When in Kolkata, India, you shouldn’t miss visiting the beautiful Victoria Memorial. Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta) was the capital of British India and is now the capital and still the most important city in West Bengal. The British attempted to build their own version of Taj Mahal and came up with the white-marble memorial building dedicated to Queen Victoria. Its official name is Victoria Memorial Hall.
The memorial, which currently serves as a museum and an attractive historical landmark, was inaugurated in 1921. It is 184 feet high and with a dimension of 338 feet by 228 feet. It stands on a vast 64-acre land with blooming gardens. It also has a Royal Gallery, which houses a large number of memorabilia, artifacts, articles, portraits and paintings of Queen Victoria, as well as of Prince Albert.
Although it was built by and for the British, Victoria Memorial was not built using British government money; not a single cent. Instead, the British Indian states and a few wealthy individuals spent a fortune for the memorial’s completion, with the hopes of winning favors from the British government.
The idea to build a memorial on a grand scale began in January 1901 on the death of Queen Victoria. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India during that time, suggested to construct a stately, spacious and lavish monument that is suitable for the queen. The monument was to be grand and exquisite. The people of India were pleased with the suggestion and volunteered to fully finance the queen’s memorial, which upon completion amounted to about US$ 209,475.
The well-known British architect, Sir William Emerson, came up with the design, and actual construction was supervised by Vincent Esch, another highly respected architect during that time. Emerson was the president of the British Institute for Architects. He made use of white Makrana marbles, and created a fusion of the British and Mughal types of architecture.
Today, the memorial is one of the most recognizable structures in the city. People often compare Victoria Memorial to the Taj Mahal for their overall appearance and extravagant use of shiny, white marbles from the same quarries in Makrana. The Taj Mahal, of course, is the most enigmatic Indian buildings and one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
Some of the similarities of the two buildings are their great domes, high portals, terraces, and dome-corner towers, including the purpose for which they were constructed. Emerson, however, claimed that he did not intend to replicate the Taj Mahal but was simply echoing Mughal architecture in his work.
Victoria Memorial is flanked by several figures, some of which are named Motherhood, Victory, Prudence, Learning, Justice, and Charity, among others. One of the highlights to your visit here is a peek inside the Royal Gallery. There are amazing 19th-century paintings depicting important moments in the life of the queen and the royal family. These life moments include scenes of Queen Victoria at her coronation in the Westminster Abbey, her marriage with Prince Albert, the queen’s first and second Jubilee services, and the christening and marriage of the Prince of Wales, to mention a few. At the center of the gallery are the queen’s pianoforte, writing desk and chair.
Finally, an important treasure inside Victoria Memorial is the collection of important art pieces. This beautiful white marble structure now serves as a museum, and as a museum it is a vast repository of major historical paintings, sculptures and manuscripts from the time of the British.