Nek Chand, Rock Garden of Chandigarh

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Visiting Information

The "Rock Garden is open dailyThe Rock Garden is located in Chandigarh’s Sector 1 and is open to visitors seven days a week from 9:00am to 6:00pm for the entry price of Rs. 20 for adults and Rs. 5 for children; free for individuals over 100 or less than 3 years of age.

About the Artist/Site

Nek Chand was born on December 15, 1924, in the village of Barian Kalan, located in what is today eastern Pakistan. After completing his education at Ghulam Deen Mangri High School in 1943 he began work on his family’s farm. In 1947 the events of Indian Independence resulted in the concurrent creation of West and East Pakistan (today Pakistan and Bangladesh, respectively) and India as separate nations, and Chand’s family, along with millions of other South Asians, migrated from one side of the new border to the other. As Hindus, Chand’s family relocated from the newly created Muslim Pakistan to more secular India, first settling in Jammu and then in Gurdaspur.  The redrawing of borders during Partition resulted in the loss of a capital city for the state of Punjab on the Indian side of the border, with Punjab’s capital Lahore now located in and administered by Pakistan.  The Nehruvian government and Punjab officials sought to establish a new city that would serve as a replacement administrative capital for Punjab, as well as create an attractive city for Partition immigrants that would serve as an experimental site for the advancement of architecture in the new nation of India.  This city, Chandigarh, designed by a team of European architects (Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Fry, and Jane Drew) together with the support of nine junior-level Indian architects, was inaugurated in 1951.  Twenty-five existing villages were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894; while a few were incorporated within the new city limits, in the majority of cases entire villages were razed and their population evacuated to make way for city construction.

Nek Chand, responding to the Indian government’s call for displaced Partition refugees to find construction work in the developing city, arrived at the Chandigarh site in 1950 and began work as a roads inspector.  Interested in artistic construction projects, Chand began fashioning small sailing vessels for use on the newly created Sukhna Lake.  When his activities were halted by authorities who cited restrictions on the lake’s use, Chand began working in secret to amass a sizable collection of uniquely shaped river rocks, which he gathered from local seasonal riverbeds.  In the early 1960s Chand began arranging these rocks, together with assembled discards from city construction projects and the households of vacated villagers, on land adjacent to Chandigarh’s Sector 1 Capitol Complex.  Chand, who also had an interest in plants and gardening, collected regional plants and trees used in city landscaping projects in order to establish a clandestine nursery at the site.  As dictated in Chandigarh’s founding edict, this land was to remain undeveloped; fearing destruction of his project, Chand continued to work in secret and largely at night.       

In 1969 Chand visited the office of Chandigarh’s Chief Architect, MN Sharma, describing his project and asking Sharma to visit the site.  Sharma agreed, and upon visiting the site reportedly took the unusual action of encouraging Chand to secretly continue his unauthorized creative work.  Chand continued his work on the site, using broken and discarded household ceramics and fixtures, bicycles, and bangles, as well as construction debris, to create sculptures, walls, and built environments.  In 1973 a team of malarial researchers discovered the artistic project.  Impressed by the scale and aesthetics of the venture, Chief Commissioner MS Randhawa recommended that the then twelve-acre site be maintained rather than destroyed.  Randhawa inaugurated the site as the Rock Garden and it was opened to the public in 1976.  By 1980 the site consisted of arranged rocks, sizeable landscaped elements, built environments, and sculpture fields (features that today make up Phase I and Phase II of the Garden), a perimeter wall, and a café.  Chand was given the official title Creator-Director of the Rock Garden by city officials, and was provided with funding and staff to build and maintain the site.  The site’s Phase III was inaugurated in 1996 and today features a large waterfall, theater, fish tanks, fun-house mirrors, Mughal-inspired pavilions, and large swings.

