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Friday, 30 March 2012

14. VICTORIA MEMORIAL, KOLKATA (INDIA) (TRAVELOGUE)


At the gate of Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial, the dream of Lord Curzon
Our first destination on reaching Kolkata was the famous Victoria Memorial. The magnificent marble edifice has always attracted me for its pure beauty and architecture but it was for the first time that I got an opportunity to actually visit it. Although it is the biggest tourist attraction in Kolkatta both for Indian as well as foreign tourists, the entry is closed on Sundays.




Exploring the various facets of the Memorial, reading various statues and plaques installed there, admiring its architecture, feasting our eyes on the well-maintained garden and blooming flowers around the memorial and trying to relive history of modern India was quite a memorable experience which got etched in my mind.

The bronze statue of Queen Victoria on a throne made
by Sir George Frampton 



When Victoria, the Queen of Great Britain died in January 1901, Lord Curzon, who was then Viceroy of India, decided to build a grand memorial in her memory. He appealed to the people of India and the public and the royalties who donated funds to the tune of Rupees one crore five lacs which was the cost of this monument. The British Govt. surprisingly did not spend a single penny on the construction of this building.



Presented to Victoria Memorial Executive Committee
by Dowager Countess of Minto
The 184 feet high building, made of white marble was designed by Sir William Emerson who was President of the British Institute of Architects by using British as well as Mughal architecture principles. Some of the other buildings which Emerson designed in India are the Crawford Market in Mumbai in the year 1865, All Saints Cathedral in Allahabad (UP) during 1869-’93 and Muir College in Allahabad in 1873.



The construction of this awesome building was undertaken by Martin & Co of Calcutta under the supervision of Vincent J. Esch who was appointed as the Project’s Superintending Architect. Esch also designed the Bengal Club, Duncan Building and Allahabad Bank building in Kolkata. Later, he designed many large buildings for the Nizam of Hyderabad, viz,the Railway Station, the High Court, the City High School and the Osmania Hospital.


One of the towers around the Memorial
The entry to main hall Victoria Memorial
The top of the building has a number of figurines which represent Motherhood, Prudence and Learning. The main dome is surrounded by figures of Art, Architecture, Charity and Justice. At the entrance, there is a magnificent bronze statue of the Queen made by Sir George Frampton, enthroned on Esch's bridge, between narrative panels by Sir Goscombe John.


The magnificent gardens and lush green lawns sprawled in 64 acres of land surrounding the memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and Sir David Prain.

 This we found to be one of the best-kept gardens of Kolkata, flowers blooming in every part, ambience relaxing and extremely soothing. Families sitting and singles lying on lawns  was quite a sight.  







The construction of this monument started in the year 1906 and it took 15 years for it to complete. It was thrown open to public in the year 1921 by the Prince of Wales who visited India then.





A close-up of pillars on the four corners of the Memorial

 It is interesting to find similarities between Victoria memorial and Taj Mahal in Agra. Both are made in the memory of people after they have expired. Both are constructed with white Makrana marble from Rajsthan and both have almost similar Mughal type of designs with a dome, chhatris and four pillars etc.


The figurines of Motherhood, Prudence &
Learning atop the building

While originally the monument sought to cover the life and history of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, it finally depicted the saga of British empire and their success in India. Over a period of time, after India achieved independence, photos of freedom fighters and related information have also been added to the gallery. 






Wondering whether the Queen would have appreciated the company of the freedom-fighters in the same building as Her majesty! 


For more TRAVELOGUES, please visit my dedicated blog on travels http://globalhindustani.blogspot.in
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