Experience an enchanting example of the reinvention of urban waste when you visit the Chandigarh Rock Garden. Once a dumping ground for trash, this area was reimagined by a government official who saw sculptural potential from the twisted mess of broken chinaware, industrial beams and smashed light globes.
Nek Chand began working on the garden during his leisure hours in 1958. Though his work was illegal, it was not discovered until years later, by which time it had grown to include several courtyards and hundreds of sculptures. With the help of adoring public opinion, Chand's work was saved from demolition and his project was expanded. Today the Rock Garden is a 40-acre (16-hectare) plot, split up by interlinked pathways, courtyards and gorges.
Enter Chand's paradise and come face to face with a surreal arrangement of rocks, boulders and pieces he picked up from industrial dumping sites. Wander through a series of vestibules and narrow alleys that lead into courtyards filled with abstract humanoid figures formed using recycled materials.
As you explore, notice the themes of each space in the garden, which combine to create what Chand called his "lost kingdom.” In each of the 14 chambers, a different sector of society is represented.
Admire the pond and hut of the artist’s chamber, photograph the rigid military formations in the soldier's room and then meet the curious figures that populate the Durbar, or main hall. This is where the king's throne is placed. In other chambers, see figures of women sculpted from discarded colored bangles and a stunning wall mosaic created from fragments of porcelain urinals.
If you are here in August, make a point of visiting during the Teej festival when the garden is illuminated with colorful lights and festooned with cheerful decorations.
Find the Rock Garden in central Chandigarh, between the Capitol Complex and Sukhna Lake. Get here via taxi, rental car or rickshaw ride. The garden is open daily and has an admission fee.