Once you visit Chandigarh, India, a must see is the beautifully sculpted and aesthetic in nature, the famous ‘Rock Garden’. The garden secretly started by a government official, Nek Chand in his spare time in 1957, also goes by the founder’s name Nek Chand’s Rock Garden. Built of items that are rejected and thrown away like industrial & home waste, covers a vast area of forty-acres (160,000 meter square). Its rustic touch comes no doubt from the recycled materials & different kinds of wastes such as bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electric waste etc. The Rock Garden is situated near Sukhna Lake consisting of man-made interlinked waterfalls. This aesthetic beauty has even appeared on the Indian stamp in the year 1983.
The Rock Garden’s designer Nek Chand Saini is an Indian self-taught artist hailing from Shakargarh region (now in Pakistan) of district Gurdaspur, moved to Chandigarh with family in 1947 during partition. This was time the city was redesigned as a utopia of modernization and planning by the Swiss/French designer Le Corbusier, after demolition of small villages around the area. A road inspector for the Public Works Department in 1951 was doing the job of making rafts and boats ready to be sailed upon the newly created Sukhna Lake. Unfortunately once the authorities made available the peddle boats on rent, his craft was banned. However this proved as hidden opportunity for this craftsman and he started devoting more time to his passion for rocks and stones, gathering them from the nearby Shivalik Hills, the Sukhna Cho, Patiala Rao and Ghaggar rivers.
This 40-acre Rock Garden is full of plazas, waterfalls and thousands of unique creatures made from recycled materials. A true marvel for the onlookers with an equally impressive history behind its making, this splendid beauty situated near Sukhna Lake gives new life to scrap. Placed in wall paths are many sculptures made from scrap & other kinds of wastes like bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electric waste etc. Also adding to its beauty are the man-made interlinked waterfalls. Waste collection centers were set up across Chandigarh, at hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other big waste suppliers. How Nek Chand built this aesthetic genius spending four decades while keeping it a secret for years is worth knowing. Nek Chand dedicated his life in improvising this aesthetic beauty until just a few years ago, he bid adieu to the world.
The sculptures of this garden house are made of variety of different discarded waste materials like frames, mudguards, forks, handle bars, metal wires, play marbles, porcelain, auto parts, broken bangles etc. This noble recycling act diverts the waste from landfills, saving the environment. The Rock Garden is designed to look like a lost kingdom with its doorways and archways constructed out of discarded bags of cement, adding to its royal appeal and characterizing on the larger than life theme of the garden. The paths, gateways, steps, waterfalls, courtyards, porches and buildings make the rock garden a complex labyrinth of concrete and found objects. Rustic exquisiteness in this artwork made from industrial and urban waste is truly inspiring.
Why should I look out for it?
The Rock Garden is visited by an estimated 5,000 people from all around India and abroad every day. This artistic architecture’s journey started from being a secret to an unauthorized fantasy and ultimately becoming the second most popular tourist attraction, after the Taj Mahal. This beautiful paradise is a great inspiration and encourages the world to take up green practices like recycling.
I still have a faint nostalgia of my trip to the Rock Garden as a toddler and the one peculiar art that still takes the most of reminiscing time was a human sculpture where in a broken mug was used as the face, with its handle doing the job of its nose. Therefore to conclude this aesthetically sculptured construction is a paradise for self confessed art connoisseurs like me and also for the ones who wonder about the artistic insanity.