Chandigarh, the first planned modern city of India designed by the French architect Le Corbusier serves as the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. The city is named after the mother goddess of power, Chandi, and a fort or ‘garh’ beyond the Chandi temple. Chandigarh was constituted as a union territory on 1st November, 1966 and is administered by the Government of India. Endowed with a sparkling gardens and a planned town, it seems only right that its setting should have inspired on of the worlds most beautiful and glamorous cities. Such natural beauty coupled with a multicultural population, has given rise to an impressive line-up of gardens, galleries, museums complimented by some outstanding architecture.
Geography of Chandigarh
The Chandigarh is located in north of India and surrounded by three states i.e. Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh. The Chandigarh city is situated in a pictursque setting under the foot of Shivalik Hills at a height of 365 meters above the sea level. At every dawn the city proud inhabitants of Chandigarh are greeted by the scenic beauty of shivalik hills. Geographically its boundaries are defined by two seasonal rivulets – the Patiali ki Roa and the Sukana choe. Chandigarh experiences extreme climate.
History of Chandigarh
The name of the city is derived from Goddess of power known as Shri Chandika whose temple is on Chandigarh-Kalka Road. The temple is known by the name of Chandi Mandir. It is considered to be an ancient site and has a major religious significance for Hindus. After India’s independence from British rule Punjab became a state without a capital. Though there was a temporary secretariat at Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, the political leadership decided on the construction of a modern and accessible capital. This was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s Dream City of modern India. The city was named as Chandigarh. This is the first planned city of India. The responsibility for the design was given to the French architect Le Corbusier or the Crow. With the help of his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and that of the English couple Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew (alongwith a number of Indian architects prominent amongst them Chief planner Narinder S. Lamba & Chief Engineer J.C. Verma) Chandigarh, the present capital, came into existence at the foothills of the Shivaliks (the first of three parallel chains of the Himalayas). It was built in 1953 and serves as the capital of two states, i.e. Punjab and Haryana. It is administered by the Central Government and is hence classified as an Union Territory. Since 1986 there has been much talk about officially handling it to Punjab on the basis of demography. The issue however continues to be a matter of discussion with many political disputes.
Places of Interest in Chandigarh
The Rock Garden sprawling over 64 acres is a strange but unique garden- an artists dream, build by one man’s effort, love, ingenuity and skill. Nek Chand who was an ordinary public works department employee of the Chandigarh administration, conceived the idea of the garden as a solution to the disposal of city waste and domestic garbage. There are no flowers or plants in this garden. The garden was created sector by sector with rocks and discarded objects like bottle tops, fluorescent lights, mud guard, tin cans, broken glass etc which Nek Chand meticulously planned. The creative artist built dolls and figures of birds, men and women along a maze of paths give the garden an ethnic look.
Sukna lake an artificial, manmade lake spread over 3 square kilometers on the northern border of Chandigarh is the venue of the Asian rowing championships. The tree-shaded shores is a favorite spot for strolling and bird watching. From December through February, one can see many species of aquatic birds from Central Asia and Siberia. Sukhna lake has facility for renting rowing boats and there is also a children’s park.
The Open Hand Monument
Open Hand monument in the Capital Complex in sector 1, is made of a metal sheet, 14 metres high and weighing 50 tonnes and rotate freely in the wind from a high concrete pedestal. Some times it resembles a bird in flight The design of this giant hand emblem was conceived by Le Corbusier. The symbol stands for peace and unity – ‘Open to give – Open to receive’. It is the official emblem of the city.
It is the largest building in the Government or Capital Complex. It is an elongated building, with concrete walls intended as a work place for about 4000 people. The centre portion contains the offices of ministers. From the roof top of this building there is a good panoramic view of the city and the hills beyond.
The Legislative Assembly
The Legislative Assembly square in plan with a monumental portico standing free from the main building has a removable dome and a mural by Le Corbusier. It faces the high court which delineates the south eastern end of the Capitol Piazza.
The High Court
The High Court is a classic work of modern architecture. It is one of the first monuments to be built in the Capital complex. The structure of this building has a double roof, projecting over the office block, like a inverted umbrella shading its lower part, symbolizing the law as an umbrella of shelter for the ordinary citizen.
This Valley contains the famous Dr. Zakir Rose garden, Shanty Kunj, Cannas garden; the garden of unusual plants.
Dr. Zakir Rose Garden
The rose garden in sector 16 is claimed to be the Asia’s largest Rose garden. This garden was created in 1967, under the expert guidance of Dr M.S. Randhawa, Chandigarh’s first Chief Commissioner, and is named after India’s President, Zakir Hussain. It is spread over an area of 30 acres and have 1600 different species of roses. Every year a ‘Rose Festival’ is celebrated at this garden, either at the end of February or beginning of March. It is one of the main cultural events of the city and draws thousands of visitors. There are lots of competitions, cultural celebrations and many other events.
Shanti Kunj (Abode of Peace) situated in sector 16 has trees, streams and meditation nooks, spread over 18 acres of land.
Hundreds of Bougainvillea varieties adorn the garden spread over 20 acres in sector 10. The creepers cover a wide assortment of arches, pavilions and arcades. The annual Bougainvillea Show is held here.
Terraced Garden, spread over 8 acres in sector 33, is the venue for the annual Chrysanthemum Show. There is also an illuminated musical fountain here.
Museum and Art Gallery
The art gallery in Sector 10, contains a modest collection of Indian stone sculptures dating back to the Gandhara period, together with some miniatures paintings and modern art. The adjacent museum has fossils and implements of prehistoric humans found in India.
Museum of Evolution of Life (Science Museum)
Inaugurated on 14 August, 1973, this museum depicts the origin of the earth and the evolution of life. The exhibits cover 5,000 years of Indian History from the Indus Valley Civilization to the present day. There are other galleries of astronomy, geology and the world of ancient man.
Child Art Gallery
This gallery exhibits works by young artists of Chandigarh. The museum frequently organises art workshops for students and children.
National Gallery of Portraits
Situated on Sector 17B this gallery contains portraits of Indian freedom fighters, rare documents, sculptures, ceramic murals and recordings of the voices of 125 prominent figures of India’s Independence movement. The library here has books on India’s freedom struggle.
International Dolls Museum
This museum situated in Bal Bhawan in Sector 23, contains more than 300 dolls from nearly every country in the world. It was inaugurated on 24th December, 1985.