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Victoria Memorial (India)

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Victoria Memorial (India)

Victoria Memorial Hall
Established 1921
Location Queen's Way, Kolkata, WB, India
Type Museum
Collection size Nearly 30,000 rupees (31 March 2009)[1]

The Victoria Memorial (Victoria Memorial Hall) is a large marble building in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India which was built between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture.[2] The Memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly river, near Jawaharlal Nehru road.[3][4]

Queen Victoria


Lord Curzon (1859 - 1925), Viceroy of India (1899 - 1905).

In January 1901, on the death of Queen Victoria,[5] Viceroy of India, suggested the creation of a fitting memorial. He proposed the construction of a grand building with a museum and gardens.[6] Curzon said,

"Let us, therefore, have a building, stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Calcutta will turn, to which all the resident population, European and Native, will flock, where all classes will learn the lessons of history, and see revived before their eyes the marvels of the past."[7]

The Prince of Wales, later King George V, laid the foundation stone on 4 January 1906 and it was formally opened to the public in 1921.[8] In 1912, before the Victoria Memorial was finished, [9] Thus, the Victoria Memorial was built in what would be a provincial city rather than a capital.



The Victoria Memorial was funded by many Indian states, individuals of the British Raj and the British government in London.[7] The princes and people of India responded generously to Curzon's appeal for funds and the total cost of construction of this monument amounting to one crore, five lakhs of rupees, was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions[10]


Victoria Memorial

The Victoria Memorial's architect was William Emerson (1843–1924), president of the Royal Institute of British Architects.[11][12] The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. This style uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements as well as Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences.[13] The building is 338 feet (103 m) by 228 feet (69 m) and rises to a height of 184 feet (56 m). It is constructed of white Makrana marble.[14] The gardens of the Victoria Memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson's assistant, Vincent J. Esch designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates.

William Emerson

Emerson was a pupil of William Burges and an architectural theorist. He first visited India in about 1860. Emerson designed the Crawford Market, Mumbai (1865);[15] the All Saints Cathedral, Allahabad (1871);[16] and Muir College (1873)[17] Emerson moved to the princely state of Bhavnagar, Gujrat and designed the Takhtsingji Hospital and the Nilambagh Palace. There, he learned to include Hindu architectural elements in his works.[18]

Vincent J. Esch


In 1899, Esch was appointed assistant engineer at the Bengal Nagpur Railway, a job which gave him much practical experience in large-scale construction and costings.[19] In 1902, Emerson engaged Esch to sketch his original design for the Victoria Memorial. After designing the temporary exhibition building for the Delhi Durbar of 1903, Curzon found Esch to be a suitable assistant for Emerson.[20] Esch had also won a competition to design the Bengal Club building at Chowringhee[7] and the Bengal-Napur Railway head office building at Garden Reach.


Construction in progress.

The construction of the Victoria Memorial was delayed by Curzon's departure from India in 1905 with a subsequent loss of local enthusiasm for the project and by the need for testing of the foundations. The Victoria Memorial's foundation stone was set in 1906 and the building opened in 1921.[21] The work of construction was entrusted to Messrs. Martin & Co. of Calcutta. Work on the superstructure began in 1910. After 1947, when India gained independence, additions were made.

External decorative features


Atop the central dome of the Victoria Memorial is the 16 ft (4.9 m) figure of the Angel of Victory. Surrounding the dome are allegorical sculptures including Art, Architecture, Justice, and Charity and above the North Porch are Motherhood, Prudence and Learning.

Taj Mahal

Emerson may not have taken, literally, from the Taj Mahal but there is a reminiscence. Like the Taj Mahal, the Victoria Memorial is built of white Makrana marble[14] and is a memorial to an empress. In design, it echos the Taj Mahal with its dome, four subsidiaries, octagonal domed chattris, high portals, terrace, and domed corner towers.



The Victoria Memorial has a number of galleries, 25 in all.[22] These include the royal gallery, the national leaders gallery, the portrait gallery, central hall, the sculpture gallery, the arms and armoury gallery and the newer, Calcutta gallery. The Victoria Memorial has the largest single collection of the works of Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) and his nephew, William Daniell (1769–1837).[23] The Victoria Memorial also has a collection of rare and antiquarian books such as the illustrated works of William Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam as well as books about kathak dance and thumri music by Wazid Ali Shah. However, the galleries and their exhibitions, the programmatic elements of the Memorial do not compete with the purely architectural spaces or voids.[24][25]

Royal gallery


The Royal Gallery displays a number of portraits of Victoria and St. Paul's Cathedral (June 1897). Victoria's childhood rosewood pianoforte and her correspondence desk from Windsor Castle stand in the centre of the room. Edward VII presented these items to the Victoria Memorial. On the south wall hangs the Russian artist, Vasily Vereshchagin's oil painting of the state entry of Edward VII, (then Prince of Wales), into Jaipur in 1876.[26][27] [28]

Calcutta gallery

Angel of Victory.

