Calcutta (now Kolkata) had been the capital of India under the British rule from 1772 till 1911. Such a prolonged exposure to the modern British naturally brought to Calcutta a new intellectual and cultural awakening, hitherto unseen. Not surprisingly, therefore, when the time came to construct a monument in honor of the deceased Queen Victoria, Calcutta was the chosen site. A lesser known fact is that the Victoria Memorial received no funding from the British government. The white marble edifice and its surrounding 65-acre garden required a staggering amount of rupees one crore, five lacs to build, which after accounting for inflation would be roughly equal to twenty two million forty eight thousand dollars today. It was entirely funded by the British owned Indian states and individuals who wanted to ingratiate themselves with the British government in Calcutta.
The splendid white tribute, brings together the nuances of Mughal architecture with the thoroughness of British implementation. Sir William Emerson was the chief architect who conceptualized the Victoria Memorial in its entirety. The function of execution was entrusted to Messrs Martin and Co. of Calcutta. The whole construction, from the laying of the foundation stone, to the public inauguration, took fifteen years.
Architecture of Victoria Memorial
In the list of architectural marvels in India, the Victoria Memorial is considered next only to the Taj Mahal in majesty. However, in terms of fusing architectural styles, The Victoria Memorial perhaps surpasses the great Taj. Designers of the Memorial have drawn from Mughal, Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic styles and fused them all with a finesse only the British modern architects were capable of, at that time.
The makrana marble building starting from the massive podium to the lantern above the dome measures 184 feet. The figure of the Angel of Victory atop the lantern measures another 16 feet. No wonder, then, that the towering monument makes a lasting first impression on a visitor.
Victoria Memorial Hall
The galleries of Victoria Memorial pay a fitting homage to Calcutta’s colonial past. They house oil paintings depicting various important occasions of the Queen’s life in chronological order. There are paintings of the Queen’s coronation, her marriage to Prince Albert, the marriage of her son Edward VII, and so on. The Queen’s piano and writing desk have also been preserved here. Perhaps the most famous painting is the oil painting depicting the entry of Prince of Wales (Edward VII) into Jaipur.
If all this makes the Victoria Memorial sound like a servile salute to India’s imperialist past, then you will find the National Leaders’ Gallery, with portraits of freedom fighters, a redeeming feature.
Of use to contemporary playwrights and men of letters is the vast collection of invaluable manuscripts like the letters of Tipu Sultan, the Gazals of Hafiz, Akbar Namah, Shah Namah, collection of plays by William Shakespeare, Arabian Nights and Rubaiyat.
Victoria Memorial Garden
Victoria Memorial is popular among penny-pinching young lovers as it offers a free spot to get cozy and have a good time in general. Indian culture is conservative as a rule, and public displays of affection among unmarried couples meet with disapproval. As a result, places like the Victoria gardens become the popular choice of lovestruck cupids.
Victoria Memorial by Nightfall
Come nightfall, and the white marble building looks resplendent bathed in twilight. The Victoria Memorial holds a light and sound show that showcases the history of Kolkata, which, till date remains a matter of great pride to all Bengalis.
Victoria Memorial Map
Facts about Victoria Memorial
- The Angel of Victory atop the main dome of the Memorial is mounted on brass bearings which enable it to move in the direction of a strong wind, much like a weather-vane.
- Besides the royal family, statues commemorating statesmen like Hastings, Cornwallis, Clive and Dalhousie can also be seen.
- The external sculptures are more eclectic in nature and more embracing of Indian sentiment. For instance, one sculpture is that of a lions’s head with water sprouting from it in four directions indicating the four revered Indian rivers- Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna and the Indus. Some, however see this as the British architect’s way of depicting the ‘life-giving work of Britain in India.’
Where is Victoria Memorial located?
The Victoria Memorial stands on the grounds (locally called Maidan) near the Hooghly riverbank, next to the Jawaharlal Nehru road.
Address: 1, Queens Way, Kolkata, West Bengal 700071
How to Reach Victoria Memorial?
The nearest international airport is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport. It would take you around 30 minutes from the airport to Victoria Memorial via VIP road.
The nearest railway station is the Howrah Railway Station. It would take you a 15 minute drive from the railway station to reach the Victoria Memorial.
By Metro Rail:
The nearest metro-rail station is at Maidan from where you can take a taxi or a local bus to the Victoria Memorial.
Take a shared Maruti Omni from Karunamayi stop to Exide stop. From there plenty of local buses will take you to the Victoria Memorial.
When to visit Victoria Memorial?
The best time to visit Kolkata is always in the winter months from November to February. You could come in a little early, however, if you wish to catch the famous Durga Puja festival of Kolkata. Try to avoid the months from April to September however, as the weather is too hot and humid. Also the torrential rains that happen during July and August would mar any plans of enjoying the city.
Victoria Memorial Tickets and Hours
Tickets to the garden and to the Hall are sold separately.
- Entry fee for garden: Rs 4/- per head
- Monthly ticket: Rs 100/- per head
- Yearly ticket: Rs 1000/- per head
Monthly and yearly tickets are very popular with young people for whom the few hours spent in the garden is the only privacy they can afford.
Entry fee for the Hall: Rs 10/- per head for Indian nationals,
Rs 150/- per head for foreign nationals (roughly 3 USD)
Victoria Memorial Hours
The Museum remains open to visitors every day of the week except on Mondays. Timings are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hall also remains closed on specified Holidays: Republic Day (January 26), Holi, Independence Day (August 15), Id-ul-Fitr, Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), Dusserah, Id-ul-Juha, Christmas (December 25).
Light & Sound Show Ticket Details
Tickets to the Light and Sound Show are sold separately. The show is titled, ‘Pride & Glory- The story of Calcutta.’. The show is held in both Bengali and English languages. Rates for the tickets are Rs 10 and Rs 20. Show timings vary on summer and winter months. However, both the English and Bengali shows are held between 6 p.m. and 8: 30 p.m. every month.Published On: Friday, November 28th, 2014