The Rayer Bazar Boddho Bhumi (Rayer Bazar Martyred Intellectuals Memorial) is a monument constructed at the place where the mass killing of the nation's best minds took place. It's located in Mohammadpur near Beribadh area in Dhaka District - an area once known as "Kumartoli" during the Mughal period - and lies at the intersection of the Dhaka countryside and its urban core. The area is an extension of the Turag River.
The memorial was established here on 14 December 1999 - exactly 28 years after that barbarous event - by the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.
Rayer Bazar will remain in our memories, in our history for another reason. In the night of 14 December 1971, many of Bangladesh’s intellectuals including professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers, and writers were rounded up in Dhaka. They were taken blindfolded to torture cells in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh and other locations in different sections of the city. Later they were executed and thrown out in the swamps, at Rayerbazar.
In memory of the martyred intellectuals of 1971, a Memorial is created in there. The ‘Al-Badr’ and ‘Al-Shams’ Group helped the West Pakistani Army to locate the intellectuals and slaughtered them and many other innocent peoples at night. After the massacre they brought the corpses and left them into the swamps of Rayer Bazaar. After the Liberation War, the people of Dhaka found out that all the dead bodies of many great intellectuals and innocent people are piled up in here.
Muntasir Mamun, Analyst
The Ministry of Housing & Works Department and the Institute of Architects Bangladesh jointly organised a national level architectural competition in 1993 for the design of the memorial.
Out of 22 entries the jurors selected the design proposal of Architect Farid Uddin Ahmed and Architect Md Jami-al-Shafi.
The two close friends were fresh graduates from the Department of Architecture, BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology), Dhaka, and their harrowing monument, capturing the solitude and misery of those dark days whilst maintaining the dignity befitting the martyred intellectuals, bagged the first prize amongst the jury.
Couple of days before the submission, when our main model was complete, and we were giving it the additional touches, two little kids of our landlord came in and spontaneously uttered, 'Bhaiya this model does not look good, it makes you sad'.
remembers Shafi , he and his partner the response of these children was a reassurance of the mournful feeling the small-scale structure emanated
Public Works Department was responsible for the implementation of the project and its completion took about three years, 1996 to 1999.
In their original design, Farid Uddin Ahmed and Jami-al-Shafi also proposed a public graveyard in the Haikkar Khal (canal) area and a green belt beyond the boundary so that private buildings in any direction will not mar the actual landscape of the mausoleum. Floral motif, Shimul, Palash and Krishnachura, all symbolising blood, were recommended in the original design but, like the graveyard and green belt, were not incorporated in the final design.
Other frustration stemmed from the delay of the project, which was being withheld for many years. The uncertainty over the project was removed in 1996, three years after they won the competition, when the foundation stone was laid.
We were not sure then that this project would be implemented, as we had seen many other ventures stalled to the point of not being built
For their powerful design both Jami-al-Shafi and Farid Uddin Ahmed won three awards including Institute of Architects, Bangladesh Award, Berger Young Architects Award and JK Cement Saarc Region architectural competition from Delhi.
The main element of the monument is the 17.68m high, 0.91m thick and 115.82m long curved brick wall, representing the original brick field of Rayer Bazar where the dead bodies were found. The wall itself is broken at the two ends, demonstrating the depth of grief and sorrow. A 6.10 x 6.10m square window at the south-west side of the wall permits visitor's view to reach the sky behind, that also scale down the immense wall and arouses the feeling of incompleteness. In front of the curved wall is a still water body from which rises a black granite column, which represents grief.
The main entry to the memorial is at the southeast corner of the site that places the visitor in front of a Banyan tree. This tree represents the original Banyan tree at the nearby Physical Education College where the martyrs were tortured first and then brought to this brickfield to be killed. Apart from the Banyan tree, which is evergreen, all the other trees used in the landscaping are deciduous. They remain leafless during the month of December that adds to the sense of grief during the Intellectuals Martyr Day (14 December), observed every year.
There are future proposal for a small museum, a library cum office building and a graveyard in the complex.
At present, the project that altered their standing among the peers are in utter neglect. Maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD), it bears no sign of being looked after. The granite pillar, one of its main components, is already losing its stones. As a monument, its unique feature lies in the uneven construction of a curved wall with a big squire punch on it that replaces the traditional idea of a symmetrical obelisk. A water body, especially made bricks, grass, the plaza or the podium in layman terms, and carefully planted trees, of which the most significant of them is the banyan tree included at one side of the foreground, are the elements that come together here at Rayerbazar. The banyan stands as a reminder of the old banyan that was the last post of Dhaka, past that the low lands began. The original one still stands many yards away. Though unattended, it is the tree up to which the martyrs were brought in blindfolded by car and then from that point on were led to the low land to face their terrible fate.
During its construction relatives of the martyrs used to visit the site, some used to recite the Qur'an, some came to pass time in silence.
It is a strong existence, and it is out of reach
Both soft and hard materials converge to make the smritishowdha complete.
Every year in Bangladesh 14th December is observed as 'Shaheed Buddijibi Dibosh' (Martyred Intellectual's Day) in memory of those talented sons of the soil who were killed two days before Bijoy Dibosh. Tens of thousands of people from all walks of life throng at the Mirpur Buddhijibi Smriti Shoudho to pay their respect to those illustrious sons and daughters.
Different political and socio-cultural organisations chalk out elaborate programmes to mark the day. The state programme begins with the placing of floral wreaths by the Prime Minister at the Martyred Intellectuals' Memorial at Mirpur in the early morning of 14th December. War-wounded freedom fighters and family members of the intellectuals also place wreath at the memorial. Then the memorial is opened to the public and people from all strata of life to pay their homage. State owned Bangladesh Television as well as others private television channels and Bangladesh Betar usually air special programmes on the day, while the national newspapers bring out special supplements highlighting the significance of the day.
Approximately 3 million people died during the Swadhinata Juddho - Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi rajiun (From Allah we come and to Him is our return). Each one was a hero in their own right. The Government of Bangladesh issues 5 types of award annually in recognition of outstanding achievement and bravery:
It is of utmost importance to evaluate the personalities and gallant action of these heroes so that we can also follow their footstep and contribute for the independence and well being of our motherland.
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