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ARCHITECTURE OF
VICTORIA MEMORIAL

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PROJECT PAPER (5th)

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Project Paper Prepared by Tanima Chakraborty


BFA Final Year (History Of Art)
Roll Number : RAB/BFA 120015

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INDEX

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{ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS}..... 2
{ PREFACE}..... 3
{ INTRODUCTION }

{VICTORIA PAST AND PRESENT} 5


{ARCHITECTURE OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL}.. 7
{FEATURES}.. 7
{GROUND PLAN OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL} 8
{ELEVATION OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL} 10
{ COLONNADE } ... 11
{ ARCHITECTURAL RESEMBLANCE
WITH TAJ MAHAL}... 14

{ GALLERY }... 20
{ CONCLUSION }. 22

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

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I am Tanima Chakraborty, student of B.F.A (Final Year), 2011-2012, thankful


to Prof. Sushanta Ghosh (History of Art Department), Rabindra Bharati
University, for his guidance regarding the project. I am indebted to him for a
proper guideline, analysis and finishing the project Architecture of Victoria
Memorial. Without him completing this project would have not been
possible to me.

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Tanima Chakraborty

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PREFACE:

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I am TanimaChakraborty, a student pursuing History of Art of the


Department of Visual Art from Rabindra Bharati University. This is my project
paper, where I am submitting my observation regarding the study of

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architecture. So, in this paper I am submitting my complete observation and


views on the architecture of the Victoria Memorial of Kolkata.

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INTRODUCTION:

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A splendid architectural structure in white marble, modelled on the Taj


Mahal, was built in the early 20th Century in memory of Queen Victoria

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between 1906 and 1921 and was formally inaugurated by the Prince of
Wales, who later became King Edward VIII of England. Set in beautiful
garden grounds, the Victoria Memorial houses a large bronze statue of the
Queen Empress Topped with a moving angel this memorial faces the
Calcutta Maidan. The statues of Motherhood, Prudence, Learning, Art,
Justice, Architecture and Charity are brought from Italy. The magical lighting
effect in the evening and a fairy tale 'Fountain of Joy' facing the memorial
building create an atmosphere of unforgettable charm. It also has a 5 meter
tall bronze winged figure of Victory, weighing 3 tons.

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It was designed by Sir William Emerson. It also acts as a museum, where


people could see before them pictures and statues of men who played a
prominent part in the history of India. Presently it is the finest and most
prominent building and art museum of Calcutta, India, under the
Department of Culture, Govt. of India.

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In the evening, the light and sound programs are a major attraction for the
tourists. Every day, crowds of people visit the premises from early morning
to sunset. Being one of the most popular tourist spot in the city, it is one of

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VICTORIA MEMORIAL PAST AND PRESENT:

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Old photo of Victoria Memorial hall

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The Victoria Memorial was built to commemorate the peak of the British
Empire in India. The Victoria Memorial, conceived by Lord Curzon,
represents the architectural climax of Kolkata city. Lord Curzon, the then
Viceroy specified its classical style but the actual plan of Victoria Memorial
was laid down by the well-known architect, Sir William Emerson. The Victoria
Memorial blends the best of the British and Mughal architecture. The

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Victoria Memorial hall was built with white Makrana marbles. The Prince of
Wales laid the foundation stone of Victoria Memorial in 1906 and it was
inaugurated in 1921 in memory of Queen Victoria. The Victoria Memorial is
338 by 228 feet and a height of 184 feet.

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View of present days Victoria Memorial

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Today the Victoria Memorial Hall is a museum having an assortment of


Victoria memorabilia, British Raj paintings and other displays. As night
descends on Calcutta, the Victoria Memorial Hall is illuminated, giving it a
fairy tale look. It is interesting to note that the Victoria Memorial was built
without British government funds. The money required for the construction

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of the stately building, surrounded by beautiful gardens over 64 acres and


costing more than 10 million was contributed by British Indian states and
individuals who wanted favors with the British government. At the top of the
Victoria Memorial is a sixteen foot tall bronze statue of victory, mounted on
ball bearings. It rotates with wind.

