Victoria Memorial

Victoria Memorial (Victoria Memorial Hall), Kolkata

Victoria Memorial (Victoria Memorial Hall), Kolkata

Nestled amidst lush gardens, the sparkling white Victoria Memorial offers a true visual ecstasy. Victoria memorial dedicated to Queen Victoria, offers a deep insight into the history of India, starting from the rise of the British Empire up to the Independence era. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, proposed a grand monument for her. In January 1906, the Prince of Wales laid the foundation of Victoria Memorial, which was founded by Indian princes, the British government and partly by Curzon himself. The monument – 103m x 70m, and 56 m high – was designed by Sir William Emerson and constructed by Martin & Co, with white Markana marble from Rajasthan. Its central dome is crowned with a 3-tonne, almost 5m tall ‘Angel of Victory’ crafted in Italy. This impressive monument stands in 64 acres of lawns and gardens, was opened to the public in December 1921. The memorial houses a well-maintained museum, which displays an impressive collection of memorabilia and paintings related to Queen Victoria, Indian Freedom Fighters and other aspects of Indian and British history. It treasures a wide collection of sculptures, paintings lithographs and Mughal miniatures, weaponry and other historical treasures.

Location of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

Located at the southern end of the famous Kolkata Maidan, the majestic Victoria Memorial of Kolkata is flanked by Fort William, Calcutta Race Course, the Birla Planetarium, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Jawaharlal Nehru Road.

History of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

Lord Curzon, first proposed the idea of building a majestic memorial to offer tribute to Queen Victoria and since Kolkata was the capital of British India, it was the natural choice for such a structure. Sir William Emerson wonderfully conceptualized and designed the outlay of the memorial on 64 acres of land. The foundation stone of the Memorial was laid by the Prince of Wales on 4th January, 1906 at Kolkata. Sir David Prain and Lord Redesdale designed the beautifully landscaped garden, flanking the entire memorial.  The Duke of Windsor inaugurated the Memorial to public on 21st December 1921. Though it is said that Emerson designed the monument in the Italian Renaissance style, it is difficult to miss its resemblance to the Taj Mahal. Indeed, the similarity is also striking that the Memorial earned the name ‘Taj of the Raj.’ The huge hall measures 338 feet in length and 228 feet width and it reaches a towering height of 184 feet.

The Victoria Memorial of Kolkata has a colossal bronze statue of the Queen Empress. A moving angel has been created at the top of the Memorial, which is facing the Kolkata Maidan. Victoria memorial houses a number of statues: The statues of Motherhood, The statues of Learning, The statues of Architecture, The statues of Charity, The statues of Justice, The statues of Prudence and The statues of Art. All these statues were brought to Victoria Memorial from Italy.

Victoria Memorial houses a nice museum, which showcases a striking collection of memorabilia, related to Queen Victoria and the rule of British in India.  After India became independent in 1947, few additions were made to the Victoria Memorial. The newer additions formed the National Leader’s Gallery, which displays the relics and portraits related to Indian independence.


Inside Victoria Memorial and around it


The Royal Gallery of Victoria Memorial truly worth a visit. The gallery is admired with an array of oil paintings depicting a number of memorable scenes, like Queen Victoria accepting the sacrament at her coronation in the Westminster Abbey; her marriage with Prince Albert in the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace; Queen Victoria at her first Jubilee service in Westminster Abbey in 1887 and Second Jubilee service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also on display is a writing desk on which the Queen conducted her everyday correspondence. The most impressive exhibit here, however, is a masterpiece by the Russian artist. Vassili Verestchagin, depicting the Prince of Wales entering Jaipur in 1876. Besides its artistic worth, this is also the largest in the world. It measures 7m x 5m. The Portrait Gallery includes paintings of important figures from colonial history as well as stalwarts of the Bengal Renaissance. The southern wall of the gallery is adorned with the masterpieces created by the famous Russian artist Verestchagin. Victoria Memorial also owns the world’s largest collection of the aquatints of the 18th century artists, Thomas and William Daniell. This young uncle and nephew team arrived in Kolkata in 1786 and painted some of the earliest views of the city before embarking on a brave journey across India to document the great sights of the country. The clean lines and pastel shades of the Daniell aquatints are as charming today as they must have seemed exotic in their time.
The National Leaders’ Gallery was added after independence, and features portraits, mostly by Atul Basu and Langhammer.
A recent addition to Victoria Memorial is the Calcutta Gallery. Although this gallery was envisioned by Curzon himself, it was commissioned on the occasion of the city’s tercentenary. The Calcutta Gallery traces the city’s evolution from its inception in Job Charnok’s days, with old maps, sketches, photographs and important historical documents, right up to the Partition of India in 1947. There is also a beautiful walk – through diorama of Chitpur Road in the 19th century.
The landscaped garden of the Victoria Memorial Hall spanning 64 acres was designed by Sir David Prain and Lord Redesdale. There is a bronze statue of Queen Victoria, seated on her throne towards the north gate. The King Edward VII memorial arch featuring a bronze equestrian statue of the King and a marble statue of Lord Curzon is featured within the garden. The garden also has statues of other British luminaries like Lord Bentinck and Lord Ripon. The statue of Sir Rajendranath Mookherjee, an eminent industrialist of Bengal lies on the eastern side of the garden. Twenty-one gardeners have been appointed to maintain the garden of Victoria Memorial.
The library of Victoria Memorial treasures some rare books, which date back to the 1870s. Some of the worth mentioning books are The Arabian nights, Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam and many more.
A wonderful Light & Sound show is held at the Victoria Memorial, regularly. The show famed as ‘Pride & Glory – the Story of Calcutta’ was initiated as a joint venture with Bengal Chamber of Commerce. The show is held in both Bengali and English version.


Trivia about Victoria Memorial in Kolkata

  • The Victoria Memorial was built in the early 20th century to commemorate the memory of Queen Victoria.
  • The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of the Victoria Memorial on January 4, 1906.
  • Sir William Emerson has exquisitely designed Victoria Memorial in Indo-Saracenic style.
  • The Memorial is the biggest repository across India, boasting a striking collection of sculptures, paintings and manuscripts from the British period.
  • The Royal Gallery of Victoria Memorial has beautifully maintained the pianoforte of Queen Victoria, where she used to play piano during her childhood and also her writing desk and chair, which she used at her Windsor Castle. King Edward VII presented these to Victoria Memorial.
  • A huge sum of money of around INR 10500000 was invested for the entire construction of Victoria Memorial. It is amazing to discover that the entire amount was obtained from the voluntary subscriptions of the citizen of Kolkata.