his great nation has been made to fall by the British administration. He does this without offending anyone, and as was expected from an England-educated noble genius. As an aftermath of the Second World War and due to severity of the Indian Independence Movement, the British were however forced to leave India in 1947. But six years earlier, Tagore had died without seeing his free India. In present times, this poem serves the dual purpose of unveiling the horrible downtrodden position to which Britain brought his country and its heritage, and being a scale of measure to gauge if India has progressed any, after half a century of independence.
In countries condemned to live in darkness and gloom, people will hope for a ray of light in the far distant horizon, expressed through their poets and visionaries like Tagore and Shelley.
Think about a country anywhere in this world where people live in constant fear and terror of evil and horrible things that can happen to them from authorities- they can be brutally trodden over and crushed down to death by soldiers’ horses, cut down by police bayonets, hunted down by government spies, betrayed by neighbours who work in collision with authorities, imprisoned for saying things publicly and executed without trials for speaking against government. Do not wonder where such countries were or are existing. Look how people lived in Asian, African and American colonies under the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish conquerors in the past- suppressed, oppressed and cruelly beaten, brothers, sisters, wives and children raped and killed before them, flogged to death or executed publicly in gallows as a warning to all. Look how people lived even till recently in totalitarian and militaristic states like Russia, China and Germany, constantly fearing when GRU, MSS or Gestapo will knock on doors at the dead of night. So, fear has not gone from this world, nor will it go. In such miserable conditions of animalistic living, whose heads will not be lowered due to helplessness and shame? In such hopeless countries which are not illuminated by the light of knowledge but condemned to live in perpetual darkness and gloom, their people will hope for a ray of light, of knowledge, in the far distant horizon, expressed through their poets and visionaries like Tagore and Shelley. Knowledge is something to be pursued in peace and calmness. One should be free, unencumbered by jealous and spiteful authorities watching like hawks, to access knowledge. Do not anyone interpret Tagore’s lines that he wished for free knowledge for his people.
Why cannot we travel throughout ancient civilization routes like Huen Tsang, Fa Hien, Marco Polo, Barbosa, Nicolo Conti, Sulaiman, Megasthenes and many others did through ages, without Pass Ports?
Slide From Video Govinda's Disciple
If we travel through great land masses of the world- Africa, Asia, America, when we pass each country and reach the border, we will be asked Pass Ports and Vista. What system is this? Cannot we travel throughout ancient civilization routes like Huen Tsang, Fa Hien, Marco Polo, Pliny, Buchanan, Barbosa, Nicolo Conti, Sulaiman, Megasthenes and many others did, through ages? Not anymore. Even though it is a single world filled with people who all look alike, narrow nationalist feelings have caused it to be broken up into fragments by raising domestic walls around each little hostile piece. Which intelligent and sensible man will not grieve at the prospect of loosing all worlds beyond, for a small confined one of his own? This genuine grief of the open-minded, civilized and cultured man brutally suppressed down and walled in by worthless administrators in tyrannical states is such unearthly, godly, universal and eternal that world has begun to respond, in some land masses, initiated by the wise and thoughtful in those parts of the world. In Europe, if you have a single Pass Port, you can travel through all signatory countries now, spending the same Euro wherever you go. Tagore wrote this poem in a time when Bertrand Russell, H.G.Wells, Arnold Toynbee, George Orwell and many other visionaries were thinking about oneness of the world.
We have learned about Euphrates and Tigress giving birth to Mesopotamian civilization, Iraq serving as a beacon of light, hope and enlightenment to the world and Baghdad shining as a seat of learning.
Mankind has a destination, a purpose, in life. But in totalitarian, militaristic, colonial and undemocratic states, they cannot pursue this purpose but can only do what the state says to do. In such countries, day after day, decade after decade, people are compelled and forced to do what they do not like but what authorities very much like. Life, for people, becomes a burden of dead habits and weights there. How much tirelessly and hard people strive in their lives to achieve man’s missions, with their arms stretching towards perfection in life, their lives will only become purposeless and futile in the end, in such countries with only persecution and suffocation and no freedom. Every spoken word will be an untruth, clothed to disguise personal motives as state’s wishes, to keep slaves in perpetual subjection and sovereigns in unquestioned power. Gradually the clear stream of logic and reason looses its way and dries up, and vanishes into the dreary desert sand of dead habits and purposelessness in those countries. We have learned about Euphrates and Tigress giving birth to Mesopotamian civilization, Iraq serving as a beacon of light, hope and enlightenment to the world and Baghdad shining as a seat of learning. Last we heard from that great city was, Saddam Hussain was storing and using chemical warfare weapons, slaying his own people in tens of thousands and finally succumbing to world’s will power. So, Tagore was right in his poem: lack of logic and reason kills not only the people of a country but its soul too. It can happen anywhere, anytime, once dictators ascend the throne.
We cannot touch and feel a state, unless through its people. If we already have touched a nation and felt it good, know that its people are good, well nurtured and benevolent.
Who has more freedom and responsibility for thought and action- the citizens or the state? It is an age-old question, discussed well and having a well-cut answer. A state cannot think unless through its people. And it cannot act, unless through its people. People are real, and the state is amorphous, something not precipitated. We cannot touch and feel a state, unless through its people. If we already have touched a nation and felt it good, know that its people are good, well nurtured and benevolent. State is a conviction of its people, something they envision in their absolute freedom, something they achieve through the collective thought and action of their unrestrained minds, led forward by the godly inborn purity of their self awareness and self respect. Putrid rulers cannot force people to build their nation: they can only force and people will obey, but they will not believe. To become a heaven of a state, it has to be conceived that way by its people, goaded by goodwill for the whole world, because, once it has built its ideal nation, human mind will not stay in that cocoon; it will wish to pass to worlds beyond.
You can view, listen to and download the most challenging Tagore songs in Bloom Books Channel, absolutely free.
Slide Bloom Books Channel
Many people in the world, in all continents, have tuned, orchestrated and video-produced many of Tagore’s songs in English, as they are very popular among students and teachers and included in university studies. Some recordings came very close to original tunes, some nowhere near them and most not at all with any tune. In India, his home country where he is celebrated as National Poet, no attempts were made in the academic world or by authorities to orchestrate his English songs. Even Prasar Bharathi Corporation, All India Radio and Door Darshan with their vast resources and enormous funds, did not even try during the past fifty years. Try these three most challenging of his songs from Bloom Books Channel in You Tube. They are of course crude recordings made with pagan tools, created by poor people, but they do have a tune and they are the only sincere attempts ever. Remember, they are just prototypes for the world’s children, released into public domain, for any one to build upon. Someday, fine recordings of these songs will come, from those little children who download them now.
1. Where The Mind Is Without Fear
2. Leave This Chanting
3. Govinda’s Disciple
Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
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Appreciations, Articles, English Literature, Essays, Indianwriters, P S Remesh Chandran, Rabindranath Tagore, Reintroductions, Reviews, Sahyadri Books Bloom Books Trivandrum, Stories, Tagore Songs, Tagore Videos, Where The Mind Is Without Fear
Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of 'Swan, The Intelligent Picture Book'.
Unmarried and single. Born and brought up in Nanniyode, a little village in the Sahya Mountain Valley in Kerala.
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