Thursday, March 17, 2011

India part 22: Chandigarh

Carvings, Rock Garden

Thought Antony Joseph (he of Ooty Thread Garden fame) was a nutty maverick? Meet Nek Chand.

Sitting man, Rock Garden

Okay, that isn't actually Nek Chand, it's a sculpture built by Nek Chand and his team, one of hundreds housed (or gardened) in the famous Chandigarh Rock Garden. Our guide book told us it's "said to be India's second most visited tourist site, after the Taj Mahal", to which I say: "Who 'said' that? Because it sounds like bollocks to me." Not that it isn't massively awesome, though.

Wall of plugs, Rock Garden

Here's the story. In 1957, government worker Nek Chand sneaks onto some private land, and using discarded junk, industrial waste, broken plates and ROCKS, starts building bridges, castles, courtyards and weird statues, creating the kind of rock garden mainly seen in the post-cheese dreams of madmen. He continues this illegal secret activity in his spare time. For 13 years.

Plug wall close-up, Rock Garden

One day in 1976, Chandigarh's city government find out about this surreal art-installation-cum-gardening project, possibly due to the fact that it now covers 12 acres of land - 12 acres! Nowadays, they would've burnt it down, seized his Twitter account details and sent him to rot in prison, but this was the '70s; the authorities realised they had an amazing, weird, unique piece of outsider art on their hands, so they gave him some money and workers, and told him to keep going. For the win.

Reindeer (?), Rock Garden

An influence on Gary Larson, perhaps? The exit is funny, because you walk through one of the archways (it looks like any other), and you're suddenly outside and it's all over. We weren't the only ones who made a little disappointed noise when we realised this sad truth. Someone should stand by the exit taking photos of people's faces as they appear, and put them all on a blog, captioning each picture with the word: "Oh."

Bracelet man, Rock Garden

Still, you can always grab a cup of chai to drown your sorrows. Unbelievably, the tea place is not called the Hard Rock Cafe. Disgraceful.

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