Whenever a tourist arrives in Chandigarh, the one place that is a must on the list is the Rock Garden.
Spread over an area of around 20 acres, the garden is famous all over India for its unique sculptures – all of which are made from industrial waste.
The garden contains over 2,000 statues. Visitors are left amazed by the design of the garden, where sculptures sit calmly along winding walkways and roaring waterfalls.
But the garden itself began as a secret project by one man – Nek Chand Saini.
Today, Chandigarh celebrated this man’s 91st birthday as part of a four-day festival that was kicked off on Saturday.
Nek Chand had no formal education as an artist and was working as a roads inspector in Chandigarh in 1952, during its construction.
By 1958 he had started his project in a forest clearing without anyone knowing of its existence for about 15 long years.
When discovered, authorities said that it was illegal to build something like this on city land. His beautiful creation was facing destruction.
But the people of the city came forward to save it, and by 1976 the Rock Garden officially became part of the city.
Nek Chand was given the right to oversee the project with 50 labourers. And thus began the beautification of the garden with sculptures made from used broken crockery, electric plug moulds, iron, fluorescent tubes, bicycle frames, bottles, glass bangles, practically anything or everything that could be used.
The garden turned out to be a landmark for the city and even featured in a 1983 stamp.
The garden itself looks like a fantasy land. Other than the figurines that depict everyone from common human beings to kings and royalty, the garden has strange-shaped rocks installed in meandering lanes, two huge waterfalls, deep gorges, a model village, and an amphitheatre.
The garden faced an existential crisis between late 1980s and 90s but survived because of both national and international admirers.
According to reports, more than 5,000 visitors enjoy the vista offered by the Rock Garden in Chandigarh every day.
Born in December 15, 1924 in Shakargarh of Punjab of British India (now in Pakistan), he was the first in his family to go to high school (he attended a school in Lahore). But his family had to leave their ancestral home due to sectarian violence that erupted during Partition.
His memory of a Punjabi village that he lived in as a child was recreated as a part of the garden.
Chand was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1984. Two years later he was in Washington making sculptures at the National Children’s Museum.
His works find place in many international museums and have been displayed at exhibitions in France and England. Nek Chand passed away on June 12 this year.