Rock Garden Chandigarh is the signature destination of the city. I have seen it innumerable times as a kid. Then on several picnics during student days. This time, I visited it almost after a couple of decades. It is a place that has come to define the ethos of the city. And now you can see the sprinkling of the style in the souvenir shops and in city graffiti. The broken cutlery and bangles, the discarded electrical pieces and unused tiles, drums and cement bags have been immortalized in the form of art. That has become the face of this young modern city.
Sometimes you feel as if the cleanliness of the city comes from the fact that it respects the waste so much to make it de facto art material. In fact, I visited the garden early in the morning and I met an army of workers cleaning the premises that to an Indian eye looks clean enough.
Rock Garden Chandigarh
Nothing much has changed in the first two phases in the last decade. Piles of large rocks with graffiti-like signboard welcome you in front of a wall made from piled-up drums. Most visuals brought back the memories of old times, of the various visit along with family and friends. The narrow passages of stones, the piles of clay pots, the walls in colors of unused tiles, patterns in cemented sculptures and the narrow dwarf doors were exactly the same.
The army of models made from broken cups and saucers intrigues you as they stand in front of a wall made of fused tube lights. Dolls made from broken glass bangles make you think of the genius. And the simplicity of the man behind them. They look very simple on the surface as if a child could have done it. But then think again – how many such examples do we see around us.
On top of the walls, some small structures peep out against the sky. The garden is totally cut off from the outside world. Its formation engulfs you in its own world. It is like a village with random paths with hardly any plain surfaces. With a well in between that gives a feeling that it has just been used. The labyrinthine paths offer many surprises for the first time visitor. A repeat visitor is looking for the familiar and favorite parts in the garden.
Phase III is a relatively new addition. It is a public space, a huge area where public events can be held including large private events like weddings. A Stage with a graffiti made from broken tiles stands in one corner. Huge arches with swings hanging from them take up another corner. A pillared corridor running along the back wall houses an aquarium-like an embedded water tank. It is a huge space by any standards. I was told many public functions and weddings happen here. I found the graffiti very interesting – a bohemian art sprinkled lavishly in every part of this new phase. The most popular festival that this place celebrates is Teej. I wondered why CII has not chosen this as the perfect travel conference venue.
Nek Chand – Creator of Rock Garden, Chandigarh
Nek Chand has an equally intriguing story. A migrant from Pakistan during partition, he worked on the pieces collected from debris all by himself. By the time people came to know of his creations, he had already made more than 2000 sculptures. It is only possible in Chandigarh that the administration looks at the work of a man, identifies his genius and adopts the garden as part of the cityscape. Once it was officially inaugurated in 1976, there was no looking back. It became a favorite go-to place for locals and for visitors. The expansions kept happening like a waterfall was added or an area opened for events.
Now Nek Chand’s creations form part of many prominent museums across the world. You can still see the small hut from where he started the journey of Rock Garden. The government of India has conferred many awards on him. I just missed meeting him this time. I hope there would be another opportunity to meet him in person.
A board at the garden tells you about its being a completely eco-friendly place including the rainwater harvesting and the recycled water of the waterfall. But then, my belief is that everything in India used to be eco-friendly by default. It is much later that we learned to destroy the environment. It is now that we are forced to learn to be eco-friendly, consciously.
Rock Garden is one of the Places to visit in Chandigarh if you have not been there already.
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