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Rock Garden Chandigarh - Story of an Amazing Human Creation

Updated on November 3, 2015
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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.

Hut within the Rock Garden from where Nek Chand operated
Hut within the Rock Garden from where Nek Chand operated | Source

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.

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Ceramics

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

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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

Nek Chand's Outsider Art: The Rock Garden of Chandigarh
Nek Chand's Outsider Art: The Rock Garden of Chandigarh

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).

 
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Waterfalls

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

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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

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Waterfall view from a different angle

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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.

Dancing Girls

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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

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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.

Colourful Creations

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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.

Landscapes

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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

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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.

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And a Mixture


Ceramics, Electrical goods waste, pots, cement, stones - everything put together

The Third Phase

On way to Third Phase

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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

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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.

More Spacious

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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?

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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

Comments

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  • LiteraryMind profile image

    Ellen Gregory 7 months ago from Connecticut, USA

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • srsddn profile image
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    srsddn 21 months ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Thaks for visiting, Shaloo. I am sure you might still be remembering the visit to Rock Garden. Also you had been really fortunate to meet Late Sh Nek Chand. Have a nice day!

  • swalia profile image

    Shaloo Walia 21 months ago

    It's a beautiful place. I was fortunate to meet Nekchand ji regarding some official work and he was such an humble and noble soul.

  • AvineshP profile image

    Avinesh Prahladi 3 years ago from Chandigarh

    Thanks srsddn for posting this hub.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 3 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    AvineshP, We all respect Mr. Nek Chand, the genius who has created Rock Garden for the dwellers of the City Beautiful and the world. It is a creation which will continue to inspire generations and I am glad you had the privilege of growing up in this city. It remained a dream for me to serve this city during my active service days but now I am enjoying my stay here after retirement. Thanks for visiting and have a great time!

  • AvineshP profile image

    Avinesh Prahladi 3 years ago from Chandigarh

    I am so proud that I grew up in Chandigarh and the city has varied tourist attractions, Rock Garden is one of them and indeed it is a great place to explore. I have immense respect for Mr. Nek Chand.

    Three cheers for Mr. Chand.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 4 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    RawatHimanshu, Thanks for visiting my Hub. Since you had been to Rock Garden a few times, you can appreciate its grandeur better. I saw it after a gap of many years. I only wish Nek Chand is able to complete the 3rd Phase in his lifetime. It would the biggest contribution to India by any single person. Thanks for liking the Hub. Have a nice time!

  • RawatHimanshu profile image

    Himanshu Rawat 4 years ago from Chandigarh

    You have described the beauty of rock garden in magical words. Impressed by your style of writing. i have been to rock garden few times and you have described everything so nicely.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 4 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Sharkye11, It is difficult to imagine that there can be so may statues erected by a single person. It is really a great job to pick up waste material and visualise its utility for such creative work. Thanks for stopping by.

  • srsddn profile image
    Author

    srsddn 4 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

    Vellur 2, It is a work of a genius. One has to look back a few decades to understand his single-minded devotion at that time. It is really an invaluable contribution. Thanks for visiting and voting up.

  • Sharkye11 profile image

    Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

    Beautiful tribute to a skilled artisan. This is truly a marvel of the world. I love the statues made from bangles. I can't even begin to imagine how many bangles that would require, but his artistic vision was superb! Thanks for sharing this great story!

  • Vellur profile image

    Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

    WOW!! Nek Chand is a great artist. Hats off to him. He has worked wonders with discarded items. Thank you for sharing this, I would never have known about this, if you did not publish this hub. Great work. Voted up and shared across.