A walk in the garden of Victoria Memorial brings the spring me, while a visit inside the museum is a presentation of long history of India. This H Shaped memorial was built in between 1906 and 1921 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 25-year reign in India. After the Great Revolt of 1857, the British Government in India ended the reign of East India Company and gathered the reins of control of the country directly. In 1876 the British Parliament made Victoria the Empress of India. Her reign ended with her death in 1901.Victoria Memorial is an attraction in the history of Indian- European Colonial architecture. Sir William Emerson, President of the British Institute of Architects helped to design and planned the building and entrust the construction work to the very famous Messrs. Martin & Co. of Calcutta.
Victoria Memorial consists of many hybrid features. This grandiloquent construction has Italian-style statues over its entrances, Mughal zamana domes in its corners and tall elegant open curved colonnades along its sides.
There are 3000 exhibits in 25 galleries in a chamber beneath the dome of Victoria Memorial. The main entrance of Victoria Memorial is from the north. A bronze statue of Queen Victoria sits enthroned in bronze at the entrance marble staircase wearing the regal Order of the Star of India. Above her, a black bronze angel known as Victory, holding a bugle in her hand was placed at the apex of the dome above the Victoria Memorial and has always been regarded as a curious addition to the monument. It is fixed to its pedestal with ball bearings and rotates when the wind is strong enough.
The entrance dome of Victoria Memorial is deeply graven with the text of Queen ‘s imperial proclamation speech. Inside the memorial there are the extraordinary collection of artefacts depicting British Government in India – statues of famous British figures including Robert Clive, General Stringer Lawrence, Lord Bentick, William Makepeace Thackeray, who was born here, Florence Nightingale, Queen Mary, George V and Queen Victoria. Many of India’s Governors and Governor Generals are represented here in stone, dressed in Roman togas, like Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, Cornwallis, Wellesley, Dalhousie, Minto and many others.
Excellent paintings such as, Burne-Jones’s portrait of Rudyard Kipling, Johann Zoffany’s portrait of William Hastings and his family, Macaulay, Bishop Heber and William Hickey, Verestchagin’s monumental depiction of the Prince of Wales making his grand tour of Jaipur in the year 1876, the works of the Victorian artists Thomas and William Daniells, paintings of Robert Clive, marriage of the Prince of Wales with Princess Alexandra are exhibited and a huge painting depicts King Edward VII entering Jaipur in a regal procession in 1876.
The French guns captured at the Battle of Plassey are on exhibit along with the black stone throne of the Nawab whom Clive defeated. Also on display are some Indians. Among them are Keshab Chandra Sen, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore and his grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore.
In the Royal Gallery of Victoria Memorial, there are many oil paintings illustrating episodes from Queen Victoria’s long, eventful life and reign- her coronation in the Westminster Abbey in June 1838; her marriage with Prince Albert (1840) in the Chapel Royal at St. James’ Palace; the baptism of her son, her son’s wedding, her residence of Frogmore, Queen Victoria at the first Jubilee service in Westminster Abbey in 1887 and the Second Jubilee service of Queen Victoria at St. Paul’s Cathedral, June 1897.
Some of her possessions, like the pianoforte, at which she received tuition in childhood, her personal writing desk and chair occupied for daily correspondence at Windsor, scrapbooks of her letters in Hindustani, for Queen was tutored in the language by her favorite Indian attendant Abdul Karim, the last letter she wrote to her people in India.
The Memorial’s grandeur at a height of 200 feet is famous for its exhibits of Indian and Western Paintings, manuscripts, postage stamps, Mughal miniatures, books that dates back to the 1870’s, statues and sculptures, arms and armaments, sketches and other objects of historic value in its Museum and Art Gallery. Today it is one of the main attractions for tourists in Kolkata.