A majestic statue erected in memory of British Queen Victoria over 100 years ago at the entrance to the Cubbon Park in Bengaluru, which draws the attention of very few people these days, stands testimony to the multicultural nature of the city as far back as the early 1900s.
The British-era statue that was erected in 1906 – five years after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 – has inscriptions in four different languages on four sides of its pedestal to describe the statue.
In English, it says “Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India, 1837–1901, Erected by Public Subscription, 1906”. The same words are repeated in Kannada, Tamil and Urdu on the three other sides of the pedestal.
The Queen Victoria statue which was falling into decay until a restoration in 2017 by the Karnataka horticulture department (which manages the Cubbon Park) stands aloof at the entrance to the park. Once a buzzing hive of activity – including protests and political events, the statue which stands at a height of 24 feet (11 feet tall statue and 13 feet tall pedestal) is noticed today only by park-goers with a sense of history. Ring-fenced by a small metal railing to prevent defacement and vandalism, the statue stands hidden from immediate view by thick foliage of plants nurtured by the horticulture department.
The statue is among the dozens that were erected around the world in memory of Queen Victoria following her death in January 1901. Out of over 50 statues erected in India, only five are still reportedly intact.
The significant thing about the statue in Bengaluru is that it was made possible through public contributions to the tune of Rs 25,500 – including a major Rs 15,500 contribution by the then Mysore Maharaja – Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and a sizable chunk by a prominent Tamil family in the city. The statue was sculpted by Thomas Brock, a famous British sculptor who also created the Queen Victoria statue for the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace in London.
“Bengaluru’s statue is a copy of an earlier one that Brock had made for his hometown of Worcester in England in 1890. In all Brock made 14 Victoria statues during his career. In all these statues, the Queen wears her flowing Order of the Garter robes decorated with roses and tassels and carries a sceptre and an orb,” says historian Meera Iyer in her book on `Discovering Bangalore’.
The pedestal on the statue in Bengaluru states that it was unveiled by “His Royal Highness George Fredrick Ernest Albert, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and York” on February 5, 1906. The then Prince of Wales went on to become King George V in 1910 at the age of 45. King George V was the grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II who died at the age of 96 on September 8.
Apart from the statue at the entrance to Cubbon Park, Queen Victoria is immortalised in Bengaluru by the Victoria Hospital built by the Maharaja of Mysore in 1900 after a foundation stone was laid in 1897 to commemorate 60 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.