In Rabindranath Tagore's "Where The Mind Is Without Fear," explain 'narrow' domestic walls and how they have broken the world into fragments.

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "narrow domestic walls" refer to Tagore's Bengal, which at the turn of the 20th century was presided over by Lord Curzon, the viceroy-general of India. Lord Curzon was fiercely imperialist in his outlook; he saw India (and by extension, Bengal) as subject to the whims of British paternalistic hegemony. To that end, Curzon ruled India with autocratic ruthlessness; no dissent was brooked or entertained; any demonstration of Bengali nationalism was not tolerated.

During the early 1900s, both Bengali Hindus and Muslims were at the forefront of the Indian nationalist movement. They had lost all patience with the "narrow domestic walls" the English had unequivocally confined Bengal to. Bengalis longed to thrive in a unified country, one in which "the world has not been broken up into fragments." Tagore wrote his poem at the turn of the 20th century. By this time, Lord Curzon was already planning to sow seeds of discord between Bengali Hindus and Muslims; he feared that the two powerful groups were quickly marshaling their forces for a confrontation of sorts. For his part, Lord Curzon privately developed the idea of partition and quietly made plans to bring it to fruition in 1903.

To Lord Curzon's frustration, however, his plans were discovered, and a huge outcry erupted among Bengali Hindus and Muslims. This national furor convinced Lord Curzon that the Bengali people had to be reined in. Partition was resolutely announced in 1905 and brought to fruition on October 16th that same year. East Bengal now came to be dominated by Muslims, making Hindus a minority in that region. The ensuing discord and dissatisfaction from the Hindus were palpable.

Thus, the Partition of 1905 rendered Bengal no longer a united country; it had been "fragmented" within the "narrow domestic walls" that circumscribed the will of the Bengali people.

durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Mind Without Fear by Rabindranath Tagore, Tagore uses a poetic form to make his plea to his people (India) and to his "Father," God. The title of the original poem means "prayer" in Bengali and was translated into English by Tagore himself. There is more of the spirit of independence in his original version. He wants his people ("my country") to believe that freedom is within their grasp but the first obstacle which will prevent "ever widening thought" is fear.

This poem was written at a time when India was part of the British Empire and Tagore recognizes that India only has a chance at independence if its people are inspired and united. In the poem he speaks of that place in his mind where freedom exists and which can become a reality; a place "Where the world has not been broken up into fragments / By narrow domestic walls."

The fragmented world to which he refers is all the divisions and sub-divisions created by western occupation and Imperialism and it also extends to India itself. The "narrow domestic walls" are those barriers which India has even apart from any outside influence and those issues threaten its independence. Even personal issues need to be overcome if Tagore's vision is to be realized.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Mind Without Fear" (from his poetry book Gitanjali) the following lines appears:

Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls.

Therefore, Tagore is saying that the narrow thoughts and words of people are responsible for fragmenting the world.

The way that the world is not fragmented is when a mind can exist without fear, a head is held high, words only come from the "depth[s] of truth," clear reason has not been lost, and the mind is led by God.

It is only when the mind exists with fear and the head has fallen because of it that the world will be broken by the narrowness of "domestic walls."

For Tagore, domestic walls are those which bring about fear, lies are told, clear reason has been lost, and the mind is not led by God.


namratagogoi | Student

The India of Tagore’s dream is a country where her people hold their heads high with their pride in knowledge and strength born of that knowledge where all countrymen must come out of the age-old philosophy of constricted loyalties of caste, creed and religion. Prejudice and superstitious which narrow the mind and divide people should be a thing of the past.It should be a nation where the words of truth come out from the depths of the heart and are spoken out courageously in the open for the world to hear. People should work for perfection in the clear light of reason leaving aside all superstitious rituals, beliefs and narrow-mindedness. 

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