In 1983 Chand received a Padma Shri, the highest honor given to an Indian civilian, in recognition of his visionary work on the site, and in that same year, one of his sculptures was featured on the Indian postage stamp. In the years to follow Chand received local, national, and international attention; his work was exhibited in several museums and gardens were commissioned in Paris and Washington, D.C.  Upon returning from international travel related to these exhibitions in 1989, however, Chand learned that the city had advanced plans to dismantle a section of the Garden, citing the site’s violation of the city’s edict and project expense.  Outcry from local supporters responding to repeated attempts to curtail or destroy portions of the Garden occurred throughout the early 1990s, but in 1997 Chand returned from the U.S. to discover several sculptures had been vandalized and his security staff removed by city officials.  Local and international protest of this situation led to the formation of the UK-based Nek Chand Foundation in 1997.  The Foundation continues to promote and document the Rock Garden, and to provide financial support and volunteer labor.  The site is also supported by the Chandigarh-based organization Friends of the Rock Garden.

Today the Rock Garden covers approximately forty acres and is a major tourist attraction, welcoming a reported 5,000 visitors a day. Following Nek Chand’s death on June 15, 2015, a week-long series of commemorative and celebratory events took place in Chandigarh and a silicone memorial statue has been placed in his public office at the site. 

The Rock Garden is located in Chandigarh’s Sector 1 and is open to visitors seven days a week from 9:00am to 6:00pm for the entry price of Rs. 20 for adults and Rs. 5 for children; free for individuals over 100 or less than 3 years of age.

~Tracy Bonfitto

Related Documents

Request for preservation assistance

Note about Nek Chand material

Brief timeline for Nek Chand

Fax from Piergiorgio Sclarandis to SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 9/17/1988

Fax from Piergiorgio Sclarandis to SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 9/16/1988

Letter to Piergiorgio Sclarandis from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 9/16/1988

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Julia Duckett/Nek Chand Foundation, 10/26/2000

Flyer for Nek Chand Foundation

Pamphlet for Nek Chand Foundation

Letter to Lisa Margolin/Capital Children’s Museum from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 4/18/1986

Note about “A Garden from Garbage” article

Letter from Pamela DeSanto/Capital Children’s Museum

Letter to Lisa Margolin/Capital Children’s Museum from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 10/3/1985

List of donors for Capital Children’s Museum

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Sara Burns/Nek Chand Foundation, 1/11/1998

Card to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Nek Chand

Card to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Nek Chand

Flyer for Nek Chand Foundation

Announcement of Nek Chand film, 5/29/1996

Minutes for Meeting with Sara Burns, 2/6/1998

Letter to Ann Oppenheimer/Folk Art Society of America from SPACES/Seymour Rosen

Petition in support of Rock Garden of Chandigarh

Request for preservation assistance

Letter to J.D. Gowda/Prime Minister of India from Suzanne Wright

Letter to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Bonnie Grossman, 2/17/1997

Letter to HD Deve Gowda/Primie Minister of India from Bonnie Grossman, 2/17/1997

Pamphlet for Nek Chand Foundation, 2009

Announcement of Nek Chand reception, 5/13/1996

Postcard for Nek Chand Rock Garden

Facsimile of Certificate of Honorary Citizenship to Baltimore, 7/4/1985

Facsimile of Certificate of Performance for Exceptional Craftsmanship, 10/5/1985

Facsimile of Indian National Award, 3/24/1984

Copies of letters about Rock Garden

Pamphlet for Raw Vision

Postcard for Nek Chand exhibition, 9/21/1996

Copy of award for Nek Chand, 5/29/1996

Nek Chand visit to LA

Info about Chand’s Rock Garden, 5/17/1996

Letter to Rhoda from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 5/17/1996

Fax from John, RAW Vision to SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 5/7/1996

Proclamation of Andre Previn Day, 5/16/2014

Fax to John, Raw Vision from SPACES/Seymour Rosen, 5/15/1996

Fax to John Maizels, Raw Vision, 4/17/1996

Fax to SPACES/Seymour Rosen from Christopher Wyrick, Phyllis Kind gallery, 5/15/1996

Fax from Raw Vision, 5/21/1996

Personal note to SPACES/Seymour Rosen

Nek Chand visit to LA

Map and site information

Chandigarh, Chandigarh, India
Latitude/Longitude: 30.752535 / 76.810104

Visiting Information

The "Rock Garden is open dailyThe Rock Garden is located in Chandigarh’s Sector 1 and is open to visitors seven days a week from 9:00am to 6:00pm for the entry price of Rs. 20 for adults and Rs. 5 for children; free for individuals over 100 or less than 3 years of age.


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