“Another charming Taj”, “The finest building in Bengal”, and “A poem in marble” â€” are some of the literary tributes that have been paid to the Victoria Memorial, which overlooks the southern landscape of Kolkata.
It is a gravely sinful act not to visit the Victoria Memorial when you are in the City of Joy. The sparkling white marble beauty, a symbol of the British Raj in India, is one of the most majestic and elegant monuments not only in Kolkata but in the entire country. The grand structure, an epitome of beauty and grace, reflects the brilliant Indo-Saracenic architectural style that breathed in that era. A five-tonne, sixteen-foot bronze statue – ‘Angel of victory’ – mounted on ball bearings on the dome of the memorial heightens the grandeur and the overall appeal of the monument.
The History of the Memorial
Lord Curzon, Governor General and Viceroy of India during the British period, undertook the task of building this stately and spacious monument as a memorial to deceased Queen Victoria. A sum of rupees 5 lakh was raised from the general people of India for the construction of this awe-inspiring memorial, which captivates the attention of both young and old alike. In 1906, the Prince of Wales and King George V laid down the foundation stone of Victoria Memorial, and eventually, the monument was opened to the public in 1921.
Design and Architecture of Victoria Memorial
The president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, William Emerson, was the chief architect of Victoria Memorial. William tastefully gave an Indo-Saracenic architectural style to the memorial, drawing his creative inspiration from Venetian, Egyptian, Mughal, and various other Islamic styles of that time. The 184-feet-high magnificent monument is crafted out of shimmering white Makrana Marble, brought all the way from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. A lush-green garden, designed by botanist Lord Redesdale and Sir David Prain, surrounds the monument, spread over a sprawling 64 acres.
Galleries at Victoria Memorial
With more than twenty-five galleries, including the Central Hall, the Calcutta Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, the Sculpture Gallery, the National Leaders Gallery, and the Royal Gallery, the Victoria Memorial owns a worthy and commendable collection of rare creative works, antique books, and noteworthy artefacts.
The galleries are a treasure trove of outstanding paintings, weapons, textiles, stamps, literary works like the Arabian Nights, and illustrated creations of English poet, playwright, and actor William Shakespeare. The Royal Gallery houses masterpieces of Jansen and Winter Halter, which delicately portray the life of Prince Albert, husband and consort of Queen Victoria.
Shows, Events, and Exhibitions at the Victoria Memorial
From time to time, a variety of enlightening and engaging exhibitions take place at the Victoria Memorial, along with several other events like illustrated talk-shows and celebration of important days.
A dazzling sound and light show, Son-et-Lumiere, is regularly held at the memorial complex, besides other shows like – The Story of Calcutta – organized in both English and Bengali in association with Bengal Chamber of Commerce.
The Son-et-Lumiere is a must-watch for everyone who chooses to visit the spectacular Victoria Memorial. The palatial monument looks magnificent and breath-taking when illuminated, especially against the backdrop of the Kolkata night sky.
Victoria Memorial Garden
Spread over 64 acres, the Victoria Memorial Gardens is the home to a myriad of statues and sculptures. A grand bronze statue of Queen Victoria, placed on a bronze throne, welcomes the visitors at the entrance of the garden, while a stroll around the garden reveals sculptures of Lord Curzon, Dalhousie, Hastings, and Edward VII. The garden, a popular destination for morning walkers, is presently maintained by 21 government-appointed gardeners.
All in all, the gorgeous Victoria Memorial, in the modern day, relives the spirit of the Victorian era. The memorial is open on all days except Mondays and National Holidays fromÂ 10 AM to 5 PM. The garden is open all days (March to September 5.30 AM – 6.15 PM and October to February 5.45 AM – 5.30 PM). Visitors can enter the monument premises paying a nominal entry price of INR 10 per head.