Besides the architecture, there isn’t much to see in Chandigarh – in my opinion that is. Woop-d-do, they have the largest rose garden (supposedly) in Asia – it was hard to waft in its beauty among the strewn trash, the hoards of locals and the buds stolen by greedy lovers. I was told though that if I made it to Chandigarh I absolutely mustn’t miss the rock garden. Being a Colorado girl I was thinking oooh, a rock garden something like Garden of the Gods http://gardenofgods.com/home/index.cfm?flash=1 or better yet a place to hike around. Nope, nothing of the sorts. This guy, Nek Chand, started building his fairy tale “rock garden” in the 60’s from all things recycled. What a hippie! He started building in a small area of a property, that wasn’t his, and over time it grew and grew to 12 acres. When the government discovered his illegal project they almost shut him down until they realized he had created a tremendous work of art; he was given a grant and workers to help finish parts of the work.
As we walked through the maze of walls built entirely of old electrical sockets, screens of clay pots, imaginary animals, human like forms made from wires and trees with exposed roots constructed from concrete we couldn’t help but think – Was this guy on LSD?
Each time we turned a corner through the labyrinth we entered into a new area with a different feeling. There were dry swimming pools made entirely of mosaics; upon closer examination the pieces were shards from dinner plates, saucers and coffee mugs with the handles still attached. After walking through a series of short passageways we were pushed out into a grand open area with 30-foot high walls, stadium seating and a river being fed by a nearby man-made waterfall. There were so many people snapping photos I was sure someone was going to end up in the mucky pool of water.
The third phase of his magical land is still being worked on today; the newer parts, built by workers, are not as romantic as the earlier areas completed by Nek and feel a bit sanitized. However, the newer areas still carry a whimsical flare with funny mirrors, swings, and built-in aquariums.
Feeling stoned ourselves, surprised at every turn; we walked out exhausted and elated. Three hours had passed when we finally emerged from the imaginary land back into the semi-sanity and reality of India.