Chandigarh, June 12 (IANS) Creator of Chandigarh’s famous Rock Garden, Nek Chand, died at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here early Friday following cardiac arrest, his family members said. He will be cremated here on Saturday.
Chand was 90 years old and was suffering from diabetes, hypertension and cancer. He was hospitalised for the past few days.
The Chandigarh administration has declared a holiday in its offices on Friday 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.
The master creator celebrated his 90th birthday last December.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Nek Chand.
“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 said in a tweet.
Nek Chand was the most exhibited Indian artist ever with his creations being part of leading cities like Paris, London, New York, Washington and Berlin, and numerous books in different languages being written about him. He had also been offered honorary citizenship in various countries.
He was a road inspector in a construction project in Chandigarh in the 1950s and 60s. At that time the city, popularly called “City Beautiful”, was being designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
Nek Chand 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.
It was only in the mid-70s that Nek Chand’s art was recognised and Chandigarh’s ‘Rock Garden’ came into being. The Rock Garden was officially inaugurated in October 1976.
He was honoured with the Padma Shri award in 1984 but the Nek Chand Foundation believes his contribution to Indian art deserved a greater award.
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 Nek Chand.
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.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh expressed shock and grief over Nek Chand’s death.
In separate condolence messages, they said Nek Chand would be long remembered for his creative contributions.