Who doesn’t know Victoria Memorial Hall, the large marble building Kolkata is famous for? It has been in existence since 1921. Constructed in white Makrana marble, the building has been designed in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style which uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements among others.
Due to its similarity to the Taj Mahal in structure, the heritage building is sometimes also referred to as the ‘Taj of the Raj’. But did you know that the iconic structure was once painted black?
While India did not participate directly in the Second World War, Calcutta became an important British settlement and American base. In 1943 during WWII, the Japanese Army Air Force started bombing Calcutta.
The air strikes by the Japanese forces during that time were mostly conducted in the night. Soon, the skies of Calcutta transformed into a battleground. The Japanese invasions did not leave anything intact in the city. To save the architecture from being hit by the army, people started covering their streets, shops, houses and other buildings with thick black paper.
But the challenge was to save the Victoria Memorial. How to hide a magnificent building made of sparkling white marble and rising to a height of 184 feet?
The British government took a landmark decision in 1943. They camouflaged the architectural marvel in black by putting a bamboo scaffolding and a mixture of mud & dung to layer it up.
Since the British government didn’t want to leak this camouflage plan to the Japanese, they strictly prohibited any kind of photography in the vicinity of the city’s landmarks.
It is believed that the following photograph was taken by the U.S. Army photographers Frank Bond and Frank Kagal in late 1943.
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