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At present the Victoria Memorial has notable collection of weapons,


sculptors, paintings, maps, coins, stamps, artifacts, textiles etc. The Royal
gallery in Victoria Memorial has portraits of the Queen and Prince Albert.
There are numerous paintings, illustrating events from Victoria's life.
Another remarkable peace in Victoria Memorial is a painting by the Russian
artist Vasseli Verestchagin, portraying the state entry of the Prince of Wales
in Jaipur in the year 1876. In the post-independence period a new addition
was made to the Victoria Memorial. It was the addition of the National
leaders' gallery with the portraits and relics of the freedom fighters.

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ARCHIECTURE OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL:

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The building was designed by Sir William Emerson President of the British
Institute of Architects. Vincent J Esch, an assistant Engineer in the Bengal
Nagpur Railway, was the superintending architect and the work of

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construction was entrusted to Messrs Martin and Co of Kolkata. Lord


Redesdale and Sir David Prain designed the gardens. Though the
construction of the building substructure began in 1904, it was completed
only after 20 years at a cost of 10 million rupees. The Prince of Wales
formally inaugurated it in 1921.

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Set amid 64 acres of lawns, fountains, and herbaceous borders this greatest
symbol of the British, houses artifacts illustrating British roots in India. The
building covers an area of 103.02m by 69.49m.

FEATURES:

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The 'H' shaped memorial consists of numerous hybrid features; it has

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Italian-style statues over its entrances, Mughal domes in its corners and tall
elegant open curved colonnades along its sides. The building is a splendid
example of colonial style of architecture, which combines the European
style and the Indo-Islamic style. The period of European colonization and the
subsequent British rule in India had its impact on Indian architecture. The
main manifestations of this style of architecture were churches, barracks,
forts, residential quarters, administrative quarters etc. The British also
introduced new techniques in the construction of buildings, which were
different from the ones used by the indigenous people of India at that time.
The memorial is one of the finest examples of the European style of

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GROUND PLAN OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL:

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The ground plan of Victoria memorial consisted of a high entrance followed


by a portico, which is topped by terraces. The portico is connected with a
passageway towards the central queen hall and at the both side have
sculpture gallery at the left and picture gallery at the right. The Queens hall
is topped by a huge dome as Tajmahal. This dome is directly taken as the
influence of Islamic architecture of India. The farthest side of the hall
decorated with rows of colonnade. The main hall is succeeded by the
rectangular prince hall. At the left side of the prince hall, darbar hall is
situated, which was generally used for meeting or discussion.

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The huge dome of Victoria Memorial

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Sir William Emerson, President of the British Institute of Architects, designed


and drew up the plan of this building and to supervise the construction of
the building on site Vincent J Esch, an assistant Engineer in the Bengal
Nagpur Railway, was appointed as the superintending architect. In 1902,
Emerson engaged him to prepare a sketch of his original design for the
Victoria Memorial. The work of construction was entrusted to Messrs Martin
& Co of Calcutta.

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By the time the construction of the memorial began in earnest, in 1910,


Esch had established himself as Calcutta's leading architect. He was then
formally appointed the Superintending Architect of the project.

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Sir William Emerson drafted his plan, modelling the building on the tradition
of the Italian renaissance architecture, though it unmistakably resembles
the Taj. Still, Sir William described his model as an occidental design.
Without mentioning the details, however, it reflects the Indian character.
Curzon insisted that the memorial should be built of white marble. There is

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also a correspondence in the forms; the great dome, clustered with four
subsidiaries octagonal domed chattris, the high portals, the terrace, and the
domed corner towers. Even in the function there is also a great similarity.
Like the Taj, the Memorial too was intended to bear the remembrance of an
Empress.

