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After India's independence from British dominion the partitioned province Punjab became a state without a capital. Though there was a temporary secretariat at Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, the political leadership decided on the construction of a modern and accessible capital. This was Nehru's dream city of modern India : CHANDIGARH.
The responsibility for the design was given to the French architect Le Corbusier or the crow. With the help of his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and that of the English couple Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew (alongwith a number of Indian architects prominent amongst them Chief planner Narinder S. Lamba & Chief engineer J.C. Verma) Chandigarh, the present capital, came into existence at the foothills of the Shivaliks (the first of three parallel chains of the Himalayas).
It was built in 1953 and although it serves as the capital of two states, it is administered by the Federal Government and is hence classified as an union territory . Since 1986 there has been much talk about officially handing it to Punjab on the basis of demography. The issue however continues to be ridddled with many political disputes.
Physically its altitude is 1150 ft. with an
area of about 114 sq. kms. The
population is about 650,000 or 5,500+
residents per sq. km. This makes Chandigarh the 6th most densely
populated district of India. Literacy rate is 78%+
and thus in about the fourth place for all Indian provinces. The
gender ratio is rather skewed though, as there only 790 (very pretty
!) females to every 1000 males! The name of the city stems from the name
of Shri Chandika
(the female Shakti or Goddess) whose temple adorns the north border
of Chandigarh. The snow-white dome of Mata Chandi devi's Temple on
the north-east of the city is visible from across the lake. It is
considered to be an ancient site of major religious significance and
is one of the 12 Peeth Sthans for Hindus. Route 32 buses ply
pilgrims between the city and the temple daily.
Union territory and capital of Punjab and Haryana, Chandigarh is a unique city being only four decades old, its Nehruvian idealism is in stark contrast with the modern generation, rapid industrial development on the outskirts, a larger flow of tourists heading further north, leading to a population perpetually on the move and the mushrooming of hotels, restaurants and other in-transit facilities. The tranquil and pollution-free environs, shorter distances and the sharp contrasts between dull exteriors and plush interiors are the delight of Chandigarh’s inhabitants. Even though the Le Corbusier architecture tends to be a trifle monotonous at times; the wide tree-lined boulevards and avenues, easily defined localities nominated as ‘sectors’, a great amount of greenery, the Rock Garden, lake and general sense of organization all contribute towards making Chandigarh a charming place to live in and visit.
The union Territory of Chandigarh is the twin capital of the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. Spread out over 114 sq. km. it has a population of about a million. The principal languages of the city are Hindi and Punjabi. It has big industrial undertakings as well as more than 2,500 small-scale industrial units. One of the few modern planned cities in India, Chandigarh is divided into 47 self-contained sectors.
The town derives its name from Goddess Chandi Devi whose temple stands 15 km form Chandigarh. There is a sense of purposeful designing in Chandigarh with a rectilinear alignment of streets, the neat geometrical design of residential quarters, reinforced concrete structures and self-contained area layouts. At the heart of Chandigar’s designing are sectors, each of them with its shops, academic, and health care buildings, places of worship, open spaces, a green belt and, of course, the residential areas. The essential ingredient in each sector’s planning has been principal day-to-day functions of living, working, care of body and spirit.
The initial plans were drawn in New York by Albert Mayer and Mathew Novicki. When the latter died in an air crash in 1950, the work was entrusted to Le Corbusier, a well known architect and planner. The city’s four major work areas are: the capital complex, consisting of the Secretariat, Legislative Assembly and High Court, in the north with the hills as a background dominating the city; Sector-17, which is the city and district center, with administrative and state government offices, shopping malls, banks and other offices; in the west, a zone for undergraduate and postgraduate education, among them the university, and institutions of engineering, architecture, Asian studies and medicine and the industrial area in the east.
In the city of extravagant vision, it is not unusual to come across something like a Rock Garden, which sounds farcical unless actually visited. The result of the imagination and devoted labor of Nek Chand the Rock Garden comprises several areas of sculptures created from debris. Molded rock, waste coal and other disposables have become immortal sculptures in the shape of man and his environment. Fitting into this scenario are museums and art galleries, a lake with water sport facilities and the largest rose garden in Asia. The hill torrents skirting the city were canalized to form a large lake with a most attractive boulevard, along which the citizen take the morning and evening air and watch waterfowl which have made Sukhna Lake a halting place on their migration from central Asia to India and vice-versa.
Chandigarh’s builders blessed it with a futuristic vision, but work here is still not over. Phase two of the building of Chandigarh continues, and the 21st century city may well, in time, become one of the most modern and comfortable in Asia. Here, in this almost ideal city, the new architectural technique has found a sense of balance which is often missing when it intrudes upon already existing, traditional symmetry. In the years to come, city planners, architects, students of art and visitors from around the globe will gather to see what man an create out of a desert. The creation of Chandigarh is a monumental triumph for India.
By Rail Chandigarh is linked with its principal gateway city, Delhi. The twice-daily (only one on Sundays) Shatabdi Express to Delhi is fast, comfortable and airconditioned. Chandigarh also serves as a main line gateway for Shimla and the surrounding hill stations.
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