Chandigarh – ‘the city beautiful’, is one of the perfect welcoming cities in terms of architecture, cultural growth and modernization. The name Chandigarh is a portmanteau of Chandi and Garh, where Chandi refers to goddess Chandi – the warrior form of goddess Parvati, and Garh applies to fort. The name is derived from Chandi Mandir, an ancient temple devoted to the Hindu goddess Chandi. Attributed under one of the most beautiful cities and union territory in the Northern part of India, Chandigarh also serves as the capital of the states of Punjab and Haryana.
Chandigarh, along with its adjoining cities of Mohali (Punjab) and Panchkula (Haryana) are together labelled as the Chandigarh Tricity. Additionally termed as the dream city of India’s first Prime Minister, Sh. Jawaharlal Nehru, the city was planned by the famous French architect Le Corbusier. Picturesquely located at the foothills of Shivaliks, Chandigarh is acknowledged as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture of the twentieth century in India. It tops the list of Indian states and Union territories in Human Development Index. Moreover, a study conducted by national government reported Chandigarh as one of the cleanest cities of the country.
HISTORY AND CULTURE : AN ACCOUNT OF THE PAST
The city has a pre-historic past. The gently sloping plains on which modern Chandigarh exists, was in the ancient past a wide lake ringed by a marsh. The fossil remains found at the site indicate a large variety of aquatic and amphibian life, which was supported by that environment. About 8000 years ago the area was also known to be a home of the Harappans.
After the partition of India in 1947, the former British province of Punjab was also split between (mostly Hindu) East Punjab in India and (mostly Muslim) West Punjab in Pakistan. The Indian Punjab required a new capital city to replace Lahore, which became part of Pakistan during the partition. So, the government carved out Chandigarh of nearly 50 Pwadhi speaking villages of the then state of East Punjab, India.
The city reflects a blend of different cultures within the country. It can be attributed to the fact that Chandigarh has attracted people from virtually all parts of the country. Housing people of all religions, be it a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian or Muslim Chandigarh is also entitled as the land of multicultural people.
The staple Punjabi food mainly consists of wheat-based rotis, paranthas and naan. The meals usually include pulses cooked on a slow flame with the traditional Punjabi tadka. For preparing the gravy, a mixture of onion, tomato, ginger, garlic and spices are used. Usually the traditional Punjabi food is prepared in the earthen tandoors, which gives the food its unique aroma. When reporting beverages, one name that truly deserves a mention is the Punjab-di-Lassi.
- Rock Garden
Nek Chand Rock Garden is a unique, surreal fantasy of a local transport official who starting in 1957, spent almost 20 years personally creating more than 2000 sculptures using stones, debris and other discarded junk that were left over from the 50-odd villages that got destroyed in order to build the city of Chandigarh. Materials used in the construction of the garden range from concrete and steel drums to light switches, broken bathroom sinks and bicycle frames. Highlights of the garden include a group of dancing girls made from broken glass bangles and a graceful arcade of towering arches with dangling rope swings. Open all days of the week, the entry ticket for Rock Garden costs Rs 20 for adults and Rs 10 for children.
- Sukhna Lake
Located in Sector 1, adjoining the Rock Gardennear the foothills of Shivalik Hills, Sukhna is an artificial 3 km rain-fed lake that was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe – a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills. Including the Garden of Silencewithin it, Sukhna Lake also serves as the venue for many festive celebrations. The most popular being the Mango Festival held during the monsoons. Open all days of the week from 05:00 am to 09:00 pm, one can choose a boat, and sit back and relax while floating on the vast expanse of Sukhna Lake.
- Capital Complex
At the epicentre of Le Corbusier’s planned city is the imposing concrete High Court, Secretariat and Vidhan Sabha, which are shared collectively by the states of Punjab and Haryana. These three frameworks showcase the classic pieces of 1950s architecture from the proto-brutalist school, with bold geometric lines and vast sweeps of moulded concrete. Open all days of the week from 09:00 am to 05:00 pm, this complex includes Le Corbusier’s unmistakably mid-century Open Hand sculpture, the city’s official emblem that signifies that the people of Chandigarh are always ‘open to give, open to receive’. On the road to the High Court, one may notice a small High Court Museum which displays assorted judicial memorabilia including original Le Corbusier sketches, a signed copy of the Indian constitution, and the handcuffs worn by Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.
