Unfortunately I think I went a bit too early on my Milton Keynes analogy (see post “No sex please we’re British” on 28 April, 2018) because on arriving in Chandigarh, we literally were in the Indian equivalent of Milton Keynes, roundabouts and all. This is India’s first planned city post-Independence, built in 1950 (designed by a Swiss architect, Le Corbusier).
As it was all divided into Sectors (eg we arrived at Inter State Bus Station 43 before making our way to the Rock Garden in sector 1), it had a touch of ‘The Hunger Games’ about it too, although without the sinister overtones, e.g. food was in plentiful supply and we weren’t aware of any death games. Nor did we make it to Panem (aka Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex) as we were visiting at the weekend.
The key site here is the Rock Garden, a labour of love by a local transport official called Ned Chand who collected rubbish from the 50 villages that had been demolished by the creation of the new city. He went onto make over 2000 statues and placed them in a specially sculpted site he created on wasteland. Initially done in secret at night, it was then discovered by the local authorities but supported and now it stands as a proud and well loved symbol of the city. It certainly was very popular with local families on our visit.
Our verdict: rather strange but unique and it did have a certain beauty, some parts more than others. Probably the most interesting thing about it is how it came into being and Ned Chand’s own somewhat surreal vision. All in all, a rather bizarre place in what is a rather bizarre Indian city.