How India’s Most Planned City Came About
Chandigarh, know as The City Beautiful, a Union Territory, and the capital of Punjab and Haryana in north India is also named as “the best place to live” and the “most planned city” in India.
The city of Chandigarh was conceived immediately after India‘s Independence in 1947. With the partition in the subcontinent, Lahore, the capital of undivided Punjab fell within Pakistan, leaving East Punjab without a Capital. It was decided to built a new Capital city called Chandigarh about 240 kilometers north of New Delhi on a gently sloping terrain with foothills of the Himalayas the Shivalik range of the North and two Seasonal rivulets flowing on its two sides approximately 7-8 kms apart.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Independent India’s first Prime Minister, laid down the founding principles of the new city when he said “Let this be a new town, symbolic of freedom of India unfettered by the traditions of the past….. an expression of the nation’s faith in the future”.
The Perfect Site
To select a suitable site, the Government of Punjab appointed a Committee in 1948 under the Chairmanship of Sh. P.L Verma, Chief Engineer to assess and evaluate the existing towns in the State for setting up the proposed capital of Punjab. However, none was found suitable on the basis of several reasons, such as military vulnerability, shortage of drinking water, inaccessibility, inability to cope influx of large number of refugees, etc. The present site was selected in 1948, taking into account various attributes such as its central location in the state, proximity to the national capital, availability of sufficient water supply, fertile soil, gradient of land for natural drainage, beautiful site with the panorama of blue hills as backdrop, & moderate climate.
French, Swiss & American Architects
An American Firm, M/s. Mayer, Whittlessay and Glass was commissioned in 1950 to prepare the Master Plan for the new City. Albert Mayer and Mathew Novicki evolved a fan shaped Master Plan and worked out conceptual sketches of the super block. The super block was designed as a self-sufficient neighborhood units placed along the curvilinear roads and comprised of cluster type housing, markets, and centrally located open spaces. Novicki was tragically killed in an air accident and Mayer decided to discontinue. Thereafter, the work was assigned to a team of architects led by Charles Eduard Jeanneret better known as Le Corbusier in 1951.
He was assisted by three senior architects, Maxwell Fry, his wife Jane B Drew and Corbusier’s cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. These senior architects were supported by a team of young Indian architect and planners. The major buildings designed by these architects are the important landmarks in the city
Chandigarh-The City Beautiful
Picturesquely located at the foothills of Shivalik hills, Chandigarh is known as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture in the twentieth century in India. Chandigarh derives its name from the temple of “Chandi Mandir” located in the vicinity of the site selected for the city. The deity ‘Chandi’, the goddess of power and a fort of ‘garh’ laying beyond the temple gave the city its name “Chandigarh-The City Beautiful”.
The city has a pre-historic past. The gently sloping plains on which modern Chandigarh exists, was 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 to the Harappans.
The Capital City
Since the medieval through modern era, the area was part of the large and prosperous Punjab Province, which was divided into East & West Punjab during partition of the country in 1947. The city was conceived not only to serve as the capital of East Punjab, but also to resettle thousands of refugees who had been uprooted from West Punjab.
In March, 1948, the Government of Punjab, in consultation with the Government of India, approved the area of the foothills of the Shivaliks as the site for the new capital. The location of the city site was a part of the erstwhile Ambala district as per the 1892- 93 gazetteer of District Ambala. The foundation stone of the city was laid in 1952. Subsequently, at the time of reorganization of the state on 01.11.1966 into Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pardesh, the city assumed the unique distinction of being the capital city of both, Punjab and Haryana while it itself was declared as a Union Territory and under the direct control of the Central Government.