- Government Museum and Art Gallery
A fine collection of artworks and treasures are displayed at this impressive state museum which includes trippy paintings of the Himalaya by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, elegant carvings from the Buddhist Ghandara civilisation, phulkari (embroidery work) and Sobha Singh’s much-reproduced portrait of Guru Gobind Singh. At one end, through a separate entrance, is the Child Art Gallery with exhibits colourful artworks from local schoolchildren. Closed on Mondays, the Museum is open on all other days from 10:00 am to 04:30 pm with a nominal entry of 10 Rs per person.
- Leisure Valley
A continuum of various theme gardens, the Leisure Valley is a linear park over 8 km long which starts from Sector 1 in the North to the Southernmost edge of the city. It consists of many theme parks, botanical gardens and green belts, including Rajendra Park in Sector 1, the Bougainvillea Garden in Sector 3 and the Physical Fitness Trails in Sector 10. The Leisure Valley is truly one of the best attempts to provide people with a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature. Promising a guaranteed relaxation of both the body and soul – the Leisure Valley offers its visitors exactly what is needed to get rejuvenated. With no entry fee, the Valley is open to visit from 06:00 am to 08:00 pm on all days of the week.
- Le Corbusier Centre
For fans of architecture and design, this fascinating museum displays documents, sketches and photos of Le Corbusier along with fascinating letters revealing the politics behind the project, including one from Jawaharlal Nehru to the Chief Minister of Punjab which states, ‘I do hope that you will not overrule Corbusier. His opinion is of value.’ The Le Corbusier Centre and three Souvenir Shops at Sukhna Lake, Le Corbusier Center and Rock Garden, are being run successfully under STEPS (Society for Tourism and Entertainment Promotions). With no entry fee, the Le Corbusier Centre is open on all days except Monday from 10:00 am to 06:00 pm.
- Rose Garden
Rose Garden, a botanical garden located in Chandigarh is Asia’s largest Rose Garden that is spread over 30 acres of land with 50,000 rose-bushes of 1600 different species. The garden splashes not only roses, but also trees of medicinal value including bel, bahera, harar, camphorand yellow gulmohar. Open all days of the week from 06:00 am to 08:00 pm, the entry pass to discover the garden is Rs. 50 for both adults as well as children.
- Chandigarh Architecture Museum
Using photos, letters, models, newspaper reports and architectural drawings, this museum discloses the story of Chandigarh’s planning and development, including the abandoned first plan for Chandigarh by Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki. Referred to as one of the leading institution of India, this museum displays a very rich collection of Gandharan sculptures, Pahari and Rajasthani miniature paintings. Open all days except Monday from 10:00 am to 04:30 pm, the entry ticket to explore this museum for local residents is Rs 10.
- Bougainvillea Garden
The Bougainvillea Garden at Chandigarh has a thought-provoking memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers killed in cross-border conflicts ever since Independence.One can spot around 65 distinctive varieties of Bougainvillea shrubs planted over here, along with creepers that cover a large collection of bowers, arches, pavilions and arcades. Charging no money as entry fee, the Bougainvillea garden is open every day from 08:00 am to 05:00 pm.
- Pinjore Gardens
Pinjore Gardens, also called Yadavindra Gardens, is positioned 20 km away from the city on the Chandigarh Shimla road. The fascinating gardens designed in the Mughal style are one of the most popular picnic spots in the region. Like other Mughal gardens, this also has a sloping ground with highlighted fountains and beautiful pavilions. Charging Rs 20 as entry fee, the Pinjore garden is open all days of the week from 07:00 am to 10:00 pm.
- Baisakhi Festival
Marking the beginning of harvest, Baisakhi festival has a lot of significance for people of Punjab. According to the solar calendar, this festivity of high spirits falls on the first day of the year, which is usually 14th April. Baisakhi festival is celebrated with a lot of excitement and cheerfulness where men and women dress up in the best of their clothing and visit temples and Gurudwaras to offer prayers by preparing special food at home. Folk dances are performed during this festival along with Baisakhi festival celebration taking place with great pomp and show.
