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Rock Garden Chandigarh - Story of an Amazing Human Creation
A clandestine effort resulting into wonderful creation
Have you ever heard of a person who picked up discarded items from garbage, cycled them away and stealthily stored them in gorges prohibited for habitation?
Could you imagine it went on and on for well over one and a half decades till a day when it was discovered that the gorges were full of unique creations spread over 13 acres of land?
If the answer is not affirmative then this is the story for you. The story about Nek Chand, who was a government official and did this marvellous piece of creation secretly.
Ordinarily such an act should attract administrative action against a government official but public opinion came to his rescue and Rock Garden was officially inaugurated in 1976. Such is the creativity of Nek Chand that today it is one of the most visited sites in India. Chandigarh, the City Beautiful has the honour of having this unique feature of fixing waste material to glorify rocks.
About Nek Chand, the Creator of Rock Garden and his Cottage
Nek Chand was born in a village which is now in Pakistan. After independence from the British rule he settled in India and served as a road inspector with the Public Works Department of Government of Punjab. Over two dozens of villages were demolished to carve out Chandigarh, the most planed city in India. The debris of these villages comprising broken items like crockery, sanitary wares and electrical fittings; etc. attracted the genius. He collected wasted material and stored it in an improvised cottage (front image shown) located in a nearby gorge. Since Shivalik Range of hills was nearby, Nek Chand collected stones which looked like animals, birds and other abstract forms. He arranged his collections in different places in the gorges, which were found in 1973 accidentally. By that time he had already completed a portion (1st Phase) and was in the process to construct 2nd Phase. The Government recognised his work and helped to complete the 2nd Phase and later the 3rd Phase which is still under construction.
The purpose of this Hub is to exhibit the grandeur of the creation, the Rock Garden rather than going to the nitty-gritty of the process of creating it.
On seeing the quantity of waste ceramic used in different parts of Rock Garden, one wonders about the quantity that might have been discarded in and around Chandigarh. It also speaks volumes about the perseverance of Nek Chand who used his bicycle to transport these discarded items. Since he wanted to do it stealthily it was an uphill task and a perfect example of a single-minded devotion.
Ceramic & Silhouettes
While ceramic is fixed in the background, Nek Chand thought of fixing many silhouettes shaped from different materials which look quite attractive against whitish ceramic
Read more about Rock Garden
For fourteen years, Nek Chand secretly transported thousands of stones by bicycle from the Himalayan foothills to a secluded, government-owned jungle clearing. There he combined them with urban debris—corroded wires, sheet metal, bicycle parts, tubes, tires, multicolored tissue, glass and feathers—to make statuettes. In 1972, authorities stumbled upon his menagerie of elephants, horses, monkeys, birds, and figures and eventually decided to support his project at what is now the second most-visited site in India after the Taj Mahal. Authorative text, an interview, 140 illustrations, and a detailed site map pay homage to this singular fantasy universe. This book is published for the exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum (April 4-September 24, 2006).
Waterfalls are a great source of relaxation. The motion of water with accompanying sound attracts the visitors and quite often we find change in mood. Rock garden has a few man-made waterfalls which not only add to its beauty but also are spots of enjoyment for the tourists.
The dropping of water is steep and the span is narrow in this waterfall. As a result it makes a lot of noise as many natural waterfalls do. Also it gives a cooling affect especially in the summer as we go along.
Artificial Waterfall and Aesthetics
This waterfall has a wider span and there is not much of turbulence when stream of water drops. Its appearance is attractive and is visible from many places as we pass through gorges.
Visibility of Waterfalls from Gorges
Waterfall view from a different angle
One wonders about the choice of site while creating these waterfalls. In spite of being man-made these water sources are captivating because of their locations. This motivates the visitors to move further.
Use of Bangles
A close-up of the Bangles used in the Rock Garden
Bangles have ornamental value for women in India. Glass bangles are quite popular among both married and unmarried women, though bangles of other materials like metal and ivory are also used frequently. In Rock Garden plenty of glass bangles have been used very deftly as a body wrap for women. Especially noteworthy are the placement of bangles in parallel stripes type formation. One wonders about the quantity of bangles used for this purpose.
Tourists expect a new army of sculptures each time they pass through another small entrance. This time they find dancing girls wrapped in ceramic and other materials. This formation is also quite interesting.
Earthen pots - The short-time water coolers
Earthen pots have extensively been used for storing water or other liquid in India. I can imagine the utility of earthen pots three or four decades back and since there were many villages around these might have been in a great demand especially during the hot summer for storing water. Nek Chand has kept that period alive in the memories by fixing many such pots in rows along with ceramics waste.
The 2nd Phase exhibits the versatility of the creator and his capacity to arrange the waste material in a colourful display of shapes of birds.
The steps on some of the rocks have been skilfully shaped into good landscapes which tourists enjoy as they pass along for entering next phase.
Decorations along pathways
Finding nearly straight part of the terrain some symmetric figures have been placed all along the path to keep the attention of the tourists engaged while moving on to other sections. Narrow space makes them to queue up at some places.
And a Mixture
Ceramics, Electrical goods waste, pots, cement, stones - everything put together
The Third Phase
On way to Third Phase
There is a marked difference between 3rd Phase and the previous two Phases. One clear-cut variation is the quantum of waste and recycled material used. 3rd Phase has relatively lesser number of such items but more of steel and structures. There are much larger landscapes unlike previous Phases where there are more stones and sculptures. This Phase is still under construction and it is an on-going process.
And one starts experiencing those difference right from the moment one enters the 3rd Phase.
Ceramic Galore at Third Phase
Since space does not seem to be a constraint, the 3rd Phase gives a different expanded view of the Rock Garden.
The walls have more colourful mosaics depicting different figures.
In between there is large plain space having other features for entertainment like fish aquarium, laughing mirrors, camel rides and swings which keep every visitor specially the children busy. Also there is a Cafe and food stalls. It helps the visitors to spend some more time for eating, entertainment and relaxing during an otherwise tiresome tour. More than 2.5 lakh people visit this Garden every year.
Third Phase is in process and it will continue for years and more creations may be available in the years to come.
Meet the creator of the Rock Garden
Recognition and Honours
Recognising his creativity, Nek Chand was honoured by Padam Shree Award in 1983 by Government of India
A Postage Stamp with Rock Garden sculpture was also issued to commemorate Rock Garden
Rock Garden figured in 'Around the World in 80 Gardens' of BBC Television
Your acquaintance with Rock Garden
Have you heard about Rock Garden Chandigarh?
The Creator is no more
It is unfortunate that the world last this Great Creator of Art on June 12, 2015. He celebrated his 90th birthday on December 15 last year. His son, Anuj Saini, will continue to work on the incomplete part of the Rock Garden.
© 2013 srsddn