Saturday, August 27, 2011

Victoria Memorial Hall

                                                    Victoria Memorial - Kolkata - India  (Click on the pic to view gallery)
The Victoria Memorial, officially the Victoria Memorial Hall, is a memorial building dedicated to Victoria, to commemorate the peak of the British Empire in India. This is located in Kolkata, India - the capital of West Bengal and a former capital of British India. Today the Victoria Memorial Hall is a museum having an assortment of Victoria memorabilia, British Raj paintings and other displays. As night descends on Calcutta, the Victoria Memorial Hall is illuminated, giving it a fairy tale look. It is an autonomous organization within the Government of India's Ministry of Culture.
The memorial is famous for its exhibits of Indian and Western Paintings, manuscripts, postage stamps, Mughal miniatures, books that dates back to the 1870's, statues and sculptures, arms and armaments, sketches and other objects of historic value in its Museum and Art Gallery. Today it is one of the main attraction for tourists in Kolkatta. Here, on weekends, people picnic, families meet, and transiting pilgrims bring flowers to the statue of "Maharani Victoria". Two regular sound and light shows both in English and Bengali are held in the evening. The memorial is open  from 1000 am to 1700pm on all weekdays except on Mondays and public holidays. The Memorial is an autonomous body governed by a Board of Trustees with the Governor of West Bengal as the Chairperson, and is under the 'administrative control' of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

What to watch in Victoria Memorial?

Design and Construction

The memorial was designed by Sir William Emerson using Indo-Saracenic style, incorporating Mughal elements in the structure. The foundation stone of the memorial was laid down in the year 1906. The monument was intended to serve as a tribute to the success of the British Empire in India. 196080cft of Makrana marble was brought  from Jodhpur, Rajasthan for its construction. It has been calculated that a goods train about 27 km long would be required to bring the entire building materials needed for the memorial.

Architect Sir William Emerson laid down the actual plan of the memorial. The design of the structure represents a fusion of British and Mughal architecture. White Makrana marbles were used in the construction of Victoria Memorial Hall and the building was inaugurated in the year 1921. The massive hall is 338 feet (103 m) by 228 feet (69 m) and rises to a height of 184 feet (56 m). The building covers an area of 103.02m by 69.49m. It houses a museum containing a large collection of memorabilia relating to Queen Victoria and the British presence in India as well as other exhibits. The 'H' shaped memorial  consists of numerous hybrid features; it has Italian-style statues over its entrances, Mughal domes in its corners and tall elegant open curved colonnades along its sides.
British government money was not used in its construction at all. Rather, the British Indian states, along with the individuals who wanted some favours from the British government, were the main contributors towards the cost of building the Victoria Memorial Hall. After India gained independence in the year 1947, certain additions were made to the Victoria Memorial. These additions formed National Leader's Gallery, containing the portraits and relics relating to Indian independence

Paintings and Statues

The Royal gallery in Victoria Memorial has portraits of the Queen and Prince Albert. There are numerous paintings, illustrating events from Victoria's life. Another remarkable peace in Victoria Memorial is a painting by the Russian artist Vasseli Verestchagin, portraying the state entry of the Prince of Wales in Jaipur in the year 1876. In the post independence period a new addition was made to the Victoria Memorial. It was the addition of the National leaders' gallery with the portraits and relics of the freedom fighters. There are 3000 exhibits in 25 galleries in a chamber beneath the dome.
Main entrance is from the north. A bronze statue of Queen Victoria sits enthroned in bronze at the entrance marble staircase wearing the regal Order of the Star of India. Above her, a black bronze angel known as Victory, holding a bugle in her hand was placed at the apex of the dome above the Memorial and has always been regarded as a curious addition to the monument. It is fixed to its pedestal with ball bearings and rotates when the wind is strong enough.

The entrance dome is deeply graven with the text of Queen Victoria's imperial proclamation speech. Inside the memorial there is a remarkable collection of artifacts depicting British Imperialism - statues of famous British figures including Robert Clive, General Stringer Lawrence, Lord Bentick, William Makepeace Thackeray, who was born here, Florence Nightingale, Queen Mary, George V and Queen Victoria etc. Many of British India's Governors and Governor Generals are represented here in stone, dressed in Roman togas, like Clive, Warren Hastings, Cornwallis, Wellesley, Dalhousie etc.

Excellent paintings such as, Burne-Jones's portrait of Rudyard Kipling, Johann  Zoffany's portrait of William Hastings and his family, Macaulay, Bishop Heber and William Hickey, Verestchagin's monumental depiction of the Prince of Wales making his grand tour of Jaipur in 1876, the works of the Victorian artists Thomas and William Daniells, paintings of  Robert Clive, marriage of the Prince of Wales with Princess Alexandra are exhibited and a huge painting depicts King Edward VII entering Jaipur in a regal procession in 1876. Also on display are some Indians without discrimination. Among these are - Keshab Chandra sen,  Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath tagore and his grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore.

In the Royal Gallery there are many oil paintings illustrating episodes from Queen Victoria's long, eventful life and reign- her coronation in the Westminster Abbey in June 1838;  her marriage with Prince Albert (1840) in the Chapel Royal at St. James' Palace; the baptism of her son, her son's wedding, her residence of Frogmore, Queen Victoria at the first Jubilee service in Westminster Abbey in 1887 and the Second Jubilee service of Queen Victoria at St. Paul's Cathedral, June 1897 etc. Statues of former British rulers sculpted by Italian craftsmen that used to adorn street corners all the way along Chowringhee and the Maidan, are now scattered around the large garden of the monument.


The massive Victoria Memorial stands enclosed within 64 acres (260,000 m2) of blooming gardens. Set amid 64 acres of lawns, fountains, and herbaceous borders this greatest symbol of the British, houses artifacts illustrating British roots in India. Lord Redesdale and Sir David Prain designed the gardens.


At present the Victoria Memorial has notable collection of weapons, sculptors, paintings, maps, coins, stamps, artifacts, textiles etc. French guns captured at the Battle of Plassey are on exhibit along with the black stone throne of the Nawab whom Clive defeated.

Some of Queen Victoria's possessions, like the pianoforte, at which she received tuition in childhood, her personal writing desk and chair occupied for daily correspondence at Windsor, scrapbooks of her letters in Hindustani, for Queen was tutored in the language by her favorite Indian attendant Abdul Karim,  the last letter she wrote to her people in India etc.

Entry Fee and Timings of Victoria Memorial Hall and Gardens Kolkata

How to Reach Victoria Memorial Kolkata



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