Historic Interlude at Victoria Memorial Hall

Flowers bloom in front of Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial Hall.

KOLKATA, India — Considered by many to be the cultural capital of India, Kolkata is home to the Victoria Memorial Hall.

A stately museum in the heart of the city, it contained an exhibit recounting some of its British colonial period, which lasted from 1757 through independence in 1947.

Full of upheaval and tragedy, the history of the people who lived in the nearly 600 princely states under foreign occupation had been largely unknown to me.

My visit to the museum was eye-opening, to say the least, and perhaps the most shocking to me was the manner in which post-independence partition — along religious lines — occurred to form what is present-day Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Plenty of stairs surround the museum complex.

Sectarian violence claimed between 200,000 and 500,000 lives as Hindus headed toward India and Muslims made their way to Pakistan and Bangladesh. In all, some 14 million person were displaced in the process, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The 1947 Partition Archive tells just a few of the stories from what is believed to be the largest mass migration in human history.

While I can’t even begin to do justice to the wealth of historic information at the museum, nor can I review every early European depiction of Calcutta, my brief visit made an impact I hope others might experience.

It is said that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

So, why is there so much willful ignorance among the world’s nations?


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