Kolkata, the bustling capital of the culturally-rich state of West Bengal, is one of the biggest metropolises of India. The city was founded by the British colonists in the early 17th century during the reign of Mughal emperor Jahangir. A factory was set-up in 1620, and thence, the British influence in the area started to grow. In 1911, the city was declared as the capital of British India and later, it became a significant hub for the Indian freedom struggle. People visit many attractions during Kolkata tours like Howrah Bridge, Saint Paul Cathedral, Indian Museum, Marble Palace, Victoria Memorial and more.
Queen Victoria was one of the most powerful leaders of the world and ruled England and its colonies from 1837 to 1901, making her the longest serving British monarch in history. In 1876, she assumed the title of the Empress of India and remained as such till her death. After her demise, Lord Curzon, the erstwhile Viceroy, proposed the construction of a monument to celebrate her reign. The Victoria Memorial was designed by Sir William Emerson, and Vincent J Esch assisted him. King George V laid the foundation stone in 1906 and the memorial was publicly inaugurated in 1921. The construction cost of around one crore and five lakh rupees was borne by different rulers of Indian princely states, people associated with the Raj and government officials in London.
A mix of Persian, Indian and Gothic architecture was used to construct this spacious building, measuring 38, 228 and 184 feet in length, breadth and height, respectively. The façade is beautifully adorned with statues representing the angel of victory, art, justice, motherhood, prudence, architecture and learning. This feature is characteristic of the Gothic style of architecture and shows the European influence. The Taj Mahal is said to be its main source of inspiration and the marble used for the construction was sourced from the same quarry in Makrana in the state of Rajasthan. A Persian influence is apparent from the domes, shaped like onions.
The structure serves as a museum and there are 25 vivid galleries inside. Copies of oil paintings on display in London are housed in the Royal Gallery. The paintings are of the coronation of the queen in Westminster Abbey, her marriage to Prince Albert and the wedding of Prince Edward VII. Her piano and desk from Windsor Palace adorn the centre of the hall. The Calcutta Gallery was opened in 1992 and has portraits depicting the development of the city from the 17th century to 1911. 21 gardeners maintain the 64-acre lush grounds surrounding the entire building. Statues of the queen and lords Hastings, Cornwallis, Clive and other adorn the garden. People on their family holidays to Kolkata can consider visiting this excellent piece of architecture.
Garden fee is INR 4 while museum fee is INR 10 for Indians, INR 150 for others and nil for children below 12 years of age. Victoria Memorial can be visited on all days except Monday, and the best weather in the city is from November to February. International flights from Southeast Asia and domestic flights from major cities land at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport – the air gateway to the city. Trains can also be taken to Howrah and Sealdah railway stations from all the major Indian cities. A well-established network of national highways connects the city to the rest of the country.