Rocky History of Chandigarh Rock Garden
How far will you go in doing something illegal, knowing that you’d get caught some day and your life might turn upside down? Everything you did will be out for the world to see and chances are there that your work will be judged. Would you still go on with it? Only if you’re Nek Chand.
Born on the 15th of December, 1924 to a family that moved to Chandigarh from Pakistan during the Partition of India. Back then, this area was being developed as the first planned city of the newly independent India. Twenty-seven year old Mr. Chand managed to find work with the Public Works Department as the road inspector in 1951. However, his mundane job didn’t held his interest for very long.
In his spare time, he found an amazing way to turn his fantasies and ideas into works of art. Imagine a canvas spread over 20 acres in area. And you thought the Hollywood sign was one huge masterpiece! He decided to transform the ‘then’ dumping ground into his very own kingdom, the mythical land of Sukrani. What started out as hobby was soon to turn into one of the most iconic gardens in the world.
Rock Garden of Chandigarh: Best-out-of-Waste
He started collecting industrial scrap in 1957, which included clay pots, bangles, pipes, ceramic sinks, glasses and even electrical waste. His artistic genius turned this waste into an entire kingdom full of art, music and culture. He glued his sculptures using a cement mixture that he invented himself.
He often toured the foothills of the Himalayas to look for stones, which resembled birds, human figures and abstract forms. It took Chand 7 years to collect this raw material. Once that was done, there was no stopping him from converting his vision into reality.
However, all was not smooth for this young visionary. After working on his secret project for almost 16 years, his work was accidentally discovered by government officials. It was soon found out, that the region near Sukhna Lake, where he had constructed his kingdom was actually a protected forest. Declared as an illegal construction, the kingdom of Sukrani was almost on the verge of being demolished, when the good samaritans of Chandigarh came in support of Nek Chand and his project. Succumbing to the public demands, he was allowed to continue his work and he was also granted a group of 40 workers to help him finish his work.
The Rock Garden of Chandigarh does justice to the old proverb, “Best out of waste.” One just cannot look at the sculptures of Sukrani’s soldiers, monkeys, villages, palaces and waterfalls as mere creations of art. The unpretentious entrance is nothing but a small tunnel that is sure to make your head bow. It’s a subtle reminder that the path to being a good human being starts with being humble.
The layout of the garden is like that of an open-air exhibition, with each exhibit connected by covered and uncovered walkways. These range from tiny vestibules to open streets, which are sure to leave even the easily unimpressed, mesmerized. The grandeur of Chand’s kingdom can be judged from his love for detailing. His kingdom is complete with fourteen chambers, which include a royal swimming pool, a musician’s chamber with a pond and a hut for inspiration, a poet’s chamber and the King’s court. The highlight of the court is his throne, made out of natural stones. The kingdom is brought to life by mountains, waterfalls, villages, an open-air theater and places for the royals to relax.
The Chandigarh Rock Garden location is Sector 1 of Chandigarh and stands as a testimony to the fact that an object can either be waste or be turned into a work of art. It depends entirely on the perception of the viewer. From a hobby to one of the most popular gardens in the world, the rock garden has brought the city of Chandigarh on the world map for sure.
Annual recorded footfall for the garden is in the tune of millions. It is interesting to note that virtually everything in the garden, from serene waterfalls to the majestic palaces of the rulers of Sukrani, is made from recycled material.
Nek Chand did not let anything obstruct his path that would lead to the realization of his ultimate dream of building his own rocky empire. One has to personally pay a visit to fully understand and digest the greatness of his work, for words can capture only a small fraction of it. Who knows, it might inspire an aspiring artist to create something just as amazing? We might as well remember Nek Chand as the “Rock-star of Chandigarh”.