Scoot to Indian Vistas: Chandigarh, Le Corbusier’s Masterwork
Almost everyone is familiar with the name Le Corbusier for the curved metal lounger that has been replicated for living rooms across the world. Fewer people are aware that the Swiss design genius has his most significant legacy in northern India in the city of Chandigarh.
As are Canberra and Brasília, Chandigarh is a planned city created for government administration. It serves as the capital of not one but two Indian states, Punjab and Haryana. After previous attempts to build a city from scratch did not see the light, Le Corbusier was invited to take on the task. He was certainly up to it. Today, Chandigarh is India’s most unique city, a city where wide avenues lined with thickets of trees are far denser than the buildings, which in some placed are barely visible through the greenery. The creation of Chandigarh is documented in the Chandigarh Architecture Museum, part of the Cultural Complex that also includes a museum of natural history and an art gallery showcasing Indian art ranging from ancient statuary and priceless books to classic miniature paintings and contemporary works of art.
The highlight of a visit to Chandigarh is the Capitol Complex, the seat of government(s) reflecting Le Corbusier’s style at its best. There are four main components to the Complex, designated in 2016 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Palace of Assembly, the High Court, and the Secretariat. Complementing the buildings is the Open Hand Monument, a symbol of peace and cooperation in a city serving two states. The wealthiest city in India, and also one of the cleanest, Chandigarh is a separate union territory (like Canberra in the ACT and Washington DC in the US) and is therefore not officially part of either state of which it is capital. How did one city become the capital of two states? The original capital of Punjab, Lahore, became part of Pakistan when India was partitioned in 1947. Simultaneously the new state of Haryana was created, therefore it was decided to have one city serve as the capital of both states. There is also a third government here, the one that supervises activities for the territory itself.
Chandigarh continues to be a progressive place; a national leader in environmental protection, Chandigarh is India’s first smoke-free city. As is immediately apparent upon arrival, nature is everywhere in Chandigarh, with Sukhna Lake providing an aquatic feature among the millions of trees dominating the landscape. An unusual sight to see not created by Le Corbusier is the Nek Chand Rock Garden, the lifework of Nek Chand, an artist displaced during the Partition who amassed a collection of broken pipes, porcelain, and construction material and used them to create a park with waterfalls, gardens, and statues. Little known to foreigners, the Rock Garden is one of India’s most popular tourist attractions.
Thanks to Chandigarh‘s central location in northern India, it makes an excellent base to explore the region. The mountain retreat of Shimla and Dharamshala, whose MacLeod Ganj district is home to the Dalai Lama and a large Tibetan community, are located in the adjacent state of Himachal Pradesh. Closer to Chandigarh is Patiala, a city where the famous Baradari Palace and its gardens serve as reminders of the wealth of the region in times gone by. Baradari Palace welcomes guests to stay overnight.
To learn more about Chandigarh, visit the insightful Chandigarh Tourism website. India Tourism‘s also provides information about Chandigarh and other attractions in Punjab and northern India, now more easily reached with Scoot‘s nonstop service between Singapore and Amritsar, home to the famous Golden Temple. A car is indispensable in seeing the sights of Chandigarh; for this need and all others related to touring India, the deluxe tour company Indian Vistas can provide custom itineraries for discerning travellers looking to explore the wonders of India off the typical tourist trails.
The e-Tourist Visa system introduced for India in 2014 has been a great success and allows tourist visas to be issued at major airports on arrival in India provided that the necessary personal details have been registered online before travel. When the visa is approved, a visa number is issued electronically and is presented by the visitor at the airport on arrival. All very simple and straightforward.