Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
New Delhi, India
November 20, 2013
The Rock Garden dates back to 1976 and was the brainchild of a former civil servant called Nek Chand. Nek Chand came up with the idea of using waste material- broken crockery, shattered glass bangles, and the like- to create works of art, all of them housed in a specially landscaped park which would include more recycled material within it. What emerged from Nek Chand’s efforts is the Rock Garden.
From the moment you reach the car park at the Rock Garden, you see signs of this unusual form of art: a bunch of clay peacocks (big birds, at any rate), covered with pieces of broken pottery, stand atop the wall that marks the boundary of the park. Once inside, you follow a pathway- sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, but always flanked on either side by walls made of sacks of hardened cement- in a well-defined route through the Rock Garden. The path meanders, up and down, along artificial pools and waterfalls, on roughly hewn steps and through narrow corridors and very low doorways.
A lot of it is decorated- with coloured mosaics crafted from bits of broken pottery, and with a large number of animal and human figures. These, like the birds on the boundary wall, are mainly made of clay or cement, and are studded with almost anything that nobody needs any more: brightly coloured broken glass bangles, shards of beer bottles, bits of pottery- mainly white, but some painted- and even ceramic insulation from old electrical switches and poles ("Looks like Swiss cheese," I hear a teenager remark). The animal and human figures are virtually symbolic of the Rock Garden. There’s something unique about the disproportionate limbs, the almost childishly straight lines, and the veritable armies of duplicate figures- women, men, girls, boys, monkeys- that stand all over. This may not be high art, but it’s different.
The Rock Garden has a recreation area right at the end of Phase 3. It’s a large enclosed area with stalls selling souvenirs, colas, ice cream, Indian snacks and potato chips; there is a camel on which you can buy rides; there’s a `funny mirrors’ gallery where you can see your reflection go from skinny giant to rotund midget; and there are swings.
Entry to the Rock Garden is Rs 10 for adults and Rs 5 for children. Wear good walking shoes- stretches of the path are rough. Also note that once you’re inside the park, there isn’t any way out in between. Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to do the entire route. The entire circuit takes about an hour at a leisurely pace.
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We spent 10 minutes trying to find the tiny and cunningly disguised ticket office set well back into the wall, but once in, we knew this was R10 well spent. A fantasy garden built out of waste materials, it is the work of a retired Public Works official called Nek Chand. He started building it in 1965, and it now covers just over 12 acres. Fortunately, when it was discovered (although how it was a secret beats me!), the authorities decided that the illegal construction was, in fact, a work of art and should be preserved. Quite right, too.
It is just amazing. There are walls built out of ceramic electricity circuit breakers, statues made out of broken bangles, whole armies of animals that were once bits of bathroom suites, and enormous waterfalls made out of hardened bags of cement all stacked on top of each other. You can forget about any concept of a sense of direction, as all the labyrinthine paths are flanked by really tall walls with trees towering overhead and it's impossible to get your bearings. Not that this really matters, as you just follow the paths until you arrive at yet another open area full of remarkable things. Each open area has a different theme, so some places there are row upon row of animals, and in another place, there are figures made of broken pots all carrying pots on their heads. Some of the path walls are mosaic, others are made of pebbles and arranged into elaborate patterns, and still others are more basic and just made out of old bags of hardened cement.
The garden is obviously very popular with Indian tourists, as well as local courting couples. We only saw a handful of foreign tourists, and many of the Indians stopped to ask us where we came from, how we liked the garden, and if we'd like our photo taken. The only disappointment (and maybe I'm just being a bit picky here) was an area of the garden mysteriously called Phase Three. It was a huge open area that was evidently still under construction, and, to me, it was just like walking into the Parc Guell in Barcelona. I felt the style was less Nek Chand and more Gaudi, especially the covered market area that looked like it was going to house shops and a café. Nevertheless, it is a great place, and children would love it. On leaving the garden, there is another entrance in the wall leading to a café that has a limited menu and a slightly grumpy waiter, but it offers a good value for the tasty food.
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