Victoria Memorial: A Royal Monument of Kolkata

Before the advent of the theory of a secular nation and constitution, India was ruled by Kings and Queens for a very long time. These kings and queens played an important role in their lifetime and were praised by many. Many of these personalities are also dedicated with a memorial that becomes a symbol of the love and respect of people and also an asset of the city and state where it is built. The Victoria Memorial in West Bengal fits perfectly in the category of such memorials that have gone beyond being a normal structure to a level where they are acclaimed for the technical and aesthetic brilliance.

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata

Location

The Victoria Memorial is located at Queen’s Way, Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal and one of the major commercial and cultural destinations of India.

History

After Queen Victoria died in 1901, Lord Curzon, who was serving as the Viceroy of India during that period, proposed that a memorial should be built in remembrance of the Queen. His idea was to construct a huge monument that would encompassed by a garden. He further added that a museum would be established to showcase the photographs and statues of noteworthy people of the past such as kings, political leaders, etc.

The design of the memorial was created by Sir William Emerson, while the construction was done by Martin & Co. of Kolkata. The gardens were designed by David Prain and Lord Redesdale. Emerson had previously designed the famous Crawford Market of present day Mumbai and the All Saints Cathedral and Muir College of Allahabad.

The funds that went into the construction of the memorial came from the royal families and citizens who donated generous amounts. A total of RS 1.05 crores was collected.

The construction began in 1906 and the memorial was dedicated in 1921. The design of the memorial represents a fusion of Indo-Saracenic and Mughal architectural pattern.

The project was delayed primarily because the foundations were being tested for endurance, which consumed a lot of time. Another factor that contributed in the delay was the low interest level of Curzon’s successors.

Structure

The building rises to a height of 184 feet from the ground. At the top of the building, one can see a statue of Nike, a Greek Goddess who represents victory. Other statues near the main dome and the north porch represent Art, Justice, Motherhood, etc.

The garden is maintained by a total of 21 workers. There are several statues of various dignitaries in the garden, apart from Queen Victoria’s statue in bronze.

The memorial and the gardens occupy a total of 64 acres of land. It has been compared to Taj Mahal on numerous times by numerous people. The resemblance arises from the marble that has been used in construction of both the structures, followed by similarities found in the dome of both the structures and also the lengthy interval of time from the day of construction to its completion.

What to See

The Victoria Memorial boasts a wide collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures and other objects of historical and cultural importance.

The Calcutta Gallery is the first-of-its-kind city gallery in India and showcases how the city of Kolkata developed from its initial days till it served as the capital of the British Empire.

The library of the memorial houses rare books that date back to the seventeenth century.

A section of the museum is dedicated for showcasing the artillery captured by the Britishers during the Battle of Plassey.

Another major highlight of the memorial collection is the works of Thomas and William Daniell. A total of twelve aquatints showcase the early days of Calcutta, and a wide range of Oriental Sceneries of different parts of India keep the visitors engaged and help them learn about the landscapes of India under the British rule.

A lot of events are organized by the memorial administration all year long. Most of these events are exhibitions, workshops, seminars, cultural programs etc.

Eat, Drink, Collect

A lot of restaurants and roadside vendors serve traditional and world cuisines and local snacks near the memorial. Popular names include Radhuni Restaurant, Charcoal Grill, Zee Shan Restaurant, The Rouge, The Bengal Club, etc.

One must not forget to taste the Roshogullas, Roshomalai, Shondesh, Ponthua and Mishti Doi during his/her visit to Kolkata. All these traditional Bengali sweets are available at all the sweetmeat shops around the city.

Kolkata, being a metropolitan city, offers something to everyone in terms of purchasing goods. There are several markets dedicated for grocery, apparels, handicrafts, eateries, electronic goods, condiments and all things that a person might need during his/her stay or as a souvenir.

Best Time to Visit

The Victoria Memorial Garden remains open from 05:30 a.m. to 07:00 p.m. throughout the year. The charges for entry are Rs 4/- per head.

The entry fees for the museum is Rs 10/- per person for Indian residents and Rs 150/- per person for visitors coming from other countries. Free entry is granted to children up to twelve years of age and army personnel arriving in uniform.

The museum remains open from 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m. It remains closed on Mondays and government holidays.

A light and sound show called “Pride and Glory: The Story of Calcutta” is conducted in the memorial hall. The timings of this show are 06:15 p.m. to 08:00 p.m. from October to February and from 06:45 p.m. to 08:30 p.m. from March to June.

How to Reach

As a major tourist destination, Victoria Memorial can be easily reached from any corner of the city through public transportation.

The memorial is located close to the Maidan and Tabindra Sadan metro station, from where one can reach the memorial in a few minutes.

Local buses and shared taxis also run from various points towards the memorial. Tourists can also opt to commute by ferry, which drop the travelers at Princep Ghat and Bidhan Ghat, a few kilometres away from the memorial.

Foreign tourists can easily reach Kolkata, as it is connected with an international airport and frequent flights to major international destinations.

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