After leaving our beautiful guest house in its quiet and tree filled neighbourhood, we headed to Chandigarh’s IT centre where we found a modern three story shopping mall. After browsing for a short time, we decided to eat at McDonald’s. We broke our rule of eating only vegetarian, and decided if we were going to eat some meat, this would be a good place (food safety wise at least). The spicy chicken was indeed spicy and the masala fries were a treat. After leaving the mall, I successfully bargained for a cheap tuktuk ride to Sahkua Lake.
This small but enchanting lake hugged a lovely path and shopping / restaurant area. The lake’s colour reminded me of the Red River, near our home in Winnipeg. We each had a chai, took out some cash and walked ten minutes to the cities renowned rock garden.
The garden was started by self trained artist, Nek Chand, in 1957. In his spare time, Chand created the garden with the exclusive use of industrial and household waste. Everything imaginable was used, from bottles to sinks. The property the garden is on was original reserved as a land conservancy in 1902 and so his use of it was illegal. Chand managed to keep his work a secret for eighteen years until it was discovered by authorities. The city planned to demolish his work, but with the support of the community, he was able to keep his then twelve acre project alive. When bulldozers showed up at the garden’s walls, they were greeted by a row of children and community members. In 1976, Chand was given an official title, a salary and fifty labourers to work on the garden, which was now a public space.
The Nek Chand Rock Garden cost us $0.40 CAD each and we spent around three hours walking through the labyrinth of eclectic statues, sculptures and manmade waterfalls. Each time we walked through a small doorway, we entered a new area which was huge and completely different from the last. Filled with winding paths and a million places to take a great photo, the rock garden was a feat of creativity, commitment and freedom. Aside from the impressive use of waste material my favourite part of the garden was the lengthy swing set at the end. Lengthy is an understatement. Towering arches with awkward horses atop, wind through the last section of the garden, like a great snake on thick pillars. Between the pillars, long chains suspend a wooden board and provide swinging pleasure to young and old. After enjoying them ourselves, we viewed a mass of smaller sculpted dancers, animals and musicians before leaving the rock garden.
The garden was a truly magical place that must be experienced by anyone visiting Chandigarh. As artists from a country where the arts are valued, we were very touched by the community’s support for Nek Chand and his work.