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ELEVATION OF VICTORIA MEMORIAL:

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The memorial is situated on 64 acres of lawns, ponds, shrubbery and


herbaceous borders and nothing in Calcutta ever had more pleasing or more
amply open surroundings. The building, covering an area of 103.02m by
69.49m, is 56.08m high up to the base of the figure of Victory, which is
another 4.88m high. The mercantile class and some of the princely states of
India entirely and voluntarily subscribed the total cost of its construction
amounting to Rs 1, 05,00,000. It is said that a goods train about 27 km long
would have been required to bring the entire building materials needed for
the memorial. The total weight of the building has been calculated to be

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around 80,300 ton and the quantity of marble for it measured 450.24 cubic
meters. The marble for the memorial was acquired from the same quarries
of Makrana in Rajasthan, from where SHAHJAHAN had obtained marble for the
Taj. The cost of marble, including freight charges, was initially estimated to
be around Rs 2.5 million. Later, the expenses were reduced by Rs 200,000,
when the Indian Railways waived the transport costs and offered free
carriage.

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COLONNADE:

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Two rows of colonnade decorated the both side of the central hall and
supported the open air terrace. The colonnades are left open and outside of
the enclosed architectural section.

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The Doric order


Doric Columns have a firm place in history and in the tradition of classical
architecture. The ancient styles of construction developed in Greece and
Rome were revived and codified by Renaissance architects and scholars
such as Giacomo da Vignola (1507-1573) and Andrea Palladio (1508-1580).
They became known as the Five Orders:

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The Tuscan Order (Roman)

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The Doric Order (Greek and Roman)

The Ionic Order (Greek and Roman)

The Corinthian Order (Greek and Roman)

The Composite Order (Roman)

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Among these five orders the colonnades of Victoria memorial falls in the
section of Doric column. The order encompasses the entire building system
columns and entablature, while individual columns have characteristics
belonging to one of the orders. In ancient Greece, Doric columns were
stouter than those of the Ionic or Corinthian orders. Their smooth, round
capitals are simple and plain compared to the other two Greek orders. A
square abacus connects the capital to the entablature. In Greece, the Doric
column was placed directly on the pavement or floor without benefit of a
base. Examples of Doric columns in the Greek style include: the Heraeum at

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Olympus (590 BCE), the Basilica at Paestum (about 530 BCE) and the
Parthenon (447-432 BCE). When the Romans adopted Doric columns for
their buildings, changes were made. Roman Doric columns tend to be
slimmer than the Greek Doric columns. At their base, Roman Doric columns
are usually adorned with the Attic base composed of an upper and lower
torus separated by a scotia with fillets. Instead of being placed directly on
the floor or platform, Roman columns stand on pads or plinths.

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Architectural style of Victoria Memorial & its resemblance


with the Taj Mahal:

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Sir William Emerson was credited for drafting his plan of Victoria Memorial on the tradition of
the Italian renaissance architecture and Lord Curzon wanted the memorial should be of white
marble. There is a gaping resemblance of Victoria Memorial with the Taj Mahal in its form with
a great dome, high portals, four subsidiary octagonal domed chattris, the domed corner towers
and the terrace. It is striking to note that this massive building is a collage of various styles
having Italian-style statues along with Mughal domes. This combination of European style and
the Indo-Islamic style has created a distinct identity. The uniqueness of Victoria Memorial lies
in the fact that it has maintained a fine balance despite being influenced by a potpourri of styles.

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European style of architecture is reflected through the churches, forts, residential quarters,
barracks and administrative quarters of this elegant building.

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The figure, which is some two and a half times larger than life, stands with its pedestal twentyseven feet high. Certain details of the material employed may be worth setting down. The figure
itself is to be of light bronze, the sceptre of ivory with gold ornaments, the orb of blue lapislazuli, surmounted by a golden figure of St. George; the crown and wreath will also be in gold,
and the cushion behind the figure enamelled, probably in pale blue and white. The robes are
those pertaining to the Order of the Star of India which her Majesty wore when she assumed the
title of Empress. The lion and tiger side by side on the back of the statue typify respectively the
British Kingdom and the Indian Empire. Two figures at the top represent Art and Literature and

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Justice. The capitals which support them are carved to represent English oak leaves, and a
typical Indian tree, which is a sacred symbol of the Indian religion. Roses ornament the throne
behind the head of the Queen. The base, which will be of richly coloured marble, will bear the
Royal arms in enamel, supported by bronze figures of two Indians. It is fortunate that a work of
art, at once novel in treatment and remarkably stately in its conception, should represent the
flourishing condition in our Indian empire but it is impossible to avoid feeling a slightly jealous
regret that so fine a work should leave the country.

