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Nek Chand

Nek Chand

NEK CHAND

Nek Chand was one of India’s most celebrated artists. His fame stemmed from his extraordinary creation in Chandigarh, northern India, known as the Rock Garden - 25 acres of landscaped gardens inhabited by over 2,000 statues that are set in: mosaic courtyards, amongst waterfalls, walkways, amphitheatres and giant swings.

Full Biography

Nek Chand was one of India’s most celebrated artists. His fame stemmed from his extraordinary creation in Chandigarh, northern India, known as the Rock Garden - 25 acres of landscaped gardens inhabited by over 2,000 statues that are set in: mosaic courtyards, amongst waterfalls, walkways, amphitheatres and giant swings.

The roots of Nek Chand’s extraordinary creativity stem from his childhood. From the building of fantasy mud houses by the side of a river bank; to the stories of wondrous Kings and Queens told to him by his mother; to dolls and figures made from bangles found on the ground by market stalls and to colourful scarecrows to ward off birds from his father’s crops.

These early creative experiences in the idyllic Punjabi countryside received an almighty jolt with the 1947 partition with India becoming the two separate states of India and Pakistan. Along with his Hindu family Nek Chand lost his home, his farm, and his village. After a three week trek through the desert he found respite and, through a special employment programme for refugees, he found work in the huge construction project of Chandigarh, the new capital of the half of Punjab remaining in independent India. This was being built under the direction of Swiss architect Le Corbusier. Nek Chand closely observed Corbusier’s construction methods, especially his use of concrete, and was to employ similar techniques himself later in life.

Chand’s first secret effort to create a garden, hidden deep in forested Government land, was a recreation of his lost village home, with narrow walkways overlooked by stones mounted in cement. His first sculptures were a reaffirmation of his childhood creations and his grand designs of landscape architecture used the sophisticated construction methods of Le Corbusier, along with the recycling of much of Chandigarh’s waste. Combined with his uncanny ability to manage people, to turn humble workers into skilled craftsmen and to attract the support of the powerful and influential, he was able to build one of the world’s most astounding creative achievements of modern times. He built this in secrecy at night after his day job as a road inspector as he feared being discovered by the authorities.

Today, The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is the second most visited site behind the Taj Mahal in India.

The Rock Garden is a private kingdom - an earthly paradise spanning over 25 acres of rushing streams and great waterfalls, leafy trees and deep gorges that suddenly become wide expanses. All this coupled with countless sculptures of Kings and Queens, beggars and ministers, schoolgirls and schoolboys, revellers and dancers, monkeys, elephants, camels, horses, dogs and deer.

Chand passed away in 2015 at the age of 90.

Thanks to John Maizels (Editor of Raw Vision) for the help with this text.

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