Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

One of the famous monuments of Kolkata, Victoria memorial is dedicated to Queen Victoria. The spectacular marble building is a great tourist destination…

WORDS BY: SANGEETA S

Although the city of Kolkata offers many attractions but the one not to be missed is the famous Victoria Memorial. The rich museum, lustrous garden and the striking building all add to the glory of this wonderful place which is a must in the bucket list of tourists. The grand architecture of this beautiful inspiring building leaves tourists totally mesmerized.

The spectacular Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata was built in memory of the Queen Victoria who ruled India for 25 years. Queen Victoria was the figure head of India from 1857 till her death in 1901; she became the figure head of India after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. The memorial was built by Lord Curzon who was the Viceroy of India at that time to commemorate the 25 years of her reign. It was his way of showing gratitude to the Queen by dedicating a monument to her name.
The foundation stone for this building was laid by Prince of Wales in 1906 and it was funded by people from India. Lord Curzon asked for funds from Indian royalty to build this huge building.

Though the funds mostly came from India the British government also funded this project partly. The building was open to public in 1921 and is a huge representation of the British Raj.

Made from Makrana marbles the 184 feet magnificent building gives a feel of the British rule in India. The makrana marbles were brought from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The museum has huge collection of remnants from the time of British rule.

The credit for the rich architecture goes to Sir William Emerson, President of the British Institute of Architects, who was chosen by Lord Curzon to design the building. There is a blend of both British and Mughal architecture known as Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture.

The rich architecture of the building also draws inspiration from Egyptian, Venetian, Mughal and other Islamic styles. The beautiful and vast gardens spread over 64 acres surrounding the monument were designed by botanist Sir David Prain and Lord Redesdale.

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The garden is beautiful and well maintained with the statues of prominent figures like Lord Curzon, Robert Clive, Arthur Wellesley, Edward VII, Lord William Bentinck, George Robinson and Rajendra Nath Mookerjee. But the most prominent and most photographed statue is the bronze statue of Queen Victoria. The beautiful garden with flowers and fountains makes a wonderful view. When in the gardens don’t miss the bridge which takes the look to entirely different level.

At the top of the dome there is a 4.9 meter figure of the Angel of Victory, Nike. In fact the Nike brand got its logo from the Goddess Nike. The ‘Angel of Victory’ on the central dome is mounted on ball bearings and the figure rotates with wind. This figure looks very impressive on the top. There are many allegorical sculptures surrounding the central dome; sculptures that signify motherhood, justice, learning, prudence etc. The terrace of the building also has intricate designs and looks beautiful. It is estimated that this beautiful building stands 56 meters and expands up to 103 meters.

Museum in the Victoria Memorial has approximately 30,000 treasured artefacts. You can also see the personal possessions of the Queen like her desk, chair and piano. Victoria Memorial has more than 25 galleries which have huge and rare collection of paintings, weapons, literary works etc. The museum also exhibits coins, stamps and maps. It has wonderful and unique collection of textiles, rare creative works, antique books, paintings and artefacts.
Some of the galleries include Sculpture Gallery, Royal Gallery, The Central hall, The Portrait Gallery, The arms & armoury Gallery, the National Leaders Gallery, the Queens Hall Gallery and The Calcutta Gallery.

The Royal Gallery displays oil paintings depicting scenes from the life of Queen Victoria like her receiving the sacrament at her coronation in the Westminster Abbey in June 1838, her marriage etc. The personal possessions of the Queen like her piano, writing desk, chair etc. can be seen in the Queens Hall Gallery.
The Calcutta Gallery is all about the history of the city. Paintings and images depicting the development stages of the city can be seen here. The Durbar Hall Gallery, displays a series of oil paintings of the cultural heritage of Britain and India. The Entrance Hall Gallery displays paintings and photographs of the different phases during the construction of the memorial between 1906 and 1921.
Apart from its permanent exhibits, the Victoria Memorial also organizes temporary exhibitions every year. International level exhibitions are also organized here. Lectures, seminars, and workshops on art, history and culture are also held there regularly. National and international days are also celebrated in the hall.
It also has a library with approximately 16000 books on art, history and museum studies. The collection includes rare and antique books including works of Shakespeare, The Arabian Nights, the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam and other books on art, culture and music & dance.
If your interest is history, you must check out the Light and Sound show on the history of Kolkata. It is a very popular show running for almost two decades now. Known as Son-et-Lumiere, this illuminating night show at Victoria Memorial Hall can be seen in both the languages – English and Bengali. Choose your slot as per your liking. It is a good idea to check the timings of this show before you go.
The Victoria Memorial is so beautiful that a one visit may not be sufficient. You could go once to take a walk in the beautiful garden maybe in the evening, then again during daytime to check out the museums.

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And of course another visit after sun set to watch the light and sound show. You can click pictures in the garden. Photography is allowed in the Victoria Memorial garden, but is prohibited inside the museum.

The Victoria Memorial Hall has a Restoration and Conservation unit along with fully equipped laboratory. It provides technical support to various other institutions and museums for restoration and conservation.