Monday, April 9, 2018


I had visited Chandigarh long back as a kid and then again during my college days for some project work. Now, it was time to take my family and kids to have a glimpse of this beautiful city.

Chandigarh is very well connected to different parts of India by road, rail and air networks.

Chandigarh is a rare epitome of modernization co-existing with nature's preservation. It is here that the trees and plants are as much a part of the construction plans as the buildings and the roads.

Chandigarh is bordered by the state of Punjab to the north, the west and the south, and to the state of Haryana to the east.

The master plan of the city was prepared by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, which transformed from earlier plans created by the Polish architect Maciej Nowicki and the American planner Albert Mayer. Most of the government buildings and housing in the city, were designed by the Chandigarh Capital Project Team headed by Le Corbusier, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry.

In 2015, an article published by BBC named Chandigarh as one of the perfect cities of the world in terms of architecture, cultural growth and modernisation.

After the partition of India in 1947, the former British province of Punjab was split between (mostly Hindu/Sikhs) East Punjab in India and (mostly Muslim) West Punjab in Pakistan. The Indian Punjab required a new capital city to replace Lahore, which became part of Pakistan during the partition.Therefore, an American planner and architect Albert Mayer was tasked to design a new city called "Chandigarh" in 1949.

Chandigarh city is named after Goddess mother Chandi. There is a small Chandi Temple in outskirts of the city toards road to Shimla.

That entire area is known as Chandi Mandir, even the Indian army command stationed there is known as Chandi Mandir Command.

Chandigarh can be comfortably visited during a weekend. We planned accordingly and by 9 AM were in the city. Hotel was booked already. This time I used Trivago and found the hotel selection was quite good. I wanted the hotel near sector 17 market.

Our first stop in Chandigarh was the Rose Garden.

Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, is spread over 30 acres, with over 50,000 rose plants of about 825 different species. It was established in 1967 under the guidance of Dr M.S.Randhawa, Chandigarh's first chief commissioner. 

This garden has the distinction of being Asia's largest rose garden.

This garden is also the venue for hosting an annual rose festival, a major cultural event in Chandigarh during February or March.

There is lot of greenery. The fountains add to the beauty of the garden. Kids were happy to be there and we enjoyed spending quality time, roaming inside the garden.

Walkable distance from Rose garden are the museum complex.

We had plans to visit Government museum, Museum of Natural History and City Architecture museum.

The Government Museum & Art Gallery is designed by the Swiss born French architect, Le Corbusier.

It houses the collection of sculptures, miniature paintings, modern and contemporary art, textiles, decorative art, coins, manuscripts and pottery.

I always love to be at museum and whenever there is any opportunity, I make sure to visit it.

The beginning of the collection in thus museum can be traced to the partition of the country in 1947 when 40% of the collection of the Central Museum, Lahore became the share of India. A significant part of this share was the Gandhara sculptures. Over a period of time, Dr M S Randhawa added Pahari Indian Miniature paintings and modern and Indian contemporary art.

Next was the Natural History museum. This place is a must-visit for those travelling with children, and has exhibits featuring fossils, model dinosaurs, exquisite hand-embroidered pictures of birds and a diorama with a caveman using an electric torch to illuminate his cave art!

My kids enjoyed being here and asked a lot of questions to me, some of which I could not answer but need to take help from Google.

This is advantage to be in museum with kids as it raises the curiosity in them and help gain knowledge beyond their course curriculum.

Next was the Government Architecture Museum.

Using photos, letters, models, newspaper reports and architectural drawings, this museum tells the story of Chandigarh’s planning and development, including the abandoned first plan for Chandigarh by Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki.

This also helps us to understand, how a person's vision and strong leadershop skill can form a world class city with excellent planning second to none.

It was late faternoon, we had not take lunch. Kids were also hungry and were asking for some refreshment. I was more interetsed to quickly reach Rock Gardens.

Finally we decided to reach the place and take some quick refreshment. There are a lot of temporary stalls near the gates of Rock Garden selling some quick food. We satisfied us with that till late evening, when we took heart full of dinner at Hotel.

This is sculpture garden. It is also known as Nek Chand's Rock Garden after its founder Nek Chand, a government official who started the garden secretly in his spare time in 1957. 

Today it is spread over an area of 40 acres. It is completely built of industrial and home waste and thrown-away items.

The garden is most famous for its sculptures made from recycled ceramic.

Some man-made interlinked waterfalls were added later to this garden. 

Sculptures here have been made of scrap and other kinds of wastes (bottles, glasses, bangles, tiles, ceramic pots, sinks, electrical waste,brokenpipes, etc.) which are placed in walled paths.

