Nek Chand (1924-2015) was an Indian artist best known for constructing the 18-acre sculpture garden known as The Rock Garden of Chandigarh in 1957. On 12 June 2015, at the age of 90, he passed away from a heart attack.
Nek Chand Saini was born on Monday, 15 December 1924 (age 90 years; at the time of death) in Shakargarh in British India (now in Pakistan). He attended school for eight years and graduated from Lahore University. After the partition of India in 1947, Chand and his family shifted to Gurdaspur, Punjab, India. Later, in 1955, they moved to Chandigarh.
Nek Chand belonged to a family of landlords in Berian Kalan village near Lahore (now in Pakistan).
Parents & Siblings
There is not much information about his parents and siblings.
Wife & Children
Nek Chand got married to Kamla in 1950 and was blessed with a son named Anuj, and a daughter named Neelam.
The Rock Garden
The iconic Rock Garden of Chandigarh was inaugurated in 1976. Nek Chand Saini started building the garden secretly in his spare time. Chand once said,
I started building this garden as a hobby” in the 1950s.”
Nek Chand developed the stunning Rock Garden of Chandigarh in an area of 18 acres, which eventually got expanded. He spent 18 years searching the city for pebbles, stones, and recyclable materials from rubbish bins. In an interview, he said,
I had many ideas, I was thinking all the time. I began carrying all the material on my bicycle and collecting it here; I did three to four rounds on my cycle each day. I saw beauty and art in what people said was junk.”
The garden was built solely with home waste and other Industrial items. Bangles, ceramic pots, tiles, bottles, electrical waste, etc., were used to make sculptures. The garden is, in fact, an amalgamation of landscape, architecture, sculpture, and mythology. The concept of a lost kingdom served as the inspiration for the garden’s layout. It has 14 distinct chambers. The festive aspect of the Rock Garden during the Teej festival is especially beloved by visitors. Chandigarh Tourism
Rock Garden’s Layout
- Phase 1 includes the figures of humans and animals made with toilet fixtures, broken glass pieces, and broken tiles.
- Phase 2 is structured as a small traditional Indian village representing beautifully carved huts, temples’ pathways, etc.
- Phase 3 is inspired by Roman architecture; swings are hanging for people to enjoy the beauty.
- An open seating ground with stairs called the ‘Open Air Theatre.’
- Laughing Mirror Display, Camel and Train ride, and Dolls Museum.
Across the world, statues made by Nek Chand are installed at various museums and art galleries such as;
- Capitol Children’s Museum in Washington, D.C.
- The American Folk Art Museum in New York City.
- Collection de l’art brut in Switzerland.
- The John Michael Kohler Arts Center in the USA.
- Royal Institute Architects of British Gallery in Liverpool, England, showcased Chand’s incredible artwork from 16 April 2007 to 11 May 2007.
Numerous authors have written novels about Nek Chand’s Rock Garden including:
- Brooke Davis Anderson (2006), Concrete Kingdom: Sculptures by Nek Chand.
- lain Jackson (2007), Politicised Territory: Nek Chand’s Rock Garden in Chandigarh.
- Nek Chand’s Outsider Art: the rock garden of Chandigarh, by Lucienne Peiry, John Maizels, Philippe Lespinasse, Nek Chand.
- The Collection, the Ruin and the Theatre: Architecture, sculpture, and Landscape in Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, by Soumyen Bandyopadhyay and Iain Jackson.
Awards & Honours
- Nek Chand was honored with Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in 1985 for his incredible service in the field of arts.
- He was honored with the Grand Medal of Vermeil in 1980 in Paris.
On 12 June 2015, Nek Chand, at the age of 90, took his last breath after he suffered a heart attack at his residence in Chandigarh.
- Chand worked in Chandigarh’s Public Works Department as a road inspector in 1951.
- In an interview, Nek Chand talked about the inspiration he received from scraps to build the rock garden in Chandigarh. He said,
I have had no formal education or training in art or drawing. I get inspiration from the objects I see and the ideas begin to take shape in my mind. I have a good sense of imagination and capacity to work hard. They help me embody what I visualise. I humbly believe I have the ability to see beauty in what many people consider junk or scrap. I reckon it is God’s gift to me.” Outlook
- Chand’s work was illegal, but he managed to cover it up for 18 years until it was discovered by authorities in 1976.
- In 1983, the garden was pictured on an Indian postage stamp.
- A few of Nek Chand’s sculptures were gifted to a school named Bhavan Vidyalaya in Sector 27, Chandigarh. The Indian Express
- The garden is visited by around 2.5 lakh people from India and abroad every year, and the average annual revenue generated from tickets sold is reportedly around Rs 1.8 crore. Rediff
- In December 2014, Nek Chand’s 90th birthday was celebrated with immense love and happiness by the Chandigarh Administration.
- The Nek Chand Foundation in London raises funds for the garden.