The Historic Victoria Memorial Hall

Victoria Memorial Hall - once, it was the most beautiful structure in Madras Museum Complex in Pantheon Road. Poor maintenance in the 1980s and 1990s and the so-called restoration work for the last two decades cordoned off this fascinating building forever. 

Though it remains neglected today, it has a long and exciting history.

To commemorate the 50th year rule of the British Queen Victoria in 1887 CE, in Madras, it was planned to set up the Victoria Public Hall and the Victoria Technical Institute (VTI). VTI was a body to promote local arts and crafts. 

(Note The Victoria Public Hall mentioned in the above paragraph is located near the Central Railway Station. This article is about Victoria Memorial Hall. Both are different. Generally, people easily get confused between the two.)

VTI never had a permanent exhibition hall for many years. On 24th January 1906 CE, the Prince of Wales (later King George V) laid the foundation stone for the Victoria Memorial Hall inside the Egmore Museum Complex. Sir Arthur Lawley, the Governor of Madras, inaugurated the Hall on 23rd March 1909 CE. Thus, VTI got a permanent address.

It was designed by Henry Irwin, the Irish architect. The construction contractor was Namperumal Chetty. The duo partnership made many wonderful structures in the city, such as Law College, High Court, SBI and Connemara Library, and this masterpiece is one among them.

The architectural style was a mixture of Mughal and Rajasthani styles, known as the Jaipuri Mugal style. The exterior walls are made of pink sandstone from Tada. The gigantic doorway resembles the style of Buland Darwaza or "the Door of Victory", built by Akbar in the early 1600s at Fatehpur Sikri. 

VTI shifted its address to Mount Road during World War II. 

In 1951 CE, the museum lavishly celebrated its centenary. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dedicated the Hall as the National Gallery. 

Almost for the last two decades, the repair and restoration works were going on, and public access was denied. Although I have been living in Chennai for ages, I never got an opportunity to enter the building. We could only hope for the best and believe that the public would be allowed to visit it in the future.

Note: Due to restoration work that is going on in front of the building, I could not take a good picture.

Happy travelling.


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