Sat | Jan 23, 2021

The ‘Rock’ Kingdom - Part I

Published:Friday | August 5, 2016 | 12:00 AMAmitabh Sharma
Rock Garden is a marvel of human vision, persistence and creativity. One man's trash is now the world's treasure to cherish.
Rock Garden is a marvel of human vision, persistence and creativity. One man's trash is now the world's treasure to cherish.
Rock Garden, northern Indian city of Chandigarh, has, over the decades, become one of the most visited folk art sites in the world.
One person's vision which converted trash into a world treasure. Artwork from waste at Rock Garden in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh.
Amitabh Sharma

The grey concrete and rocky entrance to Rock Garden is unassuming, but like all treasures, which are buried under unpretentious facades, this marvel unfolds, revealing the awe-inspiring creations that are a result of one man's dream.

The narrow entrance opens into a garden of sculptures - trash that has been converted to treasure - artwork made entirely of waste, broken tiles, fixtures, and raw materials that originated from the garbage receptacle.

Nestled in the lush green area of the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, the country's first planned city, designed by acclaimed Swiss architect Le Corbusier, Rock Garden comes with surprises at every corner.

Rock Garden sits amid 20 acres of lush greens and takes the flight of human fancy and creativity to another level. With an open-air exhibition hall, theatre trove, and mazes, it is a fantasy land, which its creator, Nek Chand, perhaps never conceived it would become when he started out this dream.

The materials used to create the artwork is a surrealist array and arrangement of rocks, broken chinaware, fluorescent tubes, bicycle parts, broken glass, bangles, building waste, coal, and clay, which, combined, create enormous structures, soldiers, monkeys, peacocks, women, men, and places of worship.




The sections are separated by small entrances, through which one has to crouch and pass, 'Mind Your Head' prominently displayed above each of the concealed gateways that open to outdoor sculptures, a waterfall, pools, and an open-air theatre.

Chand, who worked with the public works department of the city, salvaged materials - from concrete to electrical bits and pieces to crockery and sanitary ware. Rock Garden is a prime example of how urban and industrial waste can be artistically recycled.

The layout of the garden is based on a lost kingdom. The small entrances, through which one bows and passes and which open to grandiose courtyards intertwine humility and royalty in one space.

Each space is unique. No two areas or pieces of artwork are the same, which lends an aura of suspense and intrigue about what will unfold round each corner.

The garden has 14 different chambers that house natural rockforms - a musician's chamber with a pond and a hut, a main court complete with a king's throne, statues, and a swimming pool for the queen. The tree-and-root sculptures offer a powerful counterpoint to the existing vegetation.

An open-air theatre and a vast pavilion with a centrestage are the other highlights of the Rock Garden, where art and culture blend amid the rustic and exotic environs of the garden.

Also, a range of materials such as frames, mudguards, forks, handle bars, metal wires, marbles, pieces of slate, burnt bricks, and even hair recovered from barbershops, has also been used to create sculptures.

Rock Garden, today, is the second most visited tourist destination in India, second only to the Taj Mahal. Chand died in 2015, leaving his unique creation for the world to enjoy.

The story behind this success of Rock Garden is mired with its dose of melodrama and suspense. This will unfold next week.