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The polychromy provided by the the orb of blue lapis-lazuli and golden figure of St.
George does not appear in the photographs, so that assuming the gold leaf did not wear away,
the final work probably replaced these elements and the cushion behind the Queen enamelled,
probably in pale blue and white, with bronze. The marble also does not appear to be richly
coloured marble.

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Left: A view from below of St. George standing on the imperial orb, the head of Victoria, and
two allegorical figures above. Right: Side view with Goscombe John's bas relief. (the other side
also has one.)

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Left: St. George standing on the imperial orb.. Right two: Art and Literature and Justice [?]. It is
not clear if the figures in the final version of the memorial are as The Studio described. The
closer figure of a seated woman appears to be either spinning closth or playing an instrument.
The other woman sits with a dog next to here.

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Before you walk inside the hall, you will encounter a black bronze Angel of Victory at the top
of the dome above the Memorial. The statue welcomes you holding a bugle in her hand.
Victoria Memorial houses 25 galleries in the chamber beneath the dome. The main attraction
remains the Queen's Hall where you get to see paintings of several events of her life including
her marriage, accession to throne, her residence of Frogmore and others. The hall safeguards her
valuable possessions like the pianoforte she used to play during her childhood, the last letter she
penned for her people in India and the writing desk and chair she used to occupy.

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A black bronze angel, known as Victory, holding a bugle in her hand was
placed at the apex of the dome and has always been regarded as a curious
addition to the monument. The statue, about five meters tall and weighing
3,500 kg is fixed to its pedestal with ball bearings and can rotate when the
wind speed is high enough. Italian craftsmen sculpted the various statues
that adorn the large garden of the monument. Another sculpture on the
northern side depicts a lion's head with water flowing out of it and passing

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into four troughs representing the Indus, the Ganges, the Jumna and the
Krishna.

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this archway, in white Rajashtan marble leads to the great monument itself. Given the time
taken to complete the building, it commemorates both the King Emperor (Rex Imperator)
Edward who predeceased the unveiling of the monument and his redoubtable mother Queen
Empress Victoria.

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The bronze statue of the King mounted on his steed is by celebrated Australian sculptor Sir
Betram Mackennal; it was originally exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1916 and is a variation
of Mackennal's similar one in Queen Victoria's Gardens in Melbourne. The marbles allegorical

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figures represent the British Empire's naval seapower (on right) and British land forces (on the
left).

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THE GALLERY:

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There are 3000 exhibits in 25 galleries in a chamber beneath the dome. The
Queen's Hall, walls of which have been deeply graven with the text of
Victoria's proclamation, draws the main attraction. There are many
paintings reminiscent of various events of her life: her coronation, her
marriage, the baptism of her son and heir, her son's wedding, her residence
of Frogmore etc. Some of her possessions, like the pianoforte, at which she
received tuition in childhood, the writing desk and chair occupied for daily
correspondence at Windsor, the last letter she wrote to her people in India
etc.

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There are portraits of other Britons who were in Calcutta at one time or
another: Macaulay, Kipling and Bishop Heber and William Hickey. Some
Indian faces are also displayed without discrimination. Among these are KESHAB CHANDRA SEN, MICHAEL MADHUSUDAN DUTT, RABINDRANATH TAGORE and his
enterprising grandfather DWARKANATH TAGORE. There are documents, including
the forgery which had NANDA KUMAR judicially executed. There are
mementoes of British imperialism, like statues and bust of Queen Mary,
Geroge V, and French guns captured at the Battle of PALASHI in 1757 etc.

