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National Mourning Day

National Mourning Day 2018 and 2019

Every August 15th is National Mourning Day in Bangladesh, a day designed to remember and mourn the brutal murder of the nation’s first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who also led their independence movement against Pakistan.

201815 AugWedNational Mourning Day
201915 AugThuNational Mourning Day

Rahman was assassinated by a small group of army officers as part of a coup that put Bangladesh under military rule from 1975 till 1991.

Not only was the “Father of the Nation” killed on that day, but most of his family and some of his other acquaintances were also murdered. The incident took place at president Rahman’s personal residence on Road 32 in the Dhanmondi neighborhood of Dhaka, the capital city. The victims were 18 in all, including two of his wives, one of whom was pregnant, his brother-in-law, his daughters-in-law, and his sons. His daughters, Hasina and Rehana, escaped only because they were in West Germany at the time.

Five years after the fall of the military government, in 1996, the anniversary of the death of the nation’s beloved Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was finally made a public holiday. Also in 1996, the Bangladeshi government, headed up by the political party known as the Awami League, had still-living, self-confessed killers of the late Sheikh Rahman tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were finally executed on January 27th, 2010. The government even sought to bring to justice those of his killers who had fled abroad.

If in Bangladesh on National Mourning Day, you will notice that the flag is flown at half-mast at government, educational, organisational, and other buildings throughout the land. The Awami League also raises a black flag at all of their party offices on the morning of August 15th, the time when the brutal killing was discovered. The Awami League and others will also hold special prayer sessions at mosques, pagodas, and churches. The whole day is one of great solemnity, and Bangladesh’s first leader is given great respect and honour.

Things for the local and tourist alike to do if in Bangladesh on August 15th include the following:

  • Learn about Sheikh Mujib Rahman. There will be numerous speeches in public, on television, and on radio about his life. You can hear the president of Bangladesh give his speech at the Sheikh Mujib monument, during a ceremony in which wreaths of flowers are laid down. You can also see the sheikh’s mural at the same event, along with a special honour-guard unit of the Bangladeshi armed forces. You may also wish to attend, or watch on television, the paying of respects at the Banani Graveyard and other locations where victims are buried.
  • 2. See the exhibits at the Liberation War Museum in Dhaka. There are galleries covering the early history of the region, the drive for independence from India, and the rise of the Bengali nationalist movement and its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. There is much there of interest and much that pertains to the events that National Mourning Day relates to.
  • Visit the Sheikh Rahman’s very own neighborhood of Dhaka, Dhanmondi, and in particular Dhanmondi Lake. The lake basin was originally a dried up river channel, but after being filled with water from the nearby Turag River, it was developed into a central attraction of the Dhanmondi residential area. Many tourists come to see the lake, it’s beautiful night views with the lights of the city reflecting over the dark waters, the nearby Chistia Palace, and the cultural zone of Rabindra-Sarobar that straddles the lakeside.

While August 15th is a day of “mourning” in Bangladesh, the locals also use it as a time of resolve to build a better Bangladesh. There is much to celebrate, therefore, on this day as well, and you will find worthwhile tourist stops highly relevant to the meaning of the day.