Victoria Memorial Hall – Dreaming in Marble in the City of Joy
Framed by lush green lawns, the Victoria Memorial is a magnificent colonial legacy built in the heyday of the British Empire, in Kolkata. Calcutta, the capital of British India, may have become Kolkata, but the graceful white dome with its magnificent fairy blowing a bugle on top, still retains its fresh fairy tale appeal. The lawns of Victoria Memorial are always where you find colorfully dressed people enjoying some fresh air, breathing in the quiet on the vast lawns, or simply stretching their legs in the early mornings. Overlooking the lungs of Kolkata, the Maidan, the Victoria Memorial beckons the lovers and the lonely, families with kids, senior citizens and virtually almost all kinds of people in the City of Joy.
|Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons
Lord Curzon suggested the idea of a memorial dedicated to the then-Empress of India, Queen Victoria. In 1906, just after Bengal’s partition the previous year, the foundation stone of the monument was laid. It was designed by Sir William Emerson and Esch was hired as the architect. None of the construction was funded by government money. On the contrary, when the proposal for the memorial was floated, the well-heeled and colonial aristocrats voluntary subscribed to get the construction going. The monument was inaugurated in 1921.
What to See Outside
On a visit to this proud Kolkata monument, pay the entry fee and step onto the smooth lawns as you enjoy the little pieces of history scattered everywhere.
Fusion of British and Mughal design elements
The Victoria Memorial uniquely uses Mughal elements such as the dome, four pillars, and the giant decorated doorway, in what is essentially a British monument. The white Makrana marble which Curzon insisted on, is the same as the stones used for the Taj Mahal in Agra. Not a stone was left unturned, literally, to lovingly craft the various parts of the memorial, including the sculptures on the north porch, the water troughs, or the carefully maintained gardens.
The sculptures, with gracefully molded lines, add to the elegance of the monument. Atop the dome, stands Victory, a 16 ft tall fairy about whom many legends have grown up. For instance, it is said, that the fairy comes alive at night just for a fraction of a second. Truly a fairy tale beauty whose appeal is difficult to resist, the main dome on which Victory, the fairy of Kolkata stands so delicately, is surrounded by the figures of Art, Architecture, Justice and Charity. On the north porch, other classical figures depict ideas such as Prudence, Motherhood and Learning.
What to See Inside
Inside the giant doorway below the main dome, are various museums and archives recording aspects of Kolkatan history, including colonial history and the years beyond.
Inside the Memorial Hall, famous attractions are:
- Colonial exhibits, including memorabilia related to the British Empire
- Royal Gallery, housing fine oil paintings including portraits of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria
- National Leader’s Gallery with exhibits about the Indian struggle for Independence. It was opened when India became independent in 1947.
The Memorial also houses a Library which carefully preserves rare books, some centuries old, including the Arabian Nights, Shakespeare’s plays, and the Rubai’at.
Besides, many shows and permanent exhibitions keep happening inside. Enquire at the main gate when you visit.
Read Also : Places to visit in Kolkata
Best time to visit
From 10 am to 5 pm everyday, the Victoria Memorial Kolkata grounds are open to the public. Winter mornings are a great time to see the monument as it emerges from the fog. Every evening after the grounds are closed down, the monument becomes a backdrop for a 45 minutes Light and Sound Show, called ‘ Pride & Glory – the Story of Calcutta’ – held first in Bengali and then in English. Note that besides National holidays and Holi, this show remains closed during the rainy months from June to September.