- Built in : 1906-21
- Built by : Lord Curzon
- Location : Calcutta
The history of the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta has its roots in the colonial period of Indian history. Lord Curzon was the Viceroy or the person who ruled India in the name of the British Crown in India from 1899 to 1905. He secretly nurtured the vision of building a magnificent edifice that would not only be a tribute to his English masters, but would also get him a place in the annals of Indian architectural history.
After the death of the popular British monarch, Queen Victoria at the age of 94, Lord Curzon got the chance to build the monument of his dreams. Lord Curzon then proposed the construction of a mausoleum in the center of a garden in her memory. He also proposed a museum in the same complex, which would house artifacts pertaining to the British rule in India. Curzon, who preferred to abide by democratic norms, sought advice from various quarters regarding the probable site and the nature of construction.
Curzon appealed for funds and he received ample funds for his dream project from the upcoming mercantile class in India and also from a number of princely states. He did not have to ask for any financial assistance for the monument from anyone outside the Indian subcontinent. The construction work proceeded in the absence of the chief architect who provided guidance from Britain. Since Curzon would have nothing short of the best, the job was entrusted to Sir William Empson, president of the British Institute of Architects. He drafted his plan, modeling the building on the tradition of the Italian renaissance architecture, though its resemblance to the Taj Mahal is unmistakable. Still, Sir William described his model as an occidental design. It was decided that he would visit the work site annually if necessary. Robert Lyons Serenoaks, the superintending architect, oversaw the day to-day functioning. He was responsible for the execution of the project and sent photographs of the progress made in the construction work to Sir Williams every month. The initial estimated expenditure was 300,000 dollars.
It is said that a goods train 17 miles long would have been required to bring the entire building material needed for the Memorial. The total weight of the building has been calculated to be around 80,300 ton and the quantity of marble for it measured 16,080 cubic feet. The same quarries of Makrana in Rajasthan, from where Shah Jahan had obtained marble for the Taj Mahal, were excavated. 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. In the later part of 1917, construction was temporarily brought to a halt as heavy rains flooded the Makrana region. New quarries were opened in the adjoining areas to maintain an uninterrupted supply of marble for the edifice. The construction, which began after laying of the foundation stone in 1906, took 15 years in completion. The building was formally inaugurated on December 28,1921.
A black bronze angel holding a bugle in her hand was placed at the apex of the dome above the Memorial and has always been regarded as a curious addition to the monument. The statue, 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 this monument.
Both the laying of the foundation stone and the inaugural function were grand and colorful events with a curious blend of pomp and solemnity. King George V laid the foundation stone in1906, while Kind Edward VIII, who was still a prince then, inaugurated the completed structure in 1921. However, Lord Curzon, the mind behind the Victoria Memorial, could not see its completion, as he had to leave for Britain soon after construction work began.
- Built in : 1899
- Built by : Swami Vivekanand
- Location : Kolkata
The Ramkrishna mission established by the Swami Vivekanand has its head Quarters here. The Indian Philosopher Ramkrishna who preached unity among all the religions died in 1886 and his follower Vivekanand established the mission to preach the teachings of his Guru. This mission has branches all over the country. The headquarter of this international movement is Belur Math. The Architecture of the structure is very interesting. From any angle you look at it the structure is like a temple, a mosque or a church depending on the way you look at it. The math was established in 1899. Across the river is the Dakshineswar Kali temple. At this place Ramkrishna attained his spiritual enlightenment of unity among religions. The Kali temple is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Siva. This temple was built in 1847.