If you drive past the famous Maiden in Calcutta, you cannot miss seeing an imposing building in the centre. It shines from afar and the white facade gives the monument a pure look. This is the famous Victoria Memorial, which for the last 90 odd years epitomizes the glory of the British rule over India.
Construction of the Memorial
When the Monument was planned, Calcutta was the seat of the British Indian Empire and it was logical to have the monument built there. But by the time it was completed in 1921, the Capital was planned to be shifted to Delhi and the monument was overtaken by events from history. Much of its importance was lost, but its architectural splendor cannot be diminished.
The memorial named after the famous British queen Victoria, is really the heart and soul of Calcutta. It took eight years to build and incorporates Mughal and Western design concepts. The best part is that the memorial was built without any public money and its funding was all done by private Princes and Rajas who wished to curry favor with the imperial power.
The Victoria Memorial and the Taj
The designer of the monument was a British named Sir William Emerson, who had been visiting India since 1860 and had designed numerous buildings all over India. He took a younger assistant and as per his brief by Lord Curzon, he got set to erect a monument that could rival the Taj.
The Taj is a work of splendor, but more than 10,000 workers who worked on the Taj had their hands amputated by emperor Shah Jahan. Nothing like this happened with the Victoria Memorial. The monument in its white marble splendor is spread over an area of 26 hectares with exquisite gardens. It is certainly a marvelous piece of architecture. No visit to Calcutta can be complete without a visit to this memorial.
The monument has lost much of its sheen with the capital shifting to Delhi, but it cannot be forgotten that this memorial is also a museum and brings alive the greatness of the Raj. There is a small entrance fee to visit the museum and memorial and its care and upkeep is the responsibility of the Central government.
Though the memorial in sheer physical and aesthetic beauty rivals the Taj, yet because of political considerations, its importance is down played. The monument houses statutes and portraits of the greats of the Raj as well as sculptors and paintings of Indian soldiers who served the British. After independence a fresh chapter of Indian leaders is also added.
But at the end of the day the sheer beauty of the monument will overwhelm a visitor. It also means that the period of the Raj, just cannot be wished away as fiction. It was a fact of history as the displayed pistols of Warren Hastings, used in actual combat testify.