The crowned in a corner

The only statue of Queen Victoria in New Delhi lies unnamed in a cobwebbed corner of Delhi College of Art

Published - June 15, 2014 05:22 pm IST - new delhi

God save the Queen: The statue of Queen Victoria at Delhi College of Art, Tilak Road. Photo: Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

God save the Queen: The statue of Queen Victoria at Delhi College of Art, Tilak Road. Photo: Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty

Time is but a wheel, always in motion. Rolls in the good times, the glory days — for the ruler, the ruled. It can also consign them to a forgotten corner. In this case, it is a cobwebbed corner. Never mind even if you are Queen Victoria!

Lying unsung, unnamed, in a corner of Delhi College of Art on the city’s Tilak Marg is a life-sized statue of Queen Victoria, once proclaimed the Empress of India, the only female monarch of any country to rule for a record 63 years.

The bronze statue, Delhi’s only one of the Queen — apparently made to commemorate her accession as Empress of India in 1876, depicts her on a high throne, all crown, flowing gown and glory. The statue, installed near the Town Hall in Chandni Chowk, was replaced with one of Swami Shradhanand after Independence and was reportedly shifted to the Coronation Park to be in company of George the Fifth and some statues and busts of viceroys who ruled the country.

Like that of Queen Victoria, the statue of George V was also moved, from India Gate to the Coronation Park after Independence, the sight of Delhi Durbar where the visiting British monarch declared shifting of the Capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The Durbar was held to commemorate the coronation of George V as the Emperor of India in Britain a few months ago.

Later, the statue of Queen Victoria was shifted to Delhi College of Art after it was apparently vandalised. Only to be shoved to more anonymity, to a cobwebbed corner with bird droppings and all.

Asking students and others in the college — now in the rush of new admissions — about the unnamed statue is as much laughable as it is a sad instance of our lack of consciousness about our own sense of history as a nation. “It is the statue of some foreign lady” to “Queen Elizabeth” to a gem by a college employee, “We have so many statues made by our students, it must be made by one of them.”

The awareness about the existence of the statue outside the campus is no different. From creased foreheads to “O really!’ to comments like, “But the Victoria Memorial is in Kolkata”, it is a general exhibition of ignorance. It tempts you to think that we as a nation lack a strong sense of history.

Responds well-known architect, conservation consultant and Convenor of INTACH Delhi Chapter, AGK Menon, “The issue of not preserving history is a more complex issue, and our experience is that there is no quick generalisation to be made on the subject, but at INTACH, one of our main activities is to increase awareness of our diverse heritage and solicit public help in preserving it.”

INTACH has collaborated with the Delhi Government to give a facelift to the Coronation Park which includes taking steps to preserve the 50 feet high statue of George the Fifth and others. But the statue of Queen Victoria has remained out of this project. Menon states, “The statue of Queen Victoria was not in the Coronation Park as far as I know. It could well continue to remain in the Delhi College of Art. But we will certainly take up the matter with the college because we respond to matters brought to our attention by the public.”

INTACH’s effort towards preserving the statue that has been a part of India’s history would be certainly welcome. After all, the Delhi College of Art is neither a conservation agency nor a heritage preservation initiative.

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