Yangon—Independence Monument, which stands in grandeur at the heart of Yangon, turns 72 years old today. Its foundations were laid when Myanmar regained independence from the British on Jan. 4, 1948.
The obelisk replaced a statue of Queen Victoria, which was taken back to England. Myanmar’s first prime minister, U Nu, laid the foundation for Independence Monument.
From above, the obelisk resembles a big star surrounded by five smaller stars, symbolizing that the Union is made up of diverse ethnic peoples.
The monument was built by AC Martin, a company that also built other landmark buildings in Yangon at the time. It cost over 500,000 kyats and took two years to complete. It was officially opened by Myanmar’s first president, Sao Shwe Thaik.
The obelisk is 155 feet (47.2 meters) tall and is higher than Yangon City Hall and the High Court, but shorter than Sule Pagoda.
To ensure durability and resistance against weather and earthquakes, the foundations were built 10 feet deep, and are 50 feet in diameter. The stone foundations were reinforced with steel structures.
The independence declaration, excerpts from addresses of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San, and nine independence oaths including the pledge for equality were carved on the monument.
Maha Bandula Park, which houses the monument, the symbol of Myanmar’s sovereignty, was previously called Fytche Square after the Chief Commissioner of the British Crown Colony of Burma at the time. Myanmar people also called it Queen Park due to the statue of Queen Victoria that was erected in the park in 1896. During WWII, the Japanese put another marker on the site to commemorate their fallen soldiers.
While the park served as a public recreation site, it also witnessed anti-colonial movements of Yangon residents. Indian national leader Mahatma Gandhi also preached nationalism in the park on his third visit to Myanmar in 1929.
In 1940, the garden was renamed after General Maha Bandula, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s royal armed forces during the 1821-1825 First Anglo-Myanmar War.
Independence celebrations have been held annually in front of the monument since 1948. The monument witnessed public demonstrations demanding democracy and human rights throughout successive military regimes from 1948 to 2010. Today, the park and the independence monument still serve as sites for people to both relax and demand their rights.
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