[by Ken Hunt, London and Jalandhar] Visiting Nek Chand’s life’s work known as the Rock Garden of Chandigar – the union capital of the Indian states of Haryana and Punjab – must have once felt like being somewhere in a gigantic a work in progress. Since his death on 12 June 2015 at the age of 90 – and speaking more romantically – his Rock Garden of Chandigarh entered another phase.
It will now be a tourist attraction forever in a state of maintenance – and not in a bad sense. Even though it had long been in a state of constant maintenance – with major and minor repairs, cleaning and polishing occurring day in, day out – that won’t finish as long as people appreciate it. The English gardener Monty Don describes as “the best garden story in the history of the world” in his television series Around the World in 80 Gardens. Nek Chand’s creation is a place to make anyone re-calibrate their head.
Nek Chand built it quietly, surreptitiously in a quiet corner of Chandigarh using discarded and dumped stuff. Stuff is the operative word. He used broken crockery, broken bangles, electrical components, vitreous china, weather-beaten rocks and leftover masonry and miscellaneous junk to create something both otherworldly and nearly of this world. The gardens are populated with figures in human and animal form going about their everyday activities, gawking at visitors or ignoring them.
Nek Chand Saini was born on 15 December 1924 in Barian Kalan, a village which became Pakistan after Partition and which he trekked on foot to escape from in 1947. He became a government road inspector in due course but on the quiet he began building something unique, in the true sense of the word, squirreled away in what is regularly described as the Chandigarh jungle
That is one very good reason for including it on a predominantly music website. For me, Chand’s found-art is a visual parallel of Bollywood music.
His obituary appeared in The Times of 17 July 2015, page 54. John Maizels’ obituary in the Guardian appears here https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jun/15/nek-chand
All images © 2017 Ken Hunt/Swing 51 Archives