Rock Garden – The spark of Mosaic Genius

Though this blog is not related to hiking yet I have included it here because this fantasy land named Rock Garden is very unique in itself and is visited by millions of people around the world just next to The Majestic Taj Mahal. The Rock Garden is a sculpture Garden in Chandigarh, India i.e. my home town. It is also known as Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden after its founder NeK Chand, a government official who started the garden secretly in his spare time in 1957.

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Today it is spread over an area of 40 acres. The garden is most famous for its sculptures made from recycled ceramic items.

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Lies near the Sukhna lake, it consists of man-made interlinked waterfalls and many other sculptures that have been made of scrap and other kinds of wastes such as bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots etc. which are placed in walled paths.

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In his spare time, Nek Chand started collecting materials from demolition sites around the city. He recycled these materials into his own vision of the divine kingdom of Sukrani, choosing a gorge in a forest near Sukhna lake for his work. The gorge had been designated as a land conservancy, a forest buffer established in 1902 that nothing could be built on. Nek Chand’s work was illegal, but he was able to hide it for 18 years before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. By this time, it had grown into a 12-acre complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals.

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His work was in danger of being demolished, but he was able to get public opinion on his side. In 1976 the park was inaugurated as a public space. Nek Chand was given a salary, a title (“Sub Divisional Engineer, Rock Garden”), and 50 laborers so that he could concentrate full-time on his work. It also appeared on an Indian stamp in 1983. The Rock Garden is still made out of recycled materials. With the government’s help, Nek Chand was able to set up collection centers around the city for waste, especially rags and broken ceramics.

When Nek Chand left the country on a lecture tour in 1996, the city withdrew its funding, and vandals attacked the park. The Rock Garden Society took over the administration and upkeep of this unique visionary environment. The garden is visited by over 5,000 people daily, with more than 12 million visitors since its inception.

The stages of the garden’s complex construction have been designated as Phase I, the earliest, begun in 1965; Phase II, completed around 1983; and Phase III, which is still undergoing construction yet open to public. Most of the sculptures are smaller than life size and range in subject from human figures to monkeys, peacocks, elephants, bears and many imaginary creatures.

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In another section of Phase II, Nek Chand created a miniature village with shops, houses, paths, temples and a cascading waterfall. This make-believe world is enhanced further by the trees, vegetation and birds that inhabit the remaining forest. Hundreds of birds live in the garden, using the small nooks and crannies as nesting places.

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An important aesthetic feature of the garden is the sense of compression and expansion of space. In moving from one section of the garden to another, the visitor goes through narrow passageways and arrives into broad open courtyards, an integral part of Nek Chand’s design.

In Phase III, Nek Chand’s work has become monumental in scale. He worked without formal plans but directed his workers to construct what he describes. The heart of this section of the garden are the “great swings” dozens of swings that hang from huge concrete arches resembling ancient Roman aqueducts. There are also some special mirrors a which make you small, tall, distorted and funny. Near the courtyard some folk art section has also been added which adds more elegance to the glory of this garden.

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Your eyes cannot escape the labyrinth paths, mosaic masterpieces, water falls who stand in mute testimony to inventiveness of a genius man called Nek Chand.

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Nek Chand Saini passed away at the age of 90 leaving his rock solid legacy behind. His work is an ode to creativity.

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