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Chandigarh

STATE CAPITAL of both Haryana and Punjab

Visitor’s Checklist

Chandigarh district.

238 km (148 miles) N of Delhi

Total Population

750,000.

Airport

11 km (7 miles) S of city centre

More tourism information:

Punjab Tourism, Sector 22, (0172) 70 4570

Akal Takht

THE STATE CAPITAL of both Haryana and Punjab, Chandigarh was built in the early 1950s by the inter­ nationally 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 mod­ ular 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 e\'idence 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 counny'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

Rock Garden

Lying opposite the Capitol Complex, the Rock Garden is one of the city's most popular tourist spots.Spread m Museum and Art Gallery 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 "kingdom", 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 Sukhna Lake, where a pleasant promenade attracts joggers and walkers.

Pinjore Gardens

The Pinjore Gardens, lying 22 km (14 miles) north of Chandigarh, were designed in the 17th century by Fidai Khan, foster brother of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. They are terraced in the Mughal style and dotted with domed pavilions, fountains and water chutes. Sanghol, 40 km (25 miles) west of Chandigarh, has an excavated site of a 2nd-century Buddhist stupa with an interesting museum of Kushana sculpture.

Le Corbusier's City

In 1950, India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, commissioned the French-Swiss architect Charles Edouard Jeanneret ("Le Corbusier"), to create a new capital for Punjab, as the old capital, Lahore, had become a part of Pakistan after Independence in 1947. The result was a city of concrete blocks and straight arterial roads, projecting Le Corbusier's philosophy of functional efficiency, free of unnecessaly ornamentation such as domes and arches. Without any crowded bazaars, Chandigarh lacks the typical bustle and vitality of older Indian towns, and some of Le Corbusier's buildings now look weather­ beaten. Yet it remains the counny's cleanest and most orderly city and this, perhaps, is Le COl'busier's lasting legacy.