Recently I had a chance to go to Chandigarh and also to visit the famous Rock Gardens. The city has the distinction of having a unique world acclaimed Rock Garden created by Shri Nek Chand, a Road Inspector in the Engineering Department of the Chandigarh Capital Project.
The Rock Garden was inaugurated in 1976, and it is kind of an open-air gallery where scrap articles, industrial and urban waste has been used to create various art objects that please the eyes of visitors. Its spread over a vast area in the woods in the heart of Chandigarh and consists of a theatre trove and a miniature maze all rolled into one vast fantasy land of art and landscape. For a tourist, it has to be there on his itinerary while visiting Chandigarh.
A heritage site now, the down-to-earth entrance at the gardens leads to a magnificent, almost, the surrealist arrangement of rocks, boulders, broken chinaware, discarded fluorescent tubes, broken and cast away glass bangles, building waste, coal, and clay-all juxtaposed to create a dream folk world of palaces, soldiers, monkeys, village life, women and temples.
Also on display are shapes sculptured by using a verity of discarded materials such as frame, mudguards, forks, handlebars, metal wires, play marbles, pieces of slate, burnt bricks, and even hair recovered from barbershops. This is a perfect example of demonstrating how urban and sanitary ware, crockery, etc. can be fruitfully recycled and used in a creative pursuit.
The open-air sculptures and concealed gateways separating them are at places enhanced by a waterfall, pools, and an open-air theatre with proper stage setting. The layout of the garden is based on the fantasy of a lost kingdom. The moment one enters the garden the small entrance doors make the head bow, and opens up an ambiance of royal humbleness. One has to pass through a verity of doorways, archways, vestibules, streets, and lanes of different scales and dimensions, each one opening into a new array of display or courtyards and chambers lending an air of suspense and curiosity at every corner, at every turn.
The Rock Garden has fourteen different sections housing natural rock-forms, a pond, and a hut, natural stone forms depicting gods and goddesses, etc. One section of the garden comprises waterfalls, an open-air theatre, a village, mountains, over-bridges, pavilions, and other areas. The tree and root sculptures offer a powerful counterpoint to the existing vegetation. At the end of the park, is some entertainment for kids – Camel rides, etc. You can also find a “not so good” restaurant here.
The garden is also a focal point of quite a few festivals organized in the city. During the Teej festival, the Rock Garden assumes a festive look and becomes a special attraction for tourists. It is a fairly big park and very interesting for an artist and a photographer. For a normal person too, it would be a pleasant surprise and he would start wondering how such ideas get conceived.
At first, you won’t be able to guess its vastness, but with each phase, another hidden area will be revealed. It was that vast. A day can be easily passed strolling in this vast garden. But summer months can be killing inside the garden – it really becomes hot and you have to run out for fresh air.