In the mid 1970s, the matter of a new gallery devoted to the visual history of Calcutta was promoted by Saiyid Nurul Hasan, the minister for education. In 1986, Hasan became the governor of West Bengal and chairman of the board of trustees of the Victoria Memorial. In November, 1988, Hasan hosted an international seminar on the Historical perspectives for the Calcutta tercentenary. The Calcutta gallery concept was agreed and a design was developed leading to the opening of the gallery in 1992.[7] The Calcutta gallery houses a visual display of the history and development of Calcutta from Job Charnock (1630–1692) of the English East India company to 1911, when the capital of India was transferred to New Delhi. The gallery also has a life size diorama of Chitpur road in the late 1800s.[29]


Garden from south.
King Edward VII Arch.
The gardens cover an area of 64 acres (260,000 m2). They are maintained by a team of 21 gardeners. They were designed by Redesdale and David Prain. On Esch's bridge, between narrative panels by Gascombe John, there is a bronze statue of Victoria, by George Frampton. Victoria is seated on her throne. She is wearing the robes of the Star of India. In the paved quadrangles and elsewhere around the building, other statues commemorate Hastings, Cornwallis, Clive, Wellesley, and Dalhousie. Approaching the Victoria Memorial building from the south, visitors pass the Edward VII memorial arch. Upon the arch is a bronze equestrian statue of Edward VII by Bertram Mackennal and, a marble statue of Curzon by Frederic William Pomeroy. The garden contains statues of dignitaries such as Bentinck, governor-general of India (1828–1835); Ripon, governor-general of India (1880–84); and Rajendra Nath Mookerjee, a pioneer industrialist of Bengal.[7]

Picture gallery


  1. ^ Government of India, Ministry of Culture, Annual report 2008 - 2009. p. 30
  2. ^ "Victoria Memorial." I love India website.
  3. ^ Gupta O. "Encyclopaedia of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh." Gyan Publishing House, 2006 p2567. ISBN8182053897, 9788182053892 Accessed at Google Books 14 December 2013.
  4. ^ Vaughan P. "The Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta: conception, collections, conservation." Marg Publications, National Centre for the Performing Arts (India) 1997. Original from the University of Virginia. Digitized 7 April 2008. ISBN8185026386, 9788185026381 Accessed at Google Books 14 December 2013.
  5. ^ Lehman H. E. "Lives of England's monarchs." AuthorHouse, 2005. p390. ISBN1418496928, 9781418496920 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  6. ^ Herbert E. W. "Flora's empire: British gardens in India." Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. p224. ISBN 0812205057, 9780812205053. Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e Dutta K. "Calcutta: a cultural and literary history." Signal Books, 2003. p129 - 131. ISBN1902669592, 9781902669595 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Gordon D. (ed.) "Planning twentieth century capital cities." Planning, History and Environment Series. Routledge, 2006 p182. ISBN 0203481569, 9780203481561 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  10. ^ Official website for Victoria Memorial [2] Ministry of culture.
  11. ^ "Victoria Memorial." Kolkata information website.
  12. ^ Kumar R. "Essays on Indian art and architecture." Discovery Publishing House, 2003. p16. ISBN8171417159, 9788171417155. Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  13. ^ Knight L. "Britain in India, 1858 - 1947." Anthem Press, 2012. p85. ISBN0857285173, 9780857285171. Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
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  15. ^ Chopra P. "A joint enterprise: Indian elites and the making of British Bombay." U of Minnesota Press, 2011. p41 ISBN0816670366, 9780816670369 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  16. ^ Sajnani M. "Encylopaedia of tourism resources in India." Gyan Publishing House, 2001 p395 ISBN8178350173, 9788178350172Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  17. ^ Nayar P. K. "Colonial voices: the discourses of empire." John Wiley & Sons, 2012 p143. ISBN1118278992, 9781118278994 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  18. ^ Desai M. et al "The Bungalow in twentieth-century India: the cultural expression of changing ways of life and aspirations in the domestic architecture of colonial and post-colonial society." Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2012. p128 ISBN 1409427382, 9781409427384 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  19. ^ Schama S. "A History of Britain - volume 3: the fate of the empire 1776 - 2000." Random House, 2012. ISBN1409018350, 9781409018353. Accessed at Google Books 14 December 2013.
  20. ^ Morris J. "Stones of the empire:the buildings of the Raj." Oxford University Press, 2005. p24 ISBN0192805967, 9780192805966. Accessed at Google Books 14 December 2013.
  21. ^ Sharma A. "Famous monuments of India." Pinnacle Technology, 2011. ISBN1618205455, 9781618205452 Accessed at Google Books 14 December 2013.
  22. ^ Chander P. "India past and present." APH Publishing, 2003. p148 ISBN8176484555, 9788176484558 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  23. ^ Freitag W. M. "Art books: a basic bibliography of monographs on artists." 2503. Victoria Memorial (Calcutta). A descriptive catalogue of Daniells work in the Victoria Memorial (Museum). 1976. Routledge, 2nd edition, 2013. ISBN1134830416, 9781134830411 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  24. ^ Dutta A. "The Bureaucracy of beauty: design in the age of its global reproducability." Routledge, 2013 p294. ISBN1135864020, 9781135864026 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  25. ^ Moorhouse G. "Calcutta." Faber & Faber, 2012. ISBN0571281133, 9780571281138 Accessed at Google Books 13 December 2013.
  26. ^ "The Royal gallery." Victoria Memorial official website. Accessed 14 December 2013.
  27. ^ Dutta A. "Gallery reopens at Victoria Memorial after a decade." The Hindu website 12 September 2012. Accessed 14 December 2013.
  28. ^ "Victoria Memorial Hall." Cultural India website. Accessed 14 December 2013.
  29. ^ "Calcutta Gallery." Victoria Memorial official website. Accessed 14 December 2013.

External links

  • Official website
  • "360 degree spherical panoramas of Victoria Memorial." India Tourism.
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