The city shares a close bond with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. It was thanks to his vision and foresight that the City Beautiful was bor n and looks the way it does today. Though French architect Le Corbusier designed the city, it was Nehru’s idea to build a planned city.
Dr PC Sharma (53), eminent museologist, says, “Chandigarh was Nehru’s dream. Le Corbusier has undoubtedly done a great job but is important to realise that Nehru was the one who backed him. Nehru himself took deep interest in Chandigarh; he was instrumental in choosing this site for the city. All that we see today in the city, the roads, the parks, the ecology, Nehru had a part to play in it all. He made sure that Chandigarh is built to be a model city for the rest of the world.”
Nehru’s imprints are all over the city though one seldom notices them.
Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) was inaugurated by Nehru in 1962 and the hospital was later named ‘Nehru Hospital’.
MN Sharma, 87, Chandigarh’s first Indian chief architect, who was a part of Corbusier’s team, remembers the time when the first designs of the high court made by Corbusier were shown to the officials.
“As Corbusier had a very distinctive sense of style, even architects were not abl e to understand those designs. Nehru just looked at the designs and approved them. He said ‘Yes’. One can imagine the amount of vision he had and how supportive he was,” he says. The renowned architect goes on to say, “Le Corbusier had constant support and patronage from Nehru, it is only due to this support that he could do what he has done. Corbusier had very new and innovative ideas which seemed strange to most people but Nehru always supported him. Today, we see those very ideas work wonders.”
Sharma explains that many parameters were kept in mind while choosing a site for Chandigarh. A committee was formed to look at several sights and the present location was finalised in March 1948.
The decision was finally made keeping in mind the fertile land, the proximity to the national capital and the distance from border areas. On his personal experiences with Nehru, he recalls, “Nehru was really quick in his responses, he was very receptive. He also had a wonderful sense of humour.”
Renowned and prolific architect Shiv Dutt Shar ma (83), who has also worked with Le Corbusier and his team says, “Nehru’s patronage to Chandig arh was important as in those days, there was no sur plus money to undertake such immense projects. Nehru was personally involved in this project of Chandigarh, which is why it became a success.”
He remembers that on instances when Nehru visited Chandigarh, he was questioned why a foreign architect was hired to build an Indian city, to this he would reply that one must take advantage of foreign expertise and respect it. He reminisces that Nehru often said, “We should keep our windows open but not to the extent that our house gets blown off.”