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The main attraction at the memorial is the huge somber statue of the
queen, which is flanked by two ornamental tanks. Many of India's old rulers
are represented here in stone, quite often dressed in Roman togas, like
CLIVE, WARREN HASTINGS, CORNWALLIS, WELLESLEY, DALHOUSIE.

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Emerson's design was much enhanced by the sympathetic ornaments


added by others. Vincent Esch's major contribution was the redesign of the
foundations on innovative principles for which he was renowned, but he also
supervised the production of the allegorical sculpture groups over the

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entrances and designed the elegant bridge on the north side, and the gates
to the gardens. The groups of figures above the north porch represent
Motherhood, Prudence and Learning. Surrounding the main dome are figures
of Art, Architecture, Justice, Charity etc. The spaciousness and restraint of
the gardens emphasize the building's majesty.

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Besides these priceless assets, the galleries are also adorned with realistic portraits of the
Britons including Macaulay, Kipling and William Hickey, who were in Kolkata at some point in
the past. You also find exclusive portraits of eminent Indians like, Keshab Chandra Sen,
Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Rabindranath Tagore. The list of attractions does not end here
since these galleries have lot more to offer including the statues and bust of Queen Mary and
Geroge V along with the other mementoes. The solemn statue of the queen is really a
commendable work accompanied by two ornamental tanks. You will find most of the old rulers

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of India in stone, quite often dressed in Roman togas, like Clive, Warren Hastings, Cornwallis,
Wellesley and Dalhousie.

Paintings of European Artists:

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Charles Doyly, Johann Zoffany, William Hadges, William Simpson, Tilly


Kettle, Thomas Hickey, Emily Eden and Thomas Daniells constitute a big

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section of the Museum. Worlds largest collection of Daniells his initial


views of Calcutta has been captured by him in the 12 coloured aquatints.
The Throne of Nawab of Bengal; a chair made of Ivory and gifted to Warren
Hastings wife; pistols belonging to Warren Hastings; Medals given to Prince
Dwarakanath Tagore by Queen Victoria; an Ink pot used by Pandit Ishwar
Chandra Vidyasagar are some on the historical relics on display.

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Imported from Italy are the Statues of Architecture, Motherhood, Justice,


Learning, Charity, Prudence and Art which are on display here.

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Sword and Dagger of Tipu Sultan; Dagger of Nawaz Nazim of Bengal, Gun
Powder Flask (Burruddan) made of mother of pearl and belonging to Nawaz
Wazir Mahmood Khan Bahadur; Sir Collin Campbells sword with an ivory hilt
are some of the armours on display.

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Akbar Namah in two volumes; Ain-e-Akbari by Abdul Fazal (the court


historian of the Emperor of Akbar); a manuscript of Diwan Hafiz; or the
Ghazals of Hafiz; Tipu Sultans handwritten note book; a volume of copies of
Tipu Sultans letters; Shah Namah - the famous epic containing the history
of the ancient Kings of Persia penned by Firdausi in 999 AD; the Persian
translation of Nala Damayanti by Abdul Fazal are some of the famous
manuscripts on display in the Memorial.

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Dating back to the 1870s, are few rare books in the Library of the Memorial
which comprise the collection of plays by William Shakespeare; The Arabian
Nights; Rubaiyat's Omar Khayyam etc. Exotically illustrated, these books are
referred by costume designers while designing for Shakespearian plays in
Kolkata.
A sizeable number of Mughal miniatures are also on display here.

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CONCLUSION:

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Besides being a great example of gothic architecture of Kolkata infused with various Indian
architectural features, Victoria Memorial regarded as a treasure to Kolkata and a famous tourist spot

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also. The memorial today treasures many paintings, attires and other items used by the British during
their rule in India. This building, which housed around 3500 items, can also be termed as the British
museum. Today it is the main attraction for the tourist in Calcutta. The Fountain of Joy in the premises
of the memorial presents an atmosphere of memorable charm.

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Arial view of the whole area of Victoria Memorial

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