What does Tagore imply by “narrow domestic walls” in his poem “Where the mind is without fear?”

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India was still a colony under the British Empire when Tagore wrote this poem. It can be read as a list of prayers expressing the Nobel laureate’s vision of free India.

Among many other wishes, he prays to the Almighty to awaken his countrymen in a world that “has not...

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India was still a colony under the British Empire when Tagore wrote this poem. It can be read as a list of prayers expressing the Nobel laureate’s vision of free India.

Among many other wishes, he prays to the Almighty to awaken his countrymen in a world that “has not been broken up into fragments / By narrow domestic walls.”

“Domestic walls” is a complex symbol that can be interpreted in a number of ways. India has always accommodated diverse cultures, languages and kingdoms in its vast territory. It’s a land of diversities. The poet doesn't want these differences to divide his countrymen as separate individuals, or into clustered communities or groups.

The "domestic walls" could stand for the prominent regional differences caused primarily because of the varying topographical features.

It might represent walls created by different religions. Besides the major religions of Hinduism and Islam, other religions including Buddhism, Jainism and Christianity had had huge followers in India. The poet feared the possibility of religious fanatics antagonizing one community against the others.

Besides, “domestic walls” may also refer to the barriers caused by the hundreds of regional languages spoken across the country. Not only this, the culture and tradition, too, varied with distance.

Though, as an Indian, Tagore was proud of his country for being so diverse, accommodative and tolerant, he was afraid, at the same time, that these differences might antagonize one group against the other and the dream of a free and united India might not be possible.

So, he prays to the almighty to awaken his countrymen to a country that “has not been broken up into fragments / By narrow domestic walls”

It must be noted that Tagore never uses the word "India" anywhere in this poem. So, this poem can also be interpreted as the wish of a sage who hopes to see the whole world get united as one unified body. The "domestic walls," thus, could mean the physical boundaries or borders by drawing which men has sliced the earth that God had created as a single entity.

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