Humming the tune "Amar Bhaier Rokte Rangano Ekushey February", thousands of people thronged Shaheed Minars across the country yesterday to pay tributes to the Language Movement heroes.
Bare-footed and wearing black badges, they placed floral wreaths at the monuments and stood silent in remembrance of those who embraced martyrdom to make Bangla the state language in 1952.
The environment reverberated with the Ekushey anthem as the hallowed monuments got slowly covered with flowers. Areas around the monuments wore a festive look with murals, graffiti, and street paintings comprising Bangla alphabets and verses on mother languages.
The day is observed worldwide as the International Mother Language Day. In 1999, the Unesco had declared February 21 as the International Mother Language Day.
Taking part in different programmes, including discussions and cultural sessions across the country and in Bangladesh missions abroad, people reminisced the sacrifice made by the Language Movement martyrs.
On February 21, 1952, students and people from all walks of life took to the streets in Dhaka to protest the then Pakistan government's refusal to recognise Bangla as one of the state languages and imposition of Urdu as the only official language of Pakistan.
Salam, Barkat, Rafique, Jabbar, Shafiur and a few others were killed when police opened fire on their procession.
Yesterday, people started gathering at the Central Shaheed Minar before midnight.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid homage by placing wreaths at the Shaheed Minar in the first minute of the day amid tight security.
They then stood there in solemn silence for a while as a mark of profound respect for the fallen heroes.
Ministers, advisers to the prime minister, lawmakers, the chiefs of the three services, foreign diplomats, senior Awami League leaders, and top civil and military officials were present on the occasion.
Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury paid tributes to the martyrs by placing a wreath at the Shaheed Minar.
Flanked by cabinet members and senior leaders of Awami League, Hasina, also the AL president, later placed another wreath on behalf of the party.
Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad also placed a wreath.
Like previous years, the Dhaka University authorities organised programmes on the Central Shaheed Minar premises in coordination with other relevant agencies.
Afterwards, a sea of people started paying tributes to the language heroes imbued with the spirit of patriotism. The crowd grew bigger at daybreak.
Many children were also seen with their parents, carrying flowers in their hands.
"I have come here with my father as I heard the tales of the Language Movement many times," said Ayana Rahman, a class IV student.
The day was a public holiday.
Bangladesh Betar, Bangladesh Television, private television channels and radio stations aired special programmes on the occasion. The national dailies published special supplements marking the day.