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India: Chandigarh, Puducherry
Chandigarh, India: Wish list of every Indian city?
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Having lived and travelled across India, Chandigarh stands out distinctly. Well maintained broad roads, service areas, marked zones, neat & clean neighbourhoods, recreational facilities, advertising-free roads all add up to give the city an enviable position. Full credit goes to its citizens and the administration.
I was on a 2-day whirlwind trip of Chandigarh along with my wife Vrunda and cousin Ujwal and his wife Jaya. Chandigarh is the joint capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana. It has a direct flight from Mumbai, which suited us best. We arrived mid-morning and had booked a taxi for our entire trip that included Chandigarh, Amritsar and Wagah. For our stay in Chandigarh, we would be spending two nights at Taj Vivanta - one of my favourite hotel chains.
Before checking-in we thought it prudent to have lunch which we did at Yellow Chilli a chain of restaurant franchised by Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. The food was good and the restaurant has my recommendation. That afternoon and the next day we would spend exploring Chandigarh’s few of the many gems.
Serenity and a city are two diametrically opposite concepts, which however, get belied in the 'City Beautiful'. Chandigarh is a rare epitome of modernization co-existing with nature's preservation. It is here that the trees and plants are as much a part of the construction plans as the buildings and the roads. I was delighted to see mango orchards along city's many main roads. India’s first planned city, is a rich, prosperous, spic and span, green city rightly called 'The City Beautiful'.
Nek Chand Rock Garden is unique. It’s the surreal fantasy of a local transport official who, starting in 1957, spent almost 20 years personally creating more than 2000 sculptures using stones, debris and other discarded junk that was left over from the 50-odd villages that were destroyed in order to build the city of Chandigarh.
Materials used in the construction of the garden range from concrete and steel drums to light switches, broken bathroom sinks and bicycle frames. Highlights include a legion of dancing girls made from broken glass bangles and a graceful arcade of towering arches with dangling rope swings. Nek Chand worked at night to begin with, to keep his eccentric masterpiece from the prying eyes of the city authorities, before eventually they realised the worth of his project and came on board, helping him to expand the site to its current proportions. A nominal entry fee of Rs 20 is charged and a visit is absolutely a must!
At the epicenter of Le Corbusier’s planned city is the Capital Complex - the imposing concrete High Court, Secretariat and Vidhan Sabha, which are shared by the states of Punjab and Haryana. All three are classic pieces of 1950s architecture from the proto-brutalist school, with bold geometric lines and vast sweeps of moulded concrete. To visit the complex, you must first register, with your passport, at the High Court tourist office. You will then be given a free accompanied tour, which lasts for around 1˝ hours. Unfortunately, we couldn't do this and had to be satisfied with a view from outside.
At the complex, Le Corbusier’s unmistakably mid-century Open Hand sculpture is the city’s official emblem and signifies that the people of Chandigarh are always ‘open to give, open to receive’.
Zakir Hussain Rose Garden is Asia's largest Rose Garden and is spread over 30 acres of land having over 1600 different species or roses. These have been planted beautifully on carved out lawns and flowers beds. Like the cultural zone which is just across the road in sector 10, this was also planned by Dr M.S. Randhawa as his interest in horticulture and fondness for flowers was profuse. Every year, either at the end of February or beginning of March, a big festival known as Rose Festival, is celebrated at this garden. Over 20,000 people visit this festival. It’s one of the great celebrations in the city.
The manmade picturesque Sukhna Lake at the foothills of Shivalik range is an idyllic place for quiet communion with nature and for water sports activities such as boating, yachting, water skiing, etc. Sukhna Lake is an inseparable part of the city. Le Corbusier had foreseen that the residents of the city would be drawn towards it for the 'care of the body and spirit'.
This 3 sq. km. rain fed lake was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills. Originally the seasonal flow entered the lake directly causing heavy siltation. To check the inflow of silt, land measuring 2542 hectares was acquired in the catchments area and put under vegetation. The curvilinear profile of the promenade along the banks of Sukhna Lake hums with activity from dawn to dusk, reflecting changing moods of the day.
During the winter months, Sukhna Lake is a sanctuary for many exotic migratory birds like the Siberian duck, Storks and Cranes. The Lake has been declared as a protected national wetland by the Government of India. The lake, which was the venue for the Asian Rowing Championships, has the longest channel for rowing and yachting events in Asia.
I may want to add here that in between our site-seeing, ladies did find the time to shop around while we, the men, utilized the time to explore the hotel’s executive lounge.
On the morning of day 3, post breakfast, we left for Amritsar in the state of Punjab.
Chandigarh Image Gallery Photo viewer
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