/ Adventure Travel
adventure — By Vawn on April 24, 2010 at 9:08 am
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Art meets recycling in Chandigarh rock garden

It’s considered one of the modern wonders of the world – and it’s quite a sight, with legions of sculptures created from junk in mosaic courtyards linked by walled paths and twisting walkways, through gorges and past waterfalls.

The 25-acre Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden in Chandigarh, capital of Punjab in India, is one of the country’s most visited attractions, seeing up to 5,000 visitors every day. But it’s also one of the country’s most effective recycling programs.

Artist Nek Chand uses recycled junk and urban debris – including electrical sockets, broken bangles, over-burnt bricks, broken pots, tree trunks, rags, plastic dolls, used shoes, fused bulbs, worn tires and parts of rusted bicycles – to create art. And behind the coal-tar oil-drum walls that surround the gardens, you’ll find thousands of sculptures, from monkeys to chai drinkers to all sorts of imaginary creatures.

Chandigarh was built as the state capital of Punjab – land of the Sikhs – following Partition in 1947, designed by the modernist Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier. You’ll notice immediately how Chandigarh is different from other Indian cities, with its tree-lined boulevards and public gardens set in an orderly grid. I was hard pressed to spot a plastic bag or piece of garbage floating around anywhere.

Perhaps that’s because it’s all being used for art. Chand was a road worker when villages were being cleared to build this new, modern city, which blends tradition with fast-paced economic development. Chand noticed all the waste being produced from construction, so he hauled it into the jungle where, for 18 years, he secretly turned it into sculpture under the cover of darkness.

When a government survey crew discovered the secret garden – which was illegal, since it violated local construction regulations and didn’t fit into Le Corbusier’s master plan for the city – it caused a kerfuffle. But rather than tear it down, the city decided to pay Chand a salary to continue his work, and even provided 50 workers to help him. Turned out to be a smart move, since it’s now one of India’s top tourist attractions.

Hours: 9am to 6pm (Oct. to March) / 9am to 7pm (April to Sept.)

Cost: Adults: Rs10 / Children: Rs5

To get here: The Nek Chand Fantasy Rock Garden is located in Sector No. 1 in Chandigarh. The Shatabdi Express runs to Chandigarh two to three times daily from New Delhi and takes about three hours. Board and lodging is available at the rock garden for volunteer grime-busters, repairers and researchers.

In Chandigarh, you’ll also find the Rose Garden (Sector No. 16), Bougainvillea Garden (Sector No. 3) and the Garden of Fragrance (Sector No. 36) with jasmine and damask rose.

Photo Copyright @ 2010 VH Media

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