- Mango Festival
The name Mango festival is suggestive of the fact that it is a festivity of mangoes. In Chandigarh, this festival is celebrated with splendid grandeur and alacrity. Giving a platform to all mango breeders of our country to participate and exhibit the latest hybrids of the mango fruit, the Chandigarh Mango festival is usually organized in the month of June where Pinjore garden serves as the venue. Drawing more and more crowds every year, this festivity cum fair gives a fabulous opportunity to the food industries that process mango into jams, pickles and canned fruit, to showcase their products.
- Festivals of Gardens
Regarded as one of the most popular festivals listed on the national calendar of festivals. This festival of gardens is a three-day extravaganza that is held in the month of February, mostly during the last week. Initially, called the Rose festival, this event started to motivate people to visit the Rose garden and savour the marvellous sight of the blooms. Since then, Rose festival of Chandigarh has been gaining momentum. Today, it consists of various cultural programs including classical and folk dances, musical performances, flower shows and exhibitions by local artists.
- Chandigarh Carnival
The Chandigarh carnival is a three day long mega event that is held every year in the month of November. Usually hosted at the Leisure valley in Sector 10, the carnival is organized by the Chandigarh administration to promote creativity and talent of the citizens of the city and its adjoining places. Providing a platform, especially to children and senior citizens, to come forward and exhibit their talent this event proves to give a boost to talented people.
- Chrysanthemums Show
Chrysanthemums Show in Chandigarh is a very famous flower show that is hosted every year in the month of December at the Terraced garden in Sector 33. As a part of this show, various competitions are conducted related to gardening, in which many city gardeners participate. Increasingly gaining momentum, this flower show has proved to be one of the best initiatives to have been undertaken by the city authorities.
- Chandigarh Plaza Carnival
Held on an open stage in Sector 17, Chandigarh Plaza carnival is a very popular weekly show conducted on every Saturday evening. Plaza carnival in Chandigarh is hosted by a private group to encourage local artists to come forward and show their talent. It acts as a platform to promote the talent of singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, actors and acrobats, who otherwise don’t get an opportunity to prove their worth. It is a fabulous cultural program that has been increasingly gaining response from visitors.
- Teej festival
Teej festival in Chandigarh is celebrated with fun and frolic. Falling in the first week of August, it is basically the festival of monsoon where Rock garden serves as the celebratory venue. On this festive occasion, various dance performances are held where giant swings serve as the main highlight of the festivity of Teej.
Also known asthe ‘festival of lights’, Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in October or November every year. Arguably the most important festival in Hinduism this festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil. Coinciding with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu solar month Kartika, the festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period.
- Be familiar with the language spoken so that you avoid any sort of hustle-bustle while roaming in the city. People in Chandigarh converse in Punjabi, Hindi and English.
- Phone/calling code of Chandigarh is +91 172 – visitors must always make a note of this in case of any sort of emergency.
- The currency in Chandigarh is the Indian rupee (INR) therefore, make sure that you carry Indian rupee with you; else the airport is home to a 24-hour money change office.
- Apart from the mentioned gardens and museums, Chandigarh is also known for other places which are worth a visit like, The New Lake in Sector 42, City Centre in Sector 17, International Doll Museum in Sector 23 and Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math in Sector 20. There are many tourist gardens like the Garden of Fragrance in Sector 36, Garden of Palms in Sector 42, Butterfly Park in Sector 23, Valley of Animals in Sector 49, the Japanese Garden in Sector 31 and the Terraced Garden in Sector 33. Several other famous tourist destinations like Morni Hills, Nada Sahib, Kasauli also lie in this vicinity.
- Manage your time effectively. Be aware of how consuming each destination would be in terms of time.
- Try to collect all the information regarding climate well before you plan to visit the ‘City Beautiful’. A clear idea about the climate of the city will help you craft your trip in a memorable way without any hassles. Best time to visit Chandigarh is in the month of August or November, when the temperature is moderate creating a soothing ambience.
- Select a good reputed restaurant for your dining requirements. Be very particular to not to have non-vegetarian delicacies from unhygienic places.
- Busy places are prone to pickpocketers. Be vigilant about your valuables while moving through crowded places.
- Carry the emergency numbers and police numbers with you so as to gain timely help in emergency situations.