Mapped: Photos from Chandigarh, India, Jan 2006

The audacious background of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh was just as interesting as the sculptures and the architecture. The Rock Garden is a pile of junk. Nek Chand, the force and vision behind the project, created the garden — a 40-acre spread of sculptures, waterfalls, towers, and courtyards — from scrap and waste. Discarded wires, porcelain, industrial materials, broken bangles, pieces of glass bottles — all pieces of rubbish individually, but part of something whole and substantial when brought together; it is much more than a pile of junk.

The most striking aspect of the Rock Garden, to me, is the dedication — I mean obsession — that must have driven Nek Chand to continue working on it. It’s not that hard to initiate something small, a few sculptures that can be hidden away with no effort, but to work in secret for nearly 20 years, creating an enormous work of art out of the forest… I can’t even imagine it. I can only wonder if, somewhere, in the back of his head, he had an idea that he knew was so incredible that he had to follow through with it. Or maybe he was just passing time, keeping his hands busy and the art created itself.

If you’re ever passing through northern India, through Punjab, I highly recommend that you stop at the Rock Garden for a long stroll through Nek Chand’s masterpiece. And while you’re there, take your time, wander. As a bonus during my trip there, we met Nek Chand for a few minutes in his studio, which is located in the garden itself.

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