The Open Hand
Le Corbusier conceived the master plan of Chandigarh as analogous to human body, with a clearly defined head (the Capitol Complex, Sector 1), heart (the City Centre Sector-17), lungs ( the leisure valley, innumerable open spaces and sector greens), the intellect (the cultural and educational institutions), the circulatory system (the network of roads, the 7Vs) and the viscera (the Industrial Area). The concept of the city is based on four major functions: living, working, care of the body, and spirit and circulation. Residential sectors constitute the living part whereas the Capitol Complex, City Centre, Educational Zone (Post Graduate Institute, Punjab Engineering College, Panjab University) and the Industrial Area constitute the working part. The Leisure Valley, Gardens, Sector Greens and Open Courtyards are for the care of body and spirit. The circulation system comprises of 7 different types of roads known as 7Vs. Later on, a pathway for cyclists called V8 were added to this circulation system.
The Capital complex comprises three architectural masterpieces: the “Secretariat”, the “High Court” and the “Legislative Assembly”, separated by large piazzas. In the heart of the Capital Complex stands the giant metallic sculpture of The Open Hand, the official emblem of Chandigarh, signifying the city’s credo of “open to given, open to receive”.
The city centre (Sector 17) is the heart of Chandigarh’s activities. It comprises the Inter-State Bus Terminus, Parade Ground, District Courts, etc. on one hand, and vast business and shopping center on the other. The 4-storey concrete buildings house banks and offices above and showrooms/shops at the ground level with wide pedestrian concourses. The Neelam piazza in the center has fountains with light and water features. Proposal to set up an eleven storey building in Sector 17 is in the offing. Sector 34 is another newly developed commercial sector.
Parks and Sectors
Ample areas have been provided in the master plan of the Capital for parks. Out of a total area of 20,000 acres acquired for the first phase, about 2,000 acres are meant for development of parks. Leisure Valley, Rajendra park, Bougainvillea Park, Zakir Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, Hibiscus Garden, Garden of Fragrance, Botanical Garden, Smriti Upavan, Topiary garden and Terraced Garden are some of the famous parks of Chandigarh. Sukhna Lake, Rock Garden, Government Museum and Art Gallery are major tourist attractions of Chandigarh.
One unique feature in the layout of Chandigarh is its roads, classified in accordance with their functions. An integrated system of seven roads was designed to ensure efficient traffic circulation. Corbusier referred to these as the 7’Vs. the city’s vertical roads run northeast/southwest (the ‘Paths’). The horizontal roads run northwest/southwest (‘The Margs’). The intersect at right angles, forming a grid or network for movement.
This arrangement of road-use leads to a remarkable hierarchy of movement, which also ensures that the residential areas are segregated from the noise and pollution of traffic.
Each ‘Sector’ or the neighboured unit, is quite similar to the traditional Indian compound. Typically, each sectors measures 800 metres by 1200 metres, covering 250 acres of area. Each Sector is surrounded by V-2 or V-3 roads, with no buildings opening on to them. Each Sector is meant to be self-sufficient, with shopping and community facilities within reasonable walking distance.
Though educational, cultural and medical facilities are spread all over city, however, major institutions are located in Sectors 10, 11, 12, 14 and 26.
The industrial area comprises 2.35 sq kms, set-aside in the Master Plan for non- polluting, light industry on the extreme southeastern side of the city near the railway line, as far away from the Educational Sectors and Capitol Complex as possible.
Tree plantation and landscaping has been an integral part of the city’s Master Plan. Twenty six different types of flowering and 22 species of evergreen trees have been planted along the roads, in parking areas, shopping complexes, residential areas and in the city parks, to ameliorate the harsh climate of the region, especially the hot and scorching summers.
~ Published by Chandigarh government
How to Pray for a Husband in India
Traveling, for me, is not only beautiful and enriching because of the deep histories, architecture, gastronomical culture, languages, and myriad of landscapes and climates; it is beautiful as you are exposed to so many people in the country, while you are journeying to the destination. Through the people is how we are able to break down barriers, share stories and ideas, identify commonalities and transcendence, and find a sense of openness, excitement and inspiration yet accompanied with a sweet humility and peace. The people are where the real “heartbeat” of travel, and for me, where the real enchantment lies.
