As we struggle with the problem of ever increasing waste and develop new ways to tackle the issue, Mr. Nek Chand Saini, a former Road Inspector, had a beautiful solution to the urban and industrial waste long before “Best from Waste” was a trending thing. The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a beautiful example of using waste to create something beautiful. It is a sculpture garden in Chandigarh spread over nearly 40 acres of land where all the sculptures are made from waste materials like discarded automobile parts, broken glass, construction waste and much more. But that description is not apt and uncreative, something unlike the Rock Garden itself. The unusual attraction deserves a more detailed look into it. And did you know, this masterpiece was a secret for close to 20 years? We look at why it had to be a secret and much more about the Rock Garden in this article.
Rock Garden Chandigarh
Mr. Nek Chand was Road Inspector in the Engineering Department of Chandigarh Capital Project. He was inspired by his vision of the divine Kingdom of Sukarni. He started collecting waste in his free time. With no organized system in place, he would roam around on his cycle and collect waste from Foothills and waste centers. He picked up stones of various shapes, like that of birds, humans, animals, and other abstract shapes. He would also collect urban and industrial waste like glass, electrical waste, broken tiles, ceramic pots, broken pipes, lime-kiln and broken chinaware amongst others. These materials were then recycled into various shapes. Then, Mr. Chand gave them various forms like warriors, dancing girls, monkeys and musicians and temples. But this is not just a sculpture garden, this is a kingdom. And a kingdom is incomplete without the palace and beautiful courtyards.
The whole Rock Garden is divided into three phases. The first phase has all the magnificent statues of humans, animals and many more abstract structures made from waste and terracotta. The third phase has larger than life structures of elephants and camels and a courtyard made out of chiseled rocks. The second phase is the most majestic one and the biggest crowd puller.
It has a waterfall, an open-air theatre, courtyards, and intricate pathways. A lot of cultural programs and also private functions like weddings take place here. The setting of rustic sculptures and beautiful waterfalls with modern decorations for the events makes this a highly desired venue for a memorable event.
As the popularity of the garden has grown, the waste collection has become easier. The local government has allocated waste collection points and as the waste increases, the beauty of the Rock Garden to increases.
The whole of Rock Garden can be described in one line as an amphitheater, a miniature village and an open-air exhibition of sculptures arranged in a way such that you are transported to a fantasy land where everything is made from waste and is very beautiful.
The Secret Beginning
Remember we said that this garden was a secret for close to 20 years? Mr. Nek Chand had to keep it a secret for that long because what he built in his free time and from his passion was actually illegal at that time. No, it wasn’t illegal to use waste to create beautiful sculptures. But the land it was being built on was government owned and the sculptures were built and installed without proper permission.
Mr. Nek Chand started building his fantasy world in 1958. The garden started taking shape with beautiful sculptures, natural water bodies, man-made waterfalls and sections of the garden being interconnected. The land which Mr. Nek Chand used was a forest buffer land which was deemed unfit to build anything and was infertile. But this land was in control of the government. Dr. S K Sharma, another government employee was heading an Anti-Malaria drive in 1975. He accidentally discovered the Rock Garden, already spread over 12 acres, when he was surveying the forest land for any sources of mosquito breeding.
It was considered illegal and had to be demolished as per the law pertaining to construction without permission. But with the beauty of his sculptures and his Kingdom, Mr. Nek Chand was able to get public opinion on his side to not only avoid the demolition of the sculptures but also to make the garden a public property. In 1976, the park was officially inaugurated as the Rock Garden. Mr. Nek Chand was not only given a salary, a title (Sub-Divisional Engineer, Rock Garden) but also 50 laborers so that he could work full-time on developing and improving his Kingdom. Even today, as the Kingdom grows, it is all out of waste material.
The beauty of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh is not limited to India but is spread the world over. The sculptures are world famous and have been exhibited in museums in New York, Washington D.C and even in Europe.
The Rock Garden made its way onto the stamps of Indian Post in 1982.
Mr. Nek Chand was also awarded the fourth highest civilian award, Padma Shri in 1984.
How To Get There
The Rock Garden in Chandigarh is located near the Sukhna River. It is only 1.5 kilometers from the lake and is situated at Uttar Marg, Sector 1. It is so popular in Chandigarh that traveling by bus or cab or auto is no trouble either, everyone knows it.
The garden is open from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm from April To September and from 9:00 am to 6 pm during the rest of the year.
The charges per head for adults is ₹30 and for children, it’s ₹10.
Teej Celebrations In Rock Garden
The festival of Teej is celebrated with great fervour in North India. And Rock Garden, with all its beauty, is a great host to one of the best celebrations of Teej every year. The decorations are not to be missed and the coming together of people is a great way in which the Rock Garden binds the community together.
The Rock Garden of Chandigarh stands to remind us that our imagination is the only limit. What people saw as waste and threw away, Mr. Nek Chand used to build a Kingdom, one with over 5000 sculptures and almost a heritage site.