DHAKA: Bangladesh has set a world record for a giant portrait of its founding leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as it kicked off celebrations to mark the centenary year of Rahman’s birthday and its 50th anniversary of independence on Wednesday.
Nearly 150 people completed the 400-meter-long portrait of Rahman — the father of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — by planting purple and green rice on 13 hectares of paddy fields in Bogura, nearly 196 kilometers from the capital Dhaka.
“It’s an initiative to observe Rahman’s birth centenary. About 130 women and 20 men were employed for the portrait, which took more than two weeks to make,” A.F.M. Bahauddin Nasim, ruling Awami League Party (ALP) leader and convenor of the project, told Arab News.
“We have taken the land on lease for seven months to build the unique portrait on the auspicious occasion of his birth centenary and the golden jubilee of our independence,” he added.
Sheikh Mujib, as he is known, was born on March 17, 1920, in the Gopalganj district, 210 kilometers from Dhaka.
He was given the title of Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal) for his role during the struggle leading up to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.
A year later, he became the first president of the war-torn country, governing Bangladesh for three years until he was killed in an army revolt on Aug. 15, 1975.
Sheikh Hasina, one of his two daughters, took over the helm of the ALP after being appointed prime minister in 1996, and declared Aug. 15 as a holiday and national day of mourning to honor her father’s memory.
The government has pulled out all the stops to celebrate Rahman’s centenary year, with Nasim dedicating the portrait to the country’s 170 million residents.
“We wanted to project the importance of the father of the nation to the world in a different way. This initiative will reignite the spirit of freedom and independence,” Nasim said.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the effort on Tuesday.
“The crop mosaic depicts the father of the nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and was to commemorate the 100th anniversary on March 17,” it said on its website.
Historians in the country described the honor as “unique.”
“Bangabandhu was born in a middle-class farming family. So, on his birth centenary, the country’s farmers portrayed his image through the crops in the field. There is no better way to convey our respects to the great leader,” Ajoy Dasgupta, a journalist and historian, told Arab News.
“It was his dream to make an independent Bangladesh that would be also recognized as a rich nation. Soon, we are going to be a middle-income range country. So, with this record, the world will see once again what a great leader he was,” Dasgupta added.
Muntasir Mamoon, a historian and Dhaka University professor, said it was Rahman’s dream to build a “secular nation.”
“On Rahman’s birth centenary, we should uphold the spirit of secularism. If we fail, all of our achievements in the last 50 years will be severely limited,” Mamoon told Arab News.
He said that the record-breaking portrait will “reunite” the nation and keep the spirit of independence alive.
Bangladesh marked the start of 10 days of celebrations on Wednesday with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s two-day visit to the country.
Solih, the first foreign leader to join the celebrations, will be joined by heads of state from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and India in coming days.
Bilateral talks are expected to yield a string of agreements during the regional leaders’ visits, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told reporters on Monday.