My journey and encounter with India was no different. The moment when I stepped on my connecting flight from Qatar to India, the aroma of curry and spice, the long grey beards, the traditional Indian dress, bindis, and more importantly the abundance of turbans, made it crystal clear that I was on my way to India. I was traveling solo and on my way to meet Sucheta and Dipak who were coming from USA. I was one of very few non-Indians on the Qatar Airways flight and curiosity quickly overcame me. At the time, I had been living in Spain, and certainly was no novice to travel, yet, for me India brought such an array of thoughts and feelings, as it was my first voyage into the eastern world, one perceived to be exotic, mystical, and very complex. I felt like little Ms. America in the midst of the unknown.
On my flight, I came across a jolly old Indian man with bright pearly whites, a turban and a beard who just kept smiling at me. I felt welcome as he started to communicate with me in Hindi (he quickly realized I was clueless) and even more grateful as he began attempting to teach me some of the local language. He did it with such enthusiasm and such support as I stumbled across the words and the pronunciation so much so that three rows of seats in the airplane were laughing. The passengers would all nod with encouragement as they saw me desperately trying to connect with them. We shared snacks and smiles and it was then that my angst turned to comfort.
Arriving in New Delhi was fascinating and overly stimulating especially at 3:00 am in the morning. My senses were on overload because of the entire aroma, the taxi company ripped me off, and I felt like an actress walking on the red carpet as I exited the airport. My hair was blonde at the time and well the Indian’s didn’t see people like me very often so they looked at me in complete fascination and wonder.
Upon awakening on the first morning, I was greeted by a serene and kind Indian grandmother who had prepared an authentic meal and later she and her friend took me to purchase my first Salwar Kameez and for my first ricksaw adventure. We followed the afternoon sharing our ideas of love and they shared with me their love stories and the Indian culture and arranged marriage over chai. Seriously, I thought, someone please pinch me. I am halfway across the world speaking to two lovely older women about love and life.
And the Indian hospitality continued to unfold throughout my stay. The people that I encountered along the way not only opened their homes, they opened their hearts.
The majority of the rest of my stay was with Sucheta’s grandmother, an absolute beauty, in Chandigarh. She shared authentic meals, chai and conversations, and more importantly she integrated me into her morning routine where we feed the roses and the birds. She persistently encouraged me to pray to god for a husband and assured me that god would listen. Not sure where they came from, but I wasn’t going to argue, I rolled with it.
My experience also included being invited to an authentic Indian wedding and to prepare, I received the full induction of the sari and accessory shopping experience. The vibrant colors and array of textiles, patterns, beautiful bling, and intricate details to the parties and the weddings, the Hindu ceremony and the feeding of the fire, the food, the family, and the friends were certainly all elements to make ones spirit soar. The Bollywood dancing and actually wearing a sari, a sleeve of bling bangles, was purely icing on the cake.
The stories are endless, the prayers of the tour guides, the countless picture taking with the locals, family meals, shopping and learning about the countries trends and natural resources and most importantly what makes India go round.
It was indeed a vivid country, with a plethora of religious and economic contrast, world-renowned tourist destinations, rich traditions, customs, and history. My writing could certainly go on for days about my humorous and embarrassing culture shock moments, the perplexity of seeing the stark and heartbreaking divide between the rich and the poor, to describing the elaborate details of the Golden Temple, going solo to the Taj Mahal and getting prayed over, (again for a husband), to a “How to dance Bollywood guide” as all of those created an amazing experience for me, yet, I do believe what is everlasting, was the hospitality and care of my local friends, and whom I would refer to as teachers. I am eternally grateful for having gone to the land of enchantment with a native, as the insights and authenticity were invaluable. We shared perceptions. I was able to challenge ideas and opinions with those with deep cultural awareness and insights, which proved to be very thought provoking and at times, quite enlightening.
For the intellectually curious and spiritual seekers looking to experience India, I would recommend really integrating yourself into the culture via a local as the experience will be richer and more rewarding than you can imagine.
~ By guest blogger, Gina Cooper. Gina traveled with Go Eat Give to India in November 2012.
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