THE STATE CAPITAL of both Haryana and Punjab, Chandigarh was built in the early 1950s by the internationally renowned architect Le Corbusier. It is considered the first modern city of post- Independent India and is laid out on a grid, divided evenly into 57 blocks or sectors.
Le Corbusier conceived the city along the lines of a modular man, with the Capitol Complex, which includes the Secretariat, Assembly and High Court buildings, as its “head”. The main shopping area, Sector 17, is the “heart” of Le Corbusier’s plan, and is set around a central plaza and fountain, lined with shops indicating that Chandigarh’s affluent citizens are extremely fond of good food and clothes. Adjoining this sector is a gently undulating stretch of green, the city’s “lungs”, with an enormous Rose Garden that is at its best in February. Over a 1,000 varieties of colourful roses bloom amidst winding paths, fountains and sprawling, beautifully tended lawns.
The city’s extensive residential sectors make up its “torso”, with neat houses and gardens showing impressive evidence of the residents’ green fingers. Each road is lined with a different species of flowering tree – laburnum, jacaranda, gulmohar – adding colour to the cityscape.
Chandigarh’s Museum and Art Gallery in Sector 10 houses one of the country’s finest collections of Gandharan sculpture and miniature paintings. Among the best exhibits are a serene 6th-century Standing Bodhisattva in the Gandharan style, and a rare 11th-century statue of Vishnu holding a conch shell from Kashmir. The miniatures section has a comprehensive selection of Pahari paintings from the Kangra, Basohli and Guler schools, while modern art includes mountainscapes by the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich.
Lying opposite the Capitol Complex, the Rock Garden is one of the city’s most popular tourist spots. Spread over 1.6 ha (4 acres) in Sector 1, it was created in the 1970s by an ex-road inspector, Nek Chand, and is a refreshing contrast to Le Corbusier’s severely symmetrical cityscape.
The area encloses a unique kingdoms, a labyrinth with hills, waterfalls and caves, and serried ranks of sculptures crafted from such unlikely material as discarded neon lights, fuse switches, broken crockery and glass.A short distance away is the man-made Sukhria Lake, where a pleasant promenade attracts joggers and walkers.
This is one of Chandigarh’s prettiest areas, especially in the evenings, when visitors can enjoy dramatic sunsets and views of the twinkling lights of the nearby hill station, Kasauli