A dollop of Bengal – Victoria Memorial

V could have been Vidyasagar Setu (Second Hooghly bridge) – one of the longest cable stayed bridge in Asia connecting Kolkata with Howrah or Vivekananda Setu (Bally Bridge) – the multi-span steel bridge linking Bally to Kolkata . But the one that deserves to be featured is the heritage monument that has been a representation of the city for age – the gorgeous Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial –

Victoria Memorial_Sunset
Victoria Memorial during sunset

Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, built between 1906 and 1921 dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901). Located on 1 Queen’s way, it is now a popular tourist destination. Representing the resplendent and majestic British architecture, Victoria Memorial Hall stands as a veritable icon of the city of Kolkata.

History –

Victoria Memorial_Lions
The lions at the entry gate

The Victoria Memorial Hall was built in memory of the Queen Victoria by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The memorial celebrated the 25 year reign of the Queen over India. Lord Curzon wanted to demonstrate his gratitude by dedicating a monument to her.Along with the memorial, Curzon had plans for a museum within the premises. The historical museum  was intended to be a standing record of history.

He managed to raise an amount of 5 lakhs rupees and selected Sir William Emerson, the President of the British Institute of Architects for the project. The construction work was delegated to Messrs. Martin & Co. from Kolkata. The Prince of Wales together with King George V laid the foundation stone on 4 January 1906. The park was finally opened to visitors in 1921.

Architecture –

Victoria inside
Inside Victoria Memorial Hall – Source: Pinterest

William Emerson  designed the memorial in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style which had a mixture of British and Mughal elements along with Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences. The building is 338 feet by 228 feet  and rises to a height of 184 feet . It is constructed of white Makrana marble.

The gardens were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson’s assistant – Vincent Jerome Esch, designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates.

Atop the central dome of the Victoria Memorial is the 16 ft figure of the Angel of Victory. Surrounding the dome are allegorical sculptures including Art, Architecture, Justice, and Charity while above the North Porch Motherhood, Prudence and Learning exist.

It is quite surprising to see the similarities between Victoria memorial and Taj Mahal. Other than the same white marble used for construction, few other features like the dome, four subsidiaries, octagonal-domed chattris, high portals, terrace and domed corner towers of both these monuments are quite identical.

Gallery –

Victoria Memorial upper floor galary telegraph
Upper floor gallery – Source:The telegraph

Victoria Memorial has 25 galleries including the royal gallery, national leaders gallery, portrait gallery, central hall, sculpture gallery, arms and armoury gallery and the latest Calcutta gallery. It has the single largest collection of the works of Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) and his nephew, William Daniell (1769–1837). The Victoria Memorial also has a huge collection of rare and antiquarian books such as the illustrated works of William Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam among others.

Garden- 

Victoria Memorial_Tree
View of the memorial from the streets

The garden covers an area of 64 acres. It was designed by Redesdale and David Prain. There is a bronze statue of Victoria by George Frampton in which she is seated on her throne, wearing the robes of the Star of India. In the paved quadrangles and elsewhere around the building, other statues commemorate Hastings, Charles Cornwallis , Robert Clive, Arthur Wellesley, and James Broun-Ramsay. Approaching the Victoria Memorial building from the south, there is the Edward VII memorial arch, Upon which there is a bronze equestrian statue of Edward VII and a marble statue of Lord Curzon . The garden contains statues of dignitaries such as Lord William Bentinck, , George Robinson, and Rajendra Nath Mookerjee (a pioneer industrialist of Bengal).

Entry

Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm while the garden is open on all days from 5:30 am to 6:15 pm.

The Victoria Memorial Hall holds Light & Sound (Son-et-Lumiere) shows. The show entitled: ‘Pride & Glory – the Story of Calcutta’ was designed as a joint venture with the Bengal Chamber of Commerce.

Surroundings –

Just outside the main gate there’s an option of hiring a buggy/tonga(horse cart) coach for a fun ride across the streets around the memorial. Since Maidan is also nearby, taking a stroll along the stretch of Maidan is a viable option. St. Paul’s Cathedral is at a walking distance while Park Street with its multiple restaurant options is also just a few minutes away. Just opposite to the monument there are ample street food options. Not to forget that this is one of the areas famous for  mouth-watering phuchkas in the city is right here.

The personal angle –

Victoria Memorial_Tongaride
Embarking on a buggy ride

I have forgotten the count of visits to this stunning monument as a child and during my years as a student in Kolkata. But the best memory associated with this place is of a visit here with my toddler last December. While he was awestruck by the humongous building and enjoyed running around in the garden, the happiness on his face during the tonga ride stays unmatched till date. We ended up taking three trips instead of one because he simply refused to get down, not to forget that he actually wanted to bring home the horses.  And of course we returned only after I had savored phuchkas to my heart’s content.

Enjoy this joy-ride until we meet tomorrow with another interesting topic.

 

Author: Sonia Chatterjee Banerjee

Who am I? Ex-Banker turned Blogger/Writer/Solopreneur. Any qualifications? A Post graduate degree in Chemistry followed by Post Graduate Diploma in Management. I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots to what I do presently. Have I done any real work? If two years in Market Research and six years in Banking (three different Banks though) as Branch Head can be considered as real work. Where do I live? After a nomadic sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Food, travel, books and my two and half year old toddler son What is this blog about ? Sonia's musings is an attempt to channelize emotions through words and pictures hoping they touch a chord with my visitors.

12 thoughts on “A dollop of Bengal – Victoria Memorial”

  1. The Victoria Memorial is indeed iconic and a beauty in its own way. I love the way it has been constructed. Remember visiting the place on a cool december evening, when I lay on the wet grass staring at the blue sky above

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome description of the best place in kolkata.i really would love to visit there again n again. thats beautiful. History has so many of these monuments which has their own beauty. Love to sit on buggy/tonga and want to cherish memories too. Lovely article.

    Like

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