Panorama of the Week: Nek Chand’s Rock Garden – Chandigarh, India

I recently shared our stories of Chandigarh with a group of new friends over a beer and was shocked to find someone who not only knew of Chandigarh but also asked me what I thought about the “Rock Garden.”

As cool as the Nek Chand Rock Garden is, the story of its construction and evolution in the unlikely city of Chandigarh is even cooler.

Over 36 years ago, a man named Nek Chand began making sculptures out of industrial trash he found at demolition sites scattered around his northern Indian hometown, Chandigarh. The city was being rebuilt to Le Corbusier’s vision of a new capital for the Indian Punjab (now referred to as Punjab and Haryana States).

Chand cleared a small area in the jungle and, knowing it was illegal, successfully hid his creation for over 18 years. Instead of fining Chand upon their shocking discovery, authorities granted him 25 acres of land to expand his dreams. And with that space, he created a mesmerizing sculpture garden park constructed of broken glass, tiles and Indian bangles.

His fantasy world was complete with waterfalls, swings and leagues of imaginary creatures.

360-Degree Panorama: Nek Chand’s Rock Garden in Chandigarh, India

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We found ourselves in Chandigarh visiting a software programmer we had engaged on an outsourcing website to finish a small portion of our photo gallery. From awarding the project online to meeting our provider in person, globalization and outsourcing had come full circle for all of us.

Through a series of astounding meals (be sure to read Breaking Bread in Chandigarh), we made a connection with an unlikely Indian tourist destination.

No matter what may bring you to Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and Haryana States, be sure you visit Nek Chand’s Rock Garden and see how cool it is for yourself.

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Comments

  1. says

    Ha! I’ve been to the Rock Garden as well. I went once while I had a few hours in between bus connections in Chandigarh. It’s such a random spot, but a great place to visit.

  2. says

    How amazing. James and I just got back from some time in India, but it was in the south. I definitely want to take a trip to the north. This is now on our list! Awesome!!!

    Johanna
    You can read about our time in India :)

  3. says

    I love this feature. It is such an awesome view. We heard about this place, but we missed it when we were in India. Your panorama makes me wish we tried harder to get there!

  4. says

    Wow, this looks like such a neat spot – to see one man’s vision to wholly realized and supported by his city…I wish that I had known about this – I guess another reason to head back to India. :-)

  5. says

    @Earl: Cool. You are among the few that I know who has made it there. Chandigarh is an odd sort of place that way. Random, but full of experiences waiting to unfold for the accidental tourist.

    @Johanna: Ah, the Indian south. Great stuff. We are just finally getting around to our photos and stories from there as well. The north is chock full, better known of course. That is, except Chandigarh.

    @Dave and Deb: Thanks. Hopefully it will be there for the next go around. For us, it fit with our rather unexpected Chandigarh experience.

    @Lauren: We shot a series of photos with our Nikon D300 and a fisheye lens. Then, the image has to be stitched. We are planning a series on how to make these photos, so stay tuned.

    @Shannon: There are so many reasons to head back to India, ad infinitum. You’ll get there on the next go-round. As for the Rock Garden, it’s a great story. A triumph, really.

  6. says

    Wow, I would have loved to have your panorama as a resource when I was writing my paper! What stood out in the literature was how the rock garden was kind an unconscious for the wholly planned and organized city – that this kind of planning is ok up to a point, and then a beautiful chaos takes over! And the rock garden’s relationship to the historical city – it was built of, at least in part, remnants of the villages destroyed for the Le Corbusier plan – tells us how that history will not be suppressed or forgotten. One man’s passion turns into a metaphor for an entire group of people – thanks for sharing!
    Megan

  7. says

    @megan: The beautiful chaos must always take over — at least in India. That’s what “makes” India for us. And so it goes, even for Chandigarh.

    Chandigarh initially struck us as a bit of an outlier in India, but Nek Chand’s story definitely provides context to enhance the city’s narrative. That the old city lives on through its “bones” in the rock garden — now that’s powerful.

    A beautiful, thoughtful comment. Thank you for sharing!

  8. marylouise sillman says

    Splendid photos! Its lovely to “spend time in India” with your photos as I drink my morning cafe au lait in Paris! I have been to Chandigarh, however it was to
    go to a Bollywood film location to have lunch with one of the Indian stars! On my way again to the Golden Temple, in 2011, I will visit the Rock Garden as it is one of the many surprises of India! Marylouise

  9. says

    @marylouise: Thank you! Funny you mention film stars in Chandigarh. The night we were having an Indian cuisine lesson with the head chef of the Taj Chandigarh, the hotel was full of Bollywood movie stars.

    Hope you enjoy Chandigarh, with or without the movie stars.

  10. Bud Goldstone says

    Nek Chand and his many helpers built an amazing gift to the word as did Sam Rodia with his solo construction, Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Chand came to see the Towers about year 2000 and I went with him as we climbed the 100-foot tall scaffold up during repairs. He turned to me after an hour of climbing and looking and said “He wanted everyone to know how difficult it was!!
    Bud Goldstone, Los Angeles, engineer, author

  11. says

    @Dr. Gopi Puthukode: Yes, Nek Chand’s Rock Garden really is a dream world. Would love to go back one day and see some of the new sections they were working on during our last visit. Glad you had such a good visit.

  12. says

    Although not much popular among the travelers, rock garden is a must if someone is interested in obscure and modern sculptures…very well captured by you..beautiful panorama…

  13. says

    @Rahul: Thank you! That it’s not so popular among travelers (Chandigarh and Nek Chand’s Rock Garden) is perhaps what makes it so interesting. Although it doesn’t get much attention on the tourist trail (though that is changing, I’m sure), there’s a lot of history in this region going back to Partition.

  14. Kate says

    I too was there and just didn’t want to leave the garden .This man’s work is an inspiration and I really feel he is a true artist …He’s seen the potential beauty in every item and used it to fashion such works they leave one breathless and in awe . Would that we had more such people in our world

  15. says

    @Sunaina: Glad that the description of Nek Chand’s Rock Garden and Chandigarh fits. Thank you!

    @Kate: Nek Chand is definitely an inspiration and his work in Chandigarh is exceptional. Agreed, we need more vision in the potential beauty of every item. Thank you for a very thoughtful sentiment.

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