Kolkata, India
Angel of Victory

April 14, 2006
The Hindu

The Victoria Memorial in Kolkata is a spectacular landmark. Standing tall atop the memorial, the black, bronze, rotating angel was a sight that many loved to watch.

Ever since the angel stopped twirling it has been the cause of concern for many, including environmentalists, architects and the judiciary.

The bronze angel atop the dome of Victoria Memorial - one of Kolkata's best-known landmarks - is set to get a fresh lease of life. The timing could not have been better; King George V - then Prince of Wales - had laid the foundation of the monument on which it stands, 100 years ago.

Whether in motion or otherwise it has been the cynosure of eyes over the years. A team of engineers had discovered the reasons why it stopped rotating seven years ago, and has set it right, the much-talked about angel could well start twirling again.

In happier times it was the viewers' delight as it pirouetted atop the Memorial. But ever since it ceased twirling it has been the cause of concern of not just the Victoria Memorial authorities but also of city environmentalists, local architects and even the judiciary. The overriding fear expressed was that if something were not done to get it to swivel again, its static position could pose an architectural threat to the very structure of the monument.

First sign of trouble

 The first hiccups occurred in the 1980s. At that time, even the strongest gales could not get the 4.5 ton heavy angel (with its accessories) which stands on ball bearings and is 4.9 meters tall, to budge. Experts were summoned and technicians deployed to get it to rotate, till it became stationary once again in 1999.

The story of its plight has travelled far and wide - from the office of the British Prime Minister, to the U.K. government's India and Bhutan Desk Officer, to South Asia Group, and even the Buckingham Palace.

This came in the wake of a public interest litigation filed by a city environmentalist in the Calcutta High Court in June 2002 on the matter of the stationary angel.

Recently, hopes of seeing the angel twirling once again were rekindled.

"It has started moving slowly but for normal rotation there is need for wind with a velocity of 25 km per hour which should be blowing horizontally and not in a vertical slant. We will have to wait to see that happen," Prof. C. Panda, Curator, Victoria Memorial.

The wait seems to be approaching its end. According to the team working on the angel, the ball bearings of the statue had got jammed by marble dust and iron powder and have now been scraped off.

Soon the angel will twirl again.

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