Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nek Chand's Dream

Bicycle track along a Chandigarh avenue
From the Rose Garden at Chandigarh
The city of Chandigarh is the capital of two States, Punjab and Haryana. Conceptualised by Le Corbusier, a city of wide avenues and wider slip roads with bicycle tracks, everything at right angles, a first class drainage system, vast acres of cultured greens, a wonderful system of traffic control and uniform blocks of utility buildings, it is nevertheless known for a unique park called the Rock Garden, created by otherwise, quite an ordinary person named Nek Chand Saini. Abandoned pieces of rock, dug up and thrown away during the time the city was being built, caught his attention and he worked on thousands of these pieces of rock, trying to give shape to his ideas. Gradually, he won acceptance and some land was allotted to him where put up his open air gallery and then, started to craft artificial hills and forts from cement, placing his rough hewn stones between them. He was only a public works inspector.

Nek Chand passed away a few days ago, past 90. To the last, he was agile and active. Since I had an opportunity to visit a few weeks back, let me share his visions, his dreams with you 

This looked like a gathering at some village fair
Maybe a forest goddess
Remembrances of his village hut

In the later stages, he has used such throwaways as ceramic power sockets, discarded and broken plates, broken paving tiles, broken ceramic tiles and the like. From all these, he has created likenesses of monkeys, jackals and leopards apart from human forms, arrayed along the serpentine pathways.

Such was his dream, a fantasy and apart from that, it remains of course, a unique experiment in urban renewal.


  1. I am so crazy about rocks that I love this entire post - would love to walk along what he created, seeing the likenesses in the lumps of stone. How wonderful. I especially love the water cascading down the stone face.......very lovely. He created such beauty in his life. He must have died feeling he fulfilled his purpose here. No small gift.

  2. He used to constantly change the display, the layout. About a year back, I saw an open space that looked like a Roman amphitheater and galleries populated by the semi finished rock forms. This time, I found it dug up to make way for something different. Anyways, the artist in him would always remain in our hearts and minds

    Thank you for your kind words, Sherry

  3. Nek Chand sounds like an interesting person—so wonderful that such an accomplished man lived past 90, and that his dream will live on. What talent and insight he possessed to create such beauty from the discards of an old city.
    Thanks for sharing, Soumyendu.

    1. Chandigarh is a young city Rita, for it came up in the sixties and the initial digs threw up pieces of rock from the underlying hilly terrain. Some of it was used, some thrown away and that's where Nek Chand came in, adopting thousands of pieces of rock, trying to shape them into suggestions of his mind...

      Should hope you are well and afoot on your journeys again!

    2. Ah, the 1960s is a very young city in India's timeline! Still, it's nice that Nek Chand saw the beauty in other people's "throw aways".

      I'm still recovering from my rotator cuff surgery. I'm ten weeks post-surgery now, and supposedly will have pain for about six months (arm is still very painful when I use it, or do physical therapy) and will not regain full motion of my right shoulder for about a year! But I do intend to travel, even if I'm not enjoying my usual adventurous activities! Thanks for asking.

  4. Chandigarh is one of my favorite cities! And Indeed seeing these photos remind me of visiting rock garden in succession back in 2002-03!

    1. Sadly, they have had all the geese culled at Sukna lake for fear of a bird flu

      Thank you Preeti