Swadhinata Stambha (Bengali: স্বাধীনতা স্তম্ভ) or Independence Monument is a national monument in Bangladesh to commemorate the historical events that took place in the Suhrawardy Udyan, previously known as Ramna Race Course ground regarding the Liberation War of Bangladesh.
Government of Bangladesh took the initiative to build the monument in 1996. The construction began in 1999. Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury and Marina Tabassum designed the project. The main attraction of the project is a 50-meter high tower composed of stacked glass panels, which stands at the place where the Pakistani Instrument of Surrender was signed at the end of the war.
The Suhrawardy Udyan of the capital Dhaka of Bangladesh is historical place. Many significant incidents took place in this place. On 7 March 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered his historical speech in this ground after Yahya Khan postponed the national assembly on 1 March of the year. In his speech Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman asked the people of Bangladesh to prepare themselves for Liberation War of Bangladesh.
The war broke out on 25 March, as the Pakistan Army of occupation cracked upon the Bengali population of the then East Pakistan. And after a nine-month-long liberation war Bangladesh won its freedom from Pakistan.
To commemorate the historic events of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Government of Bangladesh decided to restore the memories of the war and build the Swadhinata Stambha.
In 1996, the Government of Bangladesh decided to build a monument to restore the memories of Bangladesh Liberation War in Suhrawardy Udyan of Dhaka.
In 1997 a competition was organised to select the best monument for the proposed project in Suhrawardy Udyan.
Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury and Marina Tabassum, two architects who graduated from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology came with a design of a suitable project.
Their proposed project included a museum, multi-media projection theatre, amphitheater and other ancillary facilities in addition to the main focus of the project, the monument itself. The focal point in the experience of the space is the monument: a Tower of Light made of stacked glass sheets.
The design presented by Kashef Mahboob Chowdhury and Marina Tabassum won the competition and their design was selected for the proposed project.
The foundation stone of the Swadhinata Stambha was laid in 1999. The construction of the project began in the same year. The construction was completed in two phases.
At first the area allocated for the proposed project was 24 acres. Later the area was increased to 67 acres. The project included a 100 meter long glass tower, an underground museum, mural works, amphitheater, a number of walkway, a water body and a very special ‘eternal flame’. The construction of the project was supervised by Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
Later in 2002, BNP government established a Ministry of Liberation War Affairs. The responsibility of the supervision of this project was handed over to the newly established ministry. During BNP regime a stone holding the list of the freedom fighters of Dhaka who were martyred was made. The construction of the water-body was also completed. But the glass-tower was set aside terming it a very costly one.
In 2009, after the government of Awami League came to power. The government increased the cost of the project to 1.81 billion and 6.1 million or 1.8161 Billion BDT and named it as the second phase of construction. The glass-tower of the project that was abandoned by the previous government started again. The design was revised increasing the height to 150 feet.
On 7 March 2011, the government opened it for public amid a large number of its works are yet to be completed.
The glass-tower was completed in 2013 at a cost of 1.47 billion BDT.
The main attraction of the Swadhinata Stambha is the Stambha itself. Stambha means pillar or tower in Bengali. The tower was built on the place where the commander-in-chief of East Pakistan Army Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi signed the papers of his surrender.
During night, the tower looks elegant as the rays of light come out from every single inches of the tower. The whole tower turns into a white pillar. The tower is square according to the plan and is 16 feet wide from every side with an area of 64 inches.
The underground museum of the project comprises several photographs with historical significance. A large photograph of the historical 7th March Speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the main attraction of the underground museum.
There are a number of terracotta murals on war-heroes and the events of the Liberation War, a 2000-seat auditorium, and an open-air theatre. The eternal flame stands beside the tower.
The water body of the project reflects the whole tower all the day and increases the beauty of the project. But the water body is under potential threat as the local slum-dwellers use it for their daily needs.