a landscape lover's blog

garden tales from a Brit abroad

The Rock Garden, Chandigarh

Rock Garden 03

It started in 1965 as an illegal development on protected forest land.

Its creator was inspired by Le Corbusier’s use of concrete in the city of Chandigarh, yet what he produced is folk art that stands in extraordinary contrast to Corbusier’s modernist city. For the first ten years of its life, it was entirely secret, its existence known only to the lowly government worker who was behind its painstaking creation. Today it hosts thousands of paying visitors every day, and the site and its creator receive countless awards and regular international press coverage.

It is made entirely of reclaimed, reused and recycled materials.

The creator of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh, Nek Chand, is now 88 but continues to develop his extraordinary site in the heart of this northern Indian city. We visited on a rather murky day just before Christmas. Throughout the 10-hectare garden, space is used in sharply contrasting ways, from almost oppressively narrow, steep-sided lanes and tiny Alice-in-Wonderland doorways…

to large, confident waterfalls and open terraces.

Rock Garden 10

Its range of recycled materials is astonishing, from old bricks, foundry waste, broken pots, pieces of tile, crockery, bangles and pebbles to oil drums, bakerlite (plug covers), rags, bike frames, wire, rainwater and human hair.

Phase three, still under construction, seems to me perhaps less successful than its predecessors, with a vast open plaza that offers camel rides, a toy train, swings, and other standard tourist attractions. But the ranks of small folksy sculptures, for which the Rock Garden is perhaps best known and which cluster on terraces and shelves throughout the site, have a character and charm difficult to define but easy to appreciate.

The whole experience of visiting the Rock Garden is extraordinary, disorientating and deeply impressive. And, of course, although these photos are chosen to make it seem that we enjoyed its charms in seclusion and quiet contemplation, just as its creator did for the first ten years of its existence, these days its international fame means it is always packed with curious and appreciative visitors.

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10 comments on “The Rock Garden, Chandigarh

  1. College Gardener
    February 23, 2013

    Yay for the Chandigarh and the Rock Garden! I visited in the sweltering heat of a summer morning and actually had the place almost to myself, except for a few local families. How did you like the rest of Chandigarh? Between the food and the gardens, it is one of my favorite places in India.

  2. narf77
    February 23, 2013

    I read about this ages ago and it’s lovely to see that this wonderful man is still alive and still doing what he does best, creating a magnificent opus to his life :) Cheers for sharing this with us, I am going to post it to Facebook to share with my friends. A lovely, inspirational story about someone who just “did it” :)

  3. Donna@Gardens Eye View
    February 24, 2013

    What an amazing place given it is created out of reclaimed material…such creativity and beauty.

  4. Pingback: Inspiration | theroadtoserendipity

  5. diversifolius
    February 27, 2013

    Wow! Thanks for showing this treasure – beside creativity, what beautiful example of following your dream to completion.

  6. Cara
    March 1, 2013

    Reblogged this on Looking over Garden Fences und kommentierte:
    Traveling without raising your bottom form the seat – geht alles. WWW – WildWomenWail.
    In Indien war ich noch nie. Trampen à la wordpress.

  7. maggie
    March 4, 2013

    This is fantastic! Thank you for introducing me to it. As always, your photos and writing take me there.

  8. I saw a documentary about the garden and I thought it was not real, surreal, unreal, ….. definitely very personal. I am so envy you had the chance to visit it and experience what must be some kind of garden in a dream, or dreaming a garden.

  9. landscapelover
    March 9, 2013

    Thanks for all the comments. It is an extraordinary place. Even though I had seen photographs, i was not prepared for the scale of the Rock Garden, or its sudden dramatic changes from narrow pathways to great open plazas. Sadly it was very much a passing visit to Chandigarh (on our way to Shimla for Christmas) but I hope to go back.

    A version of this post now appears on the excellent website Garden Drum. If you want to see more (and better) pictures of Nek Chand’s work (and a photo of the man himself) do visit the Galloping Gardener blog.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2013 by in Gardens, India and tagged , , , .

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