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Chandigarh, India        

I have welcomed very greatly one experiment in India: Chandigarh. Many people argue about it; some like it, some dislike it. It is the biggest example in India of experimental architecture. It hits you on the head and makes you think. You may squirm at the impact but it has made you think and imbibe new ideas, and the one thing which India requires in many fields is being hit on the head so that it may think. I do not like every building in Chandigarh. I like some of them very much. I like the general conception of the township very much but, above all, I like the creative approach, not being tied down to what has been done by our forefathers, but thinking in new terms, of light and air and ground and water and human beings.  [- Jawaharlal Nehru. Speech, 17 Mar 1959]

Chandigarh may well be India's greatest achievement in urban town planning. But despite Nehru's enthusiasm, and the evident success of the experiment, Indians seem to have learned nothing from it. Chandigarh ought to have become the harbinger for more planned cities. What came instead was unplanned urban sprawl, dispiriting shanties, and creaking infrastructure, punctuated now by gated enclaves built for the rich by a land-grabbing mafia of private developers.  That Chandigarh didn't inspire a hundred planned cities points to a colossal failure of the Indian imagination.

Plans for building the city began soon after Punjab was split into two in 1947. Pakistan was ceded the larger western part, including the Punjabi capital of Lahore, leaving the Indian Punjab without an administrative, commercial, or cultural capital. It was hoped that a grand new capital would become a symbol of modernity, heal the wounded pride of Indian Punjabis, and house thousands of Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan. Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier was commissioned to lead the city planning, aided by Indian architects and town planners. Construction began in the early 1950s, and much of the city was completed in the early 1960s.

Scenically located at the foot of the Himalayas, Chandigarh boasts a modern infrastructure, open spaces, greenery, cleanliness, and a relatively low population density. Divided into 46 rectangular sectors, numbered 1-12 and 14-47 (13 was deemed unlucky), most sectors have an area of nearly 250 acres and a housing capacity of about 15,000 people. Designed to be self-contained in civic amenities, the sectors are separated from each other by broad streets for the city's fast-moving arterial traffic. In the northeast is the artificial Lake Sukhna, a major recreational spot of the city. [Text in preceding two paragraphs adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica.]

Chandigarh is also an ancient Harappan site. In '69, while digging for a shopping center in sector 17, a Harappan cemetery was unearthed. Remains include painted pottery (jars, dishes, goblets, vases, bowls, cups, beakers), terracotta figurines, beads, toy-cart frames, wheels, faience and copper bangles, stone querns, pestle and sling balls, etc. This, along with their Gandhara, Mughal, and Pahari art collections, makes Chandigarh's museums among of the best in India.

 A wonderfully whimsical creation, unusual in modern India, is Nek Chand's rock garden, made from building and industrial refuse. I had seen it as a teenager in 1983 but nothing quite prepared me for its expanded scale and the audacity of its creations when I went back in Sept 2006. I stayed in a hotel in sector 17, probably upon the still buried remains of an ancient Harappan settlement, part of a civilization best known to us for its urban town planning.   ( Comment ? )

Rose Garden (1, 2)

A tranquil spot inside

Advertising a magic show (local street)

Chandigarh City Museum

Sukhna Lake (more) ...

Amorous couple (1, 2)

... an artificial lake (more)

Taj Hotel

Rock Garden: A Fantasy Created by Nek Chand

Entrance gate

Nek Chand's former abode

Rock art


Pool (waterfall)

Swings (more)


Wall art

(1, 2)

(1, 2)


The Government Museum and Art Gallery

Designed by Le Corbusier

First hall

Phulkari textile art

Sculpted panels 1-3rd cent. CE, NW Frontier

Standing Bodhisattva 2nd cent. CE, Sikrai

Amitabha preaching in Sukhavati heaven Late 3rd c. CE, Muhammad Nari

Padmavati The Jain Goddess

Hunger Wood, SL Prasher

Railing pillars 2nd cent. CE, Kushana period

Seated Buddha 4th cent. CE, NW Frontier

Standing Bodhisattva 2nd cent. CE, Sikrai


Harappan Site Density 

Ancient civilizations timeline

Harappan pots

Harappan seals

Harappan figurines

Harappan misc. objects

Harappan misc. objects

Harappan pottery (more)

Harappan script

An artist's reconstruction

Male head (replica; more)
Stone, circa 2500 BCE Mohenjodaro

Male bust (replica) Stone, circa 2500 BCE Mohenjodaro

Chandigarh Natural History Museum

Designed by Le Corbusier

Evolution exhibit (1, 2)

Rajasaurus Narmadensis

Dinosaur gallery (habitat)





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