Tuesday, 4 October 2016


“The young people of India will build a strong and powerful nation, a nation that is politically mature and economically strong, a nation whose people enjoy both a high quality of life as well as justice.” - Pranab Mukherjee

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Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port and its sole major riverine port. In 2011, the city had population of 4.5 million, while the population of the city and its suburbs was 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. In 2008 its gross domestic product (adjusted for purchasing power parity) was estimated to be US$104 billion, which was the third highest among Indian cities, behind Mumbai and Delhi. As a growing city in a developing country, Kolkata has pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overcrowding, and other problems.

In the late 17th century, the three villages that predated Calcutta were ruled by the Nawab of Bengal under Mughal suzerainty. After the Nawab granted the East India Company a trading licence in 1690, the area was developed by the Company into an increasingly fortified trading post. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah occupied Calcutta in 1756, and the East India Company retook it the following year. In 1793 the East India company was strong enough to abolish Nizamat (local rule), and assumed full sovereignty of the region. Under the company rule, and later under the British Raj, Calcutta served as the capital of British-held territories in India until 1911, when its perceived geographical disadvantages, combined with growing nationalism in Bengal, led to a shift of the capital to New Delhi.

Calcutta was the centre for the Indian independence movement; it remains a hotbed of contemporary state politics. Following Indian independence in 1947, Kolkata, which was once the centre of modern Indian education, science, culture, and politics, suffered several decades of economic stagnation. As a nucleus of the 19th- and early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance and a religiously and ethnically diverse centre of culture in Bengal and India, Kolkata has local traditions in drama, art, film, theatre, and literature. Many people from Kolkata—among them several Nobel laureates—have contributed to the arts, the sciences, and other areas. Kolkata culture features idiosyncrasies that include distinctively close-knit neighbourhoods (paras) and freestyle intellectual exchanges (adda). West Bengal’s share of the Bengali film industry is based in the city, which also hosts venerable cultural institutions of national importance.

The Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, which was built between 1906 and 1921 after a proposal by Lord Curzon. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. The Memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly River, near Jawaharlal Nehru road. The memorial was funded by many Indian states, individuals of the British Raj and the British government in London. The princes and people of India responded generously to Curzon’s appeal for funds and the total cost of construction of this monument was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions.

The Victoria Memorial’s architect was William Emerson (1843–1924), president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. This style uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements as well as Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences. The building is 103 m by 69 m and rises to a height of 56 m. It is constructed of white Makrana marble. The gardens of the Victoria Memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson’s assistant, Vincent J. Esch designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates.

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  1. As you noted, Calcutta served as the capital of British India, at least until the capital was moved to New Delhi before WW1. Perhaps that loss had something to do with Calcutta becoming the centre for the national independence movement. So it would be interesting to speculate whether The HUGE Victoria Memorial would have looked so monumental and striking, had it been proposed a couple of decades later. Or proposed by an Indian nationalist instead of by Lord Curzon.

    We might have expected the design to be in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style, using a mixture of British and Mughal elements. But who would they have been honouring with Venetian and Egyptian architectural influences?

  2. Hmm, it looks like my comment disappeared ...so here it is again.
    Even though I haven't been to India, I know about daily life there, because our son stayed for a month in India with his friend. Interesting culture:)

  3. I have never been to India, but I would think it would be fascinating. Thank you for this small taste of it!

  4. Beautiful shot. There are more people in the city of Kolkata than in the country in which I live (NZ has only 4.3 m).

  5. In all the pictures I've seen of India, I've never seen a building like this one before. Very interesting and impressive. I would love to go to India. I've always been so fascinated with it.