Inside the fantasy world of Nek Chand

I had always wanted to visit the Chandigarh Rock gardens. However, I was able to make it to this place only in June 2017. After chilling out in Himalayas for a month, Chandigarh welcomed me with the first showers of monsoon in the first week of June. The fresh earthy scent after the drizzles backed up by some lush green surroundings gave a perfect start for the day. The locals guided me to board a bus to Sector 17 and then from there to the rock garden. After leaving the big bag in the baggage counter, it was time to explore the empire built by Nek Chand ji.

I found myself walking into a different world as the walled passages reflected the thoughts and actions of a creative genius.

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Tiled mosaic seen all over the rock garden

It is said that Nek Chand ji pedalled through Chandigarh and collected thrash from various demolition sites to arrange the raw materials for making this rock garden and kept it a secret for few years until it was discovered by city inspectors. The word spread about the presence of this rock garden and visitors started thronging the place.

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Amidst the looming threat of demolition of this illegal structure (in Sukhna forest patch), Nek Chand ji was finally able to garner the support of public and thus, his dream project became a public space in 1976.

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Ceramic from toilet seats and cutlery re purposed to make walls
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Walking along the walls of discarded electrical fittings

What makes up this garden is truly amazing. The items that would usually land in trash had found a place in walls and sculptures. I passed through walled passages made from broken cutlery, earthen pots, discarded electrical fittings, debris, broken toilet seats/ washbasins, tiles, rucksacks and almost every other throwaway item I could hardly imagine fitting into a wall.

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And there were plenty more surprises as castles and waterfalls followed the path.

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Inside the fantasy world created by Nek Chand

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From dolls to dustbin, every creation of Nek Chand had something different to convey. There were dolls made with marbles, colourful broken bangles, bottle caps, broken cutlery and an endless list of junk.

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The doll section – The heart and soul of the rock garden

When I came across a set of dolls with four women holding pots below the falls (symbollically collecting the water from the waterfalls), the creativity of Nek Chand amazed me. The dustbin was a basket on the back on an old lady.  And there were more and more such dolls.

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Artwork from broken bangles

Every doll in the rock garden has a story to tell and no blog or photograph could do justice to describe this masterpiece.

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The walled passages, castles, sculptures and the entire stretch of 12 acres echoes the passion of this self taught artist.

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A mosaic from broken tiles and bathroom fittings

The huge swings in rock garden are a huge hit among visitors of rock garden. From children, couples to the dhadhis, everyone was giving it a try and I couldn’t resist myself from some crazy swinging in rock garden.

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Pillars made from stuffed rucksacks to support the swings

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Back in 1960s, no one could have imagined broken crockery, discarded washbasins and toilet seats, and an endless list of home/industrial waste generated in those days, to be utilized for making dolls, sculptures and castles. It’s often said that all things are difficult before they are easy. But some choose to look beyond what is difficult. Nek Chand ji was one such person who saw the beauty in discarded waste and used these effectively to transform a patch of land in Sukhna to what is now the iconic “Rock Garden of Chandigarh”.  Even as this legend is no more, his work lives on to remind us every day that waste will gobble us up one day if we don’t effectively manage it.

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Finally ending the Chandigarh trip with a refreshing walk to Sukhna lake

Timings – 9 am to 7 pm ( 9 am to 6 pm in winters)
Best time to visit – Open throughout the year but best time would be monsoon / winter
Other attractions in Chandigarh – Sukhna lake, Rose garden

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One thought on “Inside the fantasy world of Nek Chand

  1. Brilliant write up Sandhya! Never heard of this place before. And a deeper msg…take a closer look at the waste tht u dump, probably its an invention. Nylon and Paneer are two other things I can think of, that were born from such a mindset.

    Like

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