Nek Chand, the creator of Chandigarh’s famous Rock Garden, died at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research here early Friday following cardiac arrest, his family members said. He was 90.
Ssuffering from diabetes, hypertension and cancer, Nek Chand had been hospitalised for the past few days.
The Chandigarh administration declared a holiday in its offices for a day as a mark of respect to the world-acclaimed architectural genius.
His body has been kept in the Rock Garden for the people to pay tribute, the family members said, adding his last rites will be heldf on Saturday.
The master creator celebrated his 90th birthday last December.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled his death.
“Nek Chand-ji will always be remembered for his artistic genius and fabulous creation that is cherished by many. May his soul rest in peace,” Modi tweeted.
Politicians, artists and people from other fields also condoled Nek Chand’s death.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar expressed shock and grief over his death and said Nek Chand would be long remembered for his creative contributions.
Expressing grief, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said he would be ever remembered for his masterpiece creation, which was an example of his creativity, aesthetics and hard work.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Information and Public Relations Minister Bikram Singh Majithia also mourned his death.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the Rock Garden was a masterpiece and was visited by thousands of people.
Assistant media advisor to Punjab government Vineet Joshi said in recognising the contribution of Nek Chand, who was awarded the Grand Medal of Vermeil from Paris in 1980, in giving Chandigarh its identity, the Chandigarh International Airport should be named after him.
“Many persons would have found him crazy when he collected waste materials from far and wide and worked on his dream project to build a unique garden,” said A.J. Philip, a former senior associate editor of Chandigarh-based English daily The Tribune.
“Once, while going for a walk at Istanbul in Turkey, I suddenly came across a small Rock Garden. There, too, waste materials were used to create something out of nothing.
“I wanted to tell Nek Chand how happy I felt when I saw the imitation of the Rock Garden in faraway Istanbul. Alas, that was not to be, as we could not meet afterwards,” Philip wrote on his Facebook page.
Saluting Nek Chand, noted writer-cum-journalist Nirupama Dutt described Rock Garden as an “unplanned creative outburst against the very planned and regimented city of Chandigarh”.
The most exhibited Indian artist ever with his creations being part of leading cities like Paris, London, New York, Washington and Berlin, Nek Chand also had numerous books in different languages being written about him. He had also been offered honorary citizenship in various countries.
Born on December 15, 1924, and brought up in a village in Gurdaspur under Shakargarh tehsil (now in Pakistan), he migrated to Chandigarh in 1947.
He was a road inspector in a construction project in Chandigarh in the 1950s and 1960s when the “City Beautiful”, was being designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
Nek Chand, whose fantasy garden was pictured on an Indian postage stamp in 1983, developed the art of creating figures from waste material discarded by people and secretly set up his laboratory in a forested area in north Chandigarh.
Waste material like broken bangles, cutlery, chinaware, electrical fittings like switches, plugs and tubelights, marbles, tiles, household junk, stones, building material waste and other things have found their way into art creations by him.
It was only in the mid-1970s that Nek Chand’s art was recognised and the Rock Garden came into being. It was officially inaugurated in October 1976.
He was conferred the the Padma Shri award in 1984 but the Nek Chand Foundation believes his contribution to Indian art deserved a greater award.
The Rock Garden, located in Chandigarh’s Sector 1 on a sprawling 35-acre campus, can be best described as a “kingdom” which depicts the life and ecology of India, comprising features of both rural and urban settings.