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1.1 Genesis and Current Status
A glorious testament to the artistic and intrinsic value of trash stands in the
middle of the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab and
Haryana, India's storied northwestern state on the border of Pakistan . The
Rock Garden, also known as Nek Chands Rock Garden, was constructed by
Nek Chand, a self-taught sculptor, who was a road inspector when the city of
Chandigarh was being built post-Independence period. Using the natural
topography of the edge of a woodland, the garden is a veritable assemblage
of several chambers, one leading to another, separated by walls (also made
of broken ceramic plates) and themes. Large groups of animals, birds and
human beings provide a visual and cultural treat. As surprising as it may
sound, but the fabrication of this Avant Garde was started as more of a
private hobby by its very creator who tried to conceal it for eighteen years
before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. This master piece was
constructed out of natural rocks and the fragmented remains of the village
destroyed during construction of city of Chandigarh. The Rock Garden, as of
now, spreads over 40 acres and witness, on an average of, 5000 people
every day.
Nek Chands work of Rock Garden has been considered as an Outsider Art.
Nek Chand was a road inspector of public work department of the then newly
established city of Chandigarh and in his spare time he started constructing
Rock Garden as a private hobby. Initially this piece of work started illegally
with the bestial and anthropomorphic rocks and other objects Nek Chand
collected from the nearby rivers and ruins until it came to light by the
authorities in 1972. It was, by then, vast collections of rocks and sculpture
and was eventually the then illegal Rock Garden became legalized. Nek
Chand, by then, became an icon amidst of the economic crisis hovering
across the country. Rock Garden got opened up to public and got financial
support from the government. Nek Chand has a passion for collection rocks
from different places and rivers. He would venture to hills, almost daily, on
his bicycle in search of specific rocks. He would also collect rocks from the
riverside. The raw materials also include strange looking metal pieces, over
burnt bricks, China wear, odd shaped or charred tree trunks, weeds, rags,
plastic dolls, battered hats, used shoes, rusted bicycles, in short, items that
are often difficult to dispose. Setting up collection centers throughout the
city, Nek Chand amasses the waste generated by hospitals, hotels and
restaurants. Domestic waste is sourced through local networks thus ensuring
a trash-free environment for this beautifully designed city. He was
constrained to bring only a few rocks because the bicycle wouldnt allow to
put on more wait so he was very choosy when it comes to the selection of
rocks. What was more important to him was not the supply of rocks which
was endless, but the method of retrieving the rocks and even more

important was how to store and put them to better use in the sculptures. It
could be seen in his works that some of the rocks he used back then were
more or less shaped as molten magma rocks, some of them, as is evident,
being the river side rocks. Also in his work can been seen humanoid figures
that resembles the ancient art representing Indian sculptures of dances and
celestial beings. Also, as visible from his work, there are sculptures of
animals resembling bison and creatures from Jurassic park.
One has to walk through the ravines when entering the rock gardens covered
by the overlapping rocks. These ravines opens up to a scenographic view the
main focus of which is the waterfall topped with an arcade. The waterfall
gives very paradisiacal feel. The large waterfall at the gateway to Phase-3 is
split into three parts; the tallest section contains the water. The second
component is the waterfall itself with a series of sculptures positioned at the
top of the fall. The final aspect is a tall concrete 'tree' structure that
physically links the two mountains together and reappears as part of the rear
Opposite to the waterfall are found a series of semi-closes spaces located
besides large amatures that seem to be grappled around the top of the walls.
The structure is more or less clumsy with no distinct relationship among its
counterparts. This represents Nek Chands incremental approach to building.
These structures are deliberately created in this manner.
In order to safeguard the sculpture and still make the pieces available for
public viewing, the figurines are placed on high sloping terraces connected
by pathways and divided by tile- embellished walls with narrow, low
doorways. Most of the sculptures are smaller than life size and range in
subject from human figures to monkeys, peacocks, elephants, bears and
many imaginary creatures.
In Phase II one can see a miniature village with shops, houses, paths,
temples and a cascading waterfall. This environment friendly gallery of art
also shelters hundreds of birds that live in the gardens small nooks and
If a single person can work to create an art kingdom that becomes the pride
an entire city, imagine what a movement can do? Lets try to use our
imagination and creativity to turn waste into aesthetically appealing art

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