In his spare time, Nek Chand started collecting materials from demolition sites around the city. He recycled these materials choosing a gorge in a forest near Sukhna Lake for his work. 

The gorge had been designated as a land conservancy, a forest buffer established in 1902 that nothing could be built on. 

Chand’s work was illegal, but he was able to hide it for 18 years before it was discovered by the authorities in 1975. 

By this time, it had grown into a 12-acre  complex of interlinked courtyards, each filled with hundreds of pottery-covered concrete sculptures of dancers, musicians, and animals.

His work was in danger of being demolished, but he was able to get public opinion on his side. In 1976 the park was inaugurated as a public space. 

Nek Chand was given a salary, a title ("Sub-Divisional Engineer, Rock Garden"), and 50 laborers so that he could concentrate full-time on his work. 

It appeared on an Indian stamp in 1983. With the government’s help, Chand was able to set up collection centers around the city for waste, especially rags and broken ceramics.

It takes sometime to visit the Garden completely, minimum of 3-4 hours. We enjoyed being there, visited each and every gallery, waterfalls etc. 

There was on live dance and music performance was also going on.

It was fun to visit the Rock Garden. Its a unique one, nowehere I have seen and is a must visit if in Chandigarh!

Evening was approaching fast and so we decided to visit Sukhna Lake.

It is a reservoir at the foothills (Shivalik hills) of the Himalayas. This rainfed lake was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills.

The lake was created by Le Corbusier and the Chief Engineer P L Verma. To preserve its tranquility, Corbusier insisted on two things: that it be forbidden for motor boats to circulate in the water, and for vehicular traffic to be prohibited on top of the dam (promenade). The lake is fringed by a golf course to the south, and Nek Chand's famous Rock Garden of Chandigarh to its west.

Sukhna is a sanctuary for many exotic migratory birds like the Siberian duck, storks and cranes, during the winter months. The lake has been declared as a protected national wetland by the Government of India.

During summers, there are streams of men, women and children from all walks of life offering voluntary service to desilt the lake bed for about three months. This annual ritual has been a regular feature since long ago.

Sukhna Lake is the venue for many festive celebrations, too. The most popular is the Mango Festival held during the monsoons when scores of varieties of mangoes are on display. From time-to-time, other food festivals featuring specialties from different Indian States are also held here, along with cultural performances.

Sitting at its banks, doing nothing and just watching the quite lake with Majestic Humalays in background gives lot of peace and tranquility.

We had option of taking dinner at Hotel or at some market. We decided to visit the famous Sector 17 Market.

Its one of the main shopping center of Chandigarh. We just roamed there and ag=fter some thoughts decided to take food at hotel only.

A good food and the tiredness of the day soon resulted in a sound sleep!

Morning we checked out from hotel and directly went to the Railway station. We put our bags at Cloak room there. Our return train was in the late evening.

From there, we took an auto to visit the famous Mansa mata Temple.

Mata Mansa Devi is a temple dedicated to goddess Mansa Devi in the Panchkula district of Haryana.

It is one of the prominent Shakti temples of North India. Thousands of devotees visit the shrine from various parts of the country, and especially during the Navratra mela, this number rises to lakhs everyday for the nine auspicious days.

Maharaja Gopal Singh of Mani Majra constructed the present main temple of Shri Mansa Devi, which is situated on the Shivalik foothills in village Bilaspur, Tehsil and District Panchkula, during the period 1811–1815. At a distance of 200 meters from the main temple is the Patiala temple which was constructed by Karam Singh, the then Maharaja Patiala in the year 1840.

Queue was not very big and soon we were in lotus feet of the almighty Mother!

One Caution, make sure to take the left side of the queue as from right side of queue you will have darshan only from the side.

Getting blessed we visited Patiala Temple also and paid our prayers to Mother!

Another famous temple, which we planned to visit today was Chandi Mandir.

Because of Chandi mandir, the entire area is known as Chandi Mandir. The temple itself is quite small and so most of auto guys are not aware of temple, but they know the area. You can search on google or take an auto/taxi to visit the area and then walk to the temple.

It is about 15 km from the city of Chandigarh, which was named after the temple, and about 10 km away from the Mansa Devi Shrine.

In the Chandi Mandir area is the Western Command of the Indian army.

This small but very ancient place of worship is said to be visited by Pandavas during their exile. We sat in the serene atmosphere their and prayed to the mother of universe.

From here, we took an auto to visit the famous Pinjore Garden.

There were a lot of fun activities like Joy rides, toy train etc. were going on for Kids at the entrance. The kids got engaged in that while I went into thoughts about the place.

