Victoria Memorial Kolkata: An iconic marble structure of the British era

[] The Victoria Memorial, with its iconic dome, octagonal-domed chhatris, terrace, high portals and domed corner towers, is an iconic monument in Kolkata

The Victoria Memorial is a definitive landmark of Kolkata. The huge marble structure was developed between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Empress Victoria and has transformed into a museum under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture.

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Where is Victoria Memorial?

The memorial lies on the biggest patch of greenery in the city, at Queens Way on the Maidan in Kolkata. The pincode of the famous landmark is 700071. It is impossible to estimate an accurate value for what is West Bengal’s most significant historical and cultural landmark.

About Victoria Memorial: History and key facts

Upon Queen Victoria’s death in January 1901, the then governor-general Lord Curzon, proposed the development of a suitable memorial to the monarch. He proposed the development of a grand and peerless structure, complete with pristine gardens and a museum for company. As per Curzon’s own statement, he proposed to have a building that would be stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Kolkata, the resident population, Europeans and others would flock, where all classes would learn the lessons of history.

Victoria Memorial Kolkata

The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales on January 4, 1906 and the Victoria Memorial was opened formally for the general public in 1921. In 1912, prior to the construction of the Victoria Memorial being concluded, King George V announced the transfer of the capital to New Delhi from Kolkata. The Victoria Memorial was eventually built in the former capital of the country as a result. The memorial was funded majorly by several Indian individuals and British officers. Lord Curzon’s appeal to collect funds was met with generous responses by several politicians and Indian citizens alike. The total construction cost was approximately one crore, five lakh rupees and came fully from voluntary grants and donations.

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The departure of Lord Curzon from India in 1905 led to the monument getting delayed. The building finally opened in 1921. Construction was the responsibility of the noted firm Messrs Martin & Co from Kolkata. Work started in 1910 for this superstructure while a few additions were also made to this beautiful memorial after 1947.

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Victoria Memorial architecture, design and more

William Emerson was the chief architect behind Victoria Memorial and the design showcases the Indo-Saracenic Revivalist template. It fuses several Mughal and British architectural elements with touches of Egyptian and Venetian styles, along with architectural influences from the Deccan too. The building goes up to 338 by 228 ft or 103 by 69 metres, rising to 184 ft by way of height. White Makrana marble has been used for its construction while the gardens have been designed by David Prain and Lord Redesdale. Vincent Jerome Esch, assistant to William Emerson, designed the bridge over the northern aspect along with the gates to the garden. Esch was commissioned in 1902 by Emerson for sketching the original design he created for the Victoria Memorial.

Victoria Memorial

The Angel of Victory is the iconic figure over the central Victoria Memorial dome, 16 ft in all. There are several sculptures that surround the dome including sculptures of Art, Architecture, Charity and Justice while others over the north porch include Prudence, Motherhood and Learning. The Victoria Memorial is a little similar to the Taj Mahal with its iconic dome, octagonal-domed Chhatris, four subsidiaries, terrace, high portals and domed corner towers. The Victoria Memorial museum comes with 25 galleries, inclusive of the national leaders’ gallery, royal gallery, central hall, portrait gallery, arms and armory gallery, sculpture gallery and the Kolkata gallery which is a new addition. The museum has the single biggest collection of Thomas Daniell’s works, along with those by his nephew William Daniell. There is also a collection of several rare books including the Arabian Nights, illustrated works by William Shakespeare, Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam and books on thumri music and kathak dance by Wajid Ali Shah.

The Victoria Gallery showcases numerous portraits of Prince Albert and Empress Victoria, courtesy of Jansen and Winterhalter. The oil paintings are copies of the original works in London. They include Victoria getting the sacrament at her Westminster Abbey coronation, Victoria’s wedding to Albert at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace and christening of the Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle, the marriage of Edward VII in 1863 to Princess Alexandra, along with Victoria at Westminster Abbey’s First Jubilee Service. The Second Jubilee Service at Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral are also showcased here. Empress Victoria’s correspondence desk straight from Windsor Castle and her rosewood piano from childhood are showcased, having been subsequently presented to the museum by Edward VII. Oil paintings by Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin adorn the southern wall. The Kolkata Gallery was added in the mid-1970s, promoted by the minister for education, Saiyid Nurul Hasan. He became West Bengal’s governor in 1986 and in November 1988, hosted a global seminar called Historical Perspective for the Kolkata Tercentenary. The gallery opened in 1992 and has a visual history of the city’s growth, history and eventual development. There is a life-sized Chitpur Road diorama dating back to the late 1800s.

Victoria Memorial gardens and design

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Kolkata Victoria Memorial

The gardens at the Victoria Memorial encompass 64 acres in total or roughly 26,000 sq metres. They are maintained by a large team of expert gardeners. They were initially designed by Lord Redesdale in tandem with David Prain. On the bridge designed by Esch, Empress Victoria remains seated on her throne right between narrative panels created by Goscombe John and a bronze statue of the Empress by George Frampton. There are statues dedicated to Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, Hastings, Arthur Wellesley, Robert Clive and James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie in the quadrangles and other places around this monument.

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Victoria Memorial Kolkata: An iconic marble structure of the British era

Towards the southern part of the Victoria Memorial building, you will come across the memorial arch dedicated to Edward VII. The arch comes with an equestrian statue of Edward VII in bronze, crafted by Bertram Mackennal and there is also a marble statue of Lord Curzon created by FW Pomeroy. There are statues of the governor-general of India (1833-1835) of India, Lord William Bentinck and governor-general in 1880-84 and 1st Marquess of Ripon, George Robinson. There is a statue of Rajendra Nath Mookerjee, a path-breaking Bengal industrialist. Entry fees were imposed for the Victoria Memorial gardens from 2004 onwards, following the order issued by the West Bengal High Court.

Victoria Memorial Kolkata: An iconic marble structure of the British era


Where is Victoria Memorial in Kolkata?

The Victoria Memorial is located at Queens Way, Maidan, Kolkata.

What is the pin code of the Victoria Memorial?

The pincode of the Victoria Memorial is 700071.

When was the Victoria Memorial constructed?

The foundation stone was laid in 1906 for the Victoria Memorial while it was completed in 1921.

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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