Top 3 places to visit at Chandigarh
May 9, 2019
The capital of not one but two states of India, Chandigarh is perhaps India’s cleanest, greenest and most affluent city. Amongst the many titles to its credit, the most significant is perhaps that of being India’s first planned city. Like most travelers to Shimla and Kasauli, I also decided to stop over.
City of symbols
The city was designed by the famous French architect Le Corbusier, the city is an epitome of modern architecture and design. The structure of the city is akin to that of the human body. The Capitol Sector is the head, the City Center makes for the heart, the leisure valley and numerous open spaces and parks act as the lungs, the cultural and educational institutions are the intellect, while the network of roads and industrial areas make up the circulatory system and viscera respectively.
For Hardcore Mumbaiker like me, who thrive on the organized chaos of our hometowns, Chandigarh endears itself very easily! The first thing that strikes you about the city is the abundance of open spaces and the endless rows of trees, which line the broad tarred roads that stretch from one end of the city to the other end.
Within this structure, the city is further divided into separate geometrical grids which are called sectors. Each sector is self-sufficient and has its own set of neighborhood stores, healthcare facilities, recreational parks and likewise. They are also connected to the other sectors via shopping streets and green zones, which accommodate parks and schools.
My first stop was in Sector 1-the Capitol Sector, which houses the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the secretariat and the Vidhan Sabha. Together these are also referred to as the Temples of Democracy and are considered to be Corbusier’s best work in the city.
1.The Open Hand
It’s a giant metal structure, which signifies the city’s credo of ‘open to give, open to receive’. It’s one of the top places to visit in Chandigarh.
Walking towards the predominantly reinforced and exposed concrete buildings in the complex, it is easy to be overwhelmed by their sheer magnitude and rawness. On entering the High Court building (the only one freely accessible), you are greeted by a colorful and vibrant tapestry created by Corbusier himself. The fact that the architect has taken a detailed interest in the design of the building is evident from the intricate tapestry designed for each room of the court’s building. The internal ramp, the overhanging roofs, and the colorful supporting slabs lend uniqueness to the design and structure of the building.
Outside, a vast concrete esplanade lies in midway between the High Court and the Assembly building, while a number of water pools add to the aesthetic beauty of the structures.
2.Eden of the North:Rock Garden
Awed by the architectural intricacies, on walking towards the exit and headed towards our next destination-the famed “Rock Garden”. No visit to Chandigarh is considered complete without this second top place. Only a glimpse of the artistically interlaced maze of corridors that make up the garden is wonderful. Decorated with water cascades and sculptures made of industrial and household waste, the garden had me ooh-ing and aah-ing all the way to the exit. As I glanced at my watch, I realized with amazement, that I had spent almost two hours inside Nek Chand’s Rock Garden!
This surreal garden was built by Neck Chand, who was working as a road inspector. He was assigned to watch over a plot of land. With the rubble produced by the construction of the city and the abandoned cement, Chand began to build sculptural groups in 1957. Chand worked at night and kept it secret. For almost 20 years he created sculptures with the most waste materials like bottles, glasses, bracelets, mosaics, glass, electric plugs, ceramic vessels, sinks, cables, burned bricks, etc. He built more than 5000 sculptors and they are now grouped.
In 1975 his work was discovered and when the officials were amazed by his work. So instead of demolishing his work, he was paid a salary to be dedicated full time to continue with his sculptures. And thus, he is the reason for this amazing top places in Chandigarh.
3.The Sukhna Lake
Now, as the day was ending, my third top place was the Sukhna Lake. With the evening setting in, I arrived at the Sukhna Lake. A man-made reservoir spread over an area of 3 sq km, the area was forming a plethora of colorfully dressed people. While some were walking and jogging, others were content with simply sitting on the lakeside promenade and catching up on the day’s events. I too, found myself a quiet spot to watch the paddle boats and Shikaras (canopied boats) plying the serene waters of the lake.
The white swans and cranes in the lake, set against the backdrop of the sprawling Shivalik mountains formed an idyllic image that was waiting to be drawn on the canvas of an artist. In the background, there were sounds of children’s laughter as they shrieked with delight in the mini amusement area near the entrance.
Quick bites & Shopping!
I have got a little bit of time before my departure from Chandigarh. So I decided to visit pedestrian’s paradise, the sector reverberates with the sounds of mobile phones and youthful chatter. Rows of brightly lit shops from Gucci to Levi’s, scream ‘sale’ on the display windows. People of all ages throng the ‘pedestrian only walkways, where ice-cream vendors, coffee shops, chaatwalas (vendors selling savoury Indian snacks) and other eateries compete for attention, and a beautiful water fountain at the center of the plaza lends the perfect antithesis to its tranquility. For shopaholic person, this is the top place to visit anytime.
No tour is complete with out having a bites of local snacks. A quick bite of some zesty chana chor garam (a spicy snack made of roasted chickpeas) and some eavesdropping helped me to decide on my next destination in Chandigarh; the shops in Sector 17. A few non-descript looking shops later, my apprehensions were laid to rest as I emerged with my hands full from the purchases of colorful Patiala salwar Kameez suits for my mum (traditional Indian two-piece suit), and the choicest of sequined and embroidered stoles. The rather reasonable prices meant that I still had enough money left over in my pockets to shop for the famed Punjabi curled-toe jutis (traditional Indian shoes). After deliberating between the choice of a sequined pink juti and a classy olive leather juti, I decided to buy both and was only thankful that I had made this unexpected detour.
A day is not enough to grasp all the city’s air. But I made sure to visit again, but this time I would like to spare at least 3 days in advance rather in Spring or Autumn.