Yadavindra Gardens, formerly Pinjore Gardens, is a historic 17th century garden. It is an example of the Mughal Gardens architectural style, which was renovated by the Patiala Dynasty Rulers.
It was built in the foot hills of Himalayas as one of the Mughal gardens summer retreat for the Aurangzeb who then had his capital at Lahore, by his foster brother architect Muzaffar Hussain (also known as Nawab "Fidai Khan Koka").

The ruins of Ancient Bhima Devi Temple are next to the Pinjore Garden.

Muslim invasions of Pinjore town started with Nasir-u-Din Mahmood (Iltumish’s son) in 1254 AD, continued with other invaders like Timurlane and lasted till Governor of Sirhind Fidai Khan’s onslaught in 1666. These invasions were responsible for the wanton destruction of the ancient Bhima Devi Temple Complex. The Pinjore gardens (now renamed as Yadvendra Gardens after Yadavindra Singh Maharaja of the former princely state of Patiala) developed in the 17th century, by Fidai Khan (was also the architect), was reportedly constructed partly with ruins of destroyed temple.

An open-air museum with the Bhima Devi temple ruins (Some of the ancient sculptures have been preserved at different places of the open-air museum).

As kids were done with their play activities, it was time to visit The pinjore Garden.

The garden has been laid in seven terraces, with the main gate of the garden opening into the highest first terrace, which has a palace built in Rajasthani–Mughal style. It is called the “Shish Mahal” (palace of glass), which is adjoined by "Hawa Mahal" (airy Palace). The second terrace with arched doorways has the "Rang Mahal". The third terrace has cypress trees and flowerbeds leading to dense groves of fruit trees. The next terrace has the "Jal Mahal" (palace of water) with a square fountain bed and a platform to relax. Fountains and tree groves are provided in the next terrace. The lowermost terrace has an open-air theater.

We visited till end. I was comparing it with Vrindavan Gardens of Mysore, and felt the the Garden at Mysore is better. Though this place is also quite good with lot of greenery and an ideal place for family outing. we also enjoyed relaxing there along with icecreams!

Then we walked to the ruins of Bhima Devi Temple.

The Bhima Devi Temple Complex, nicknamed Khajuraho of North India for its erotic sculptures, comprises the restored ruins of an ancient Hindu temple dating from between 8th and 11th century AD, together with the adjacent Pinjore gardens.

The Bhima Devi temple was sculptured during the reign of Gurjar Pratihars. Most of the comprising sculptures and architectural, which were ruined during Mughal period under Aurangzeb, are of the times of the Gurjar Pratihars.

Archaeological excavations done in 1974 revealed the temple, which was subsequently dated to 8th century to 11th century AD.The unearthed findings cover over 100 antiquarian sculptures, apart from a layout plan indicating a five temples complex, including the main central shrine representing the Panchayatana architectural style, similar to the styles seen in the contemporaneous Khajuraho and Odisha temples.

An inscription in the Pinjore Baoli (step well) described this place as Panchpura. It is said that the Pandavas remained here for about one year on their way to the Himalayas to spend the forced exile period.

The most outstanding sculpture displayed in the temple complex is that of Lord Shiva, bearing a high jata juta, ear ornaments, ekavali, sacred thread, armlets, wristlets, long garland, dhoti secured by an elaborate girdle, etc, holding a trident with its upper portion damaged in the rear right hand and a snake in the back left. The right hand of the God is in Varadmudra, touching the head of a small human figure standing in tribhanga standing behind the bull at right of the God.

We visited the ruins and also the museum complex established to display the damaged and defiled idols of faith for hindus.

I felt terribly bad as how much effort, art and article of faith destroyed by islamic invaders.

We took a good late lunch at one of the small dhaba nearby. The food was good.

An auto dropped us near the Chandigarh Housing development office. From there we took an Ola to visit the Open hand monument.

Its in the Capitol Complex.

Chandigarh hosts the largest of Le Corbusier's many Open Hand sculptures, standing 26 metres high. The Open Hand (La Main Ouverte) is a recurring motif in Le Corbusier's architecture, a sign for him of "peace and reconciliation. It is open to give and open to receive.

The vehicle was not allowed nearby it and so we had to walk to have the glimpse of It. By clicking a few photos, we were back to main road and took an auto to visit Sector 17 market again.

We still had some time left with us as the train was only in the late evening so we spend some time roaming in sector 17 market. Some movie shooting was in progress and we just sat and enjoyed it going on.

An early dinner there of Pizza made us ready for night long train journey.

Morning we were at Home, sweet home!


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