At the same time as Le Corbusier’s grandiose visions were becoming built reality, Nek Chand, a humble street inspector in the Chandigarh Public Works Department started to realize his dream of a fairy-tale kingdom among the wild scrubland on the outskirts. In the planned city, where every building measure required planning permission, in contrast with other Indian cities, it was impossible even to clear undergrowth or build a little hut without official sanction. So Nek Chand worked secretly, often at night. From 1958 onwards he collected stones, rubble and material created by the demolition of old estates and the construction of the new town, and carted everything to his building site on a bicycle. (…)
Unlike the building plans for the modern ideal city, the complex plan for the Rock Garden existed only in Nek Chand’s head. Anyone entering his empire for the first time through the little entrance portal in the high garden wall topped with geese cannot have the slightest idea of what is waiting for him or her at the next bend in the narrow sunken path, over there behind the garden gate or in the next courtyard. A whole troop of monkeys might be looking curiously down, figures of girls carry their water-jugs to the well in an endless procession, or hundreds of decorative figures perform their ritual dance for one of the countless Indian deities who are undergoing one of their numerous incarnations in the figures. The imaginative world of the Rock Garden is as boundless as the ancient Indian sagas of gods and heroes like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
The garden, which can reasonably be called a park after the third development phase from 1983 on, now occupies about ten hectares. A large clearing in this park is reached via a deep, artificial gorge, past a rushing waterfall, in the shade of the trees and numerous palace-like buildings on the hill. With its colourful ceramics and rustically cemented arches the setting will almost remind Europeans a little of the Parc Güell in Barcelona. A swing hangs in each of the 50 high arches, a feature much loved by children, while temples, amphitheaters and grottoes entice visitors to explore new terrain. (…)
Antoni Gaudi, Park Güell (1900-1920)
Like all paradises, this one too is under threat, despite its international fame. It is only courageous resistance by residents that has prevented this imaginative alternative world to the ideal modern city from having to give way to a road development project.