Where the mind is without fear

a prayer by Rabindranath Tagore


 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.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was an author, a poet, a lyricist, a painter. Composer of India's national anthem, Tagore published several collections of songs and poems, and established Shantiniketan - an institution blending Indian and Western methods of education where he inaugurated the Visva Bharati University, an All India Centre for culture. He was awarded the Nobel prize in Literature in 1913 for his collection of poems Gitanjali.

Born in Calcutta on May 7, 1861, Rabindranath was the youngest of fourteen children. His father, Debendranath Tagore, was a Sanskrit scholar and a leading member of the Brahmo Samaj. Rabindranath's early education was imparted at home. He started his writing career early : his first poem when he was barely seven; his first book of poems was published when he was seventeen.

Giving up early on formal education in England, after just seventeen months, Rabindranath spent most of his time in writing poems, plays, short stories and novels. In 1883, he got married to Mrinalini Devi. From 1891 to 1900, he published a series of works, many based on the traditional village society of contemporary Bengal. In 1891, Rabindranath went to Shileida and Sayadpur to manage his father's estates. Living among the rural poor, he became acutely sensitive to their hardships. Many of the Tagore's themes centre around village life, introduction of 'western' elements, and their natural surroundings.

Tagore was keenly aware of India's socio-political condition under British rule. He supported the Swadeshi movement and had been deeply influenced by the religious renaissance of 19th century India. Coming out strongly against orthodox ritualism he wrote,

"Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
 Whom dost than worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple
      with doors all shut?
 Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!" 
 (Vs 11, Gitanjali)

Tragically, between 1902 and 1907, Tagore lost his wife, son and daughter. But out of his pain emerged some of his most tender work, including "Gitanjali", published in 1910. This collection of verses, translated into English by the poet himself with a foreword by W.B. Yeats, won Tagore the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1915, Tagore was knighted by the British Empire.

But in 1919, the horror of the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre stunned Tagore and he renounced his title. Tagore remained a true patriot, supporting the national movement and writing the lyrics of the "Jana Gana Mana", which later became India's national anthem. Sadly, he passed away in 1941, six years before India became free.

Tagore's works are classics, renowned for then lyrical beauty and spiritual poignancy. He is remembered for his literary genius. In Tagore's own words, "The world speaks to me in colours, my soul answers in music".

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