The creator of Chandigarh’s iconic Rock Garden, Nek Chand, breathed his last at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here at 12.11am on Friday. He was 90. PGIMER sources said that Nek Chand had been ailing for some time. He was suffering from diabetes, hypertension and was also diagnosed with cancer. He had been admitted to the local Inscol Hospital in Sector 34 for the past few days. He had been undergoing dialysis but his condition kept on deteriorating.
Earlier in the day, UT adviser Vijay Dev and home secretary Anurag Agarwal also visited him at the private hospital. They found that his condition was critical and suggested that he be shifted to the PGIMER at the earliest. He was brought to the PGIMER late on Thursday evening.
His son, Anuj Saini, who helped him in maintaining Rock Garden, and his UK-based daughter were by his side when he passed away at PGIMER.
The body will be kept at the Rock Garden on Friday for people to pay their tributes.
KNOW THE MAN, THE LEGEND
Born at Shakargarh (now in Pakistan) in Gurdaspur district, Nek Chand and his family settled in Punjab after Partition. At the time when Chandigarh was being designed as India’s first truly modern city by Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier, he found work as a roads inspector for the Punjab public works department in 1951.It was in the early 1960s that he began to clear a little forest patch near Sukhna Lake to create a small garden. He set stones around the little clearing and then sculpted a few figures from discarded and recyclable materials he found at hand. His creation grew covering several acres and comprising hundreds of sculptures.
THE SECRET GARDENER
Nek Chand toiled away secretly in the dead of night for nearly two decades to create his wonderland in north India. Riding his bicycle after dark to a state-owned forest, Nek Chand spent night after night clearing patches of ground and transforming the landscape into a majestic garden.
When his secret was finally discovered in 1975, authorities threatened demolition, claiming he had violated strict land laws. But an amazed public rallied behind him.
Eventually, the decision to give Chand a salary to help him work on his project fulltime, besides a workforce of 50 labourers, was taken. The garden was inaugurated as a public space in 1976, bringing him glory that would last a lifetime and beyond. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1984.
LEGACY LIVES ON
The man, who saw beauty and art in what others said was junk, continued to work on the garden even in his last days. Made from recycled materials, Chand built the mass with a cement and sand mix before adding a final coating of smoothly burnished pure cement combined with waste materials such as broken glass, bangles, crockery, mosaic and iron-foundry slag.
Now over 25 acres of several thousand sculptures set in large mosaic courtyards linked by walled paths and deep gorges, Nek Chand’s creation also combines huge buildings with a series of interlinking waterfalls. The Rock Garden is now acknowledged as one of the modern wonders of the world and receives over 5,000 visitors each day.