Heritage & Monuments

Central Shaheed Minar

Bangladesh / Asia

The Shaheed Minar is a national monument built to commemorate those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952 in the former East Pakistan.  The striking memorial consists of a semi-circular arrangement of columns to symbolise the mother, with her fallen sons, standing on the monument’s central dais, with the red sun shining behind.  It is made of marble stones and reaches 46 feet high (14 metres).  The stairs and barrier are highlighted in white so as to create an impression of divinity.  Poems from legendary poets are painted on both sides of the fence.  At the entrance to the monument stand two statues of patriots who did in the police firing in 1952.  The marble floor was designed to reflect the moving shadows of the columns.  In the basement is a 1,500-square-foot (140 square metres) mural telling the story of the Language Movement. 

It took a long time to get the memorial built.  Martial law delayed construction work 

To commemorate the dead, the Shaheed Minar was designed and built by Bangladeshi sculptors Hamidur Rahman in collaboration with Novera Ahmed. Construction was delayed by martial law, but the monument was finally completed in 1963 and stood until the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 when it was demolished completely during Operation Searchlight. After Bangladesh gained independence later that year, it was rebuilt. It was expanded in 1983.

The monument honours the students from Dhaka University and Dhaka Medical College and political activists were killed when the Pakistani police force opened fire on Bengali protesters who were demanding official status for their native tongue, Bengali, which only gained official status in Pakistan (with Urdu) in 1956.  This was a formidable movement.

The massacre occurred near Dhaka Medical College and Ramna Park in Dhaka on 21 and 22 February 1952. A makeshift monument was immediately erected by students at Dhaka medical college and other educational institutions the next day but demolished on 24 February by the Pakistani Police Force.  

Every year, on 21 February, the day is recognised as ‘International Mother Language Day’ or Martyrs’ Day, with activities marking this, at a national level, as well as mourning and cultural activities.  These tend to be centred on the Shaheed Minar.

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