You can fall in love with Chandigarh easily !! It has excellent town planning. It's as if a cake is cut into substantial identical pieces of straight rads and square layouts.
There is no exception of getting lost anywhere in the streets.
Wide clean roads, some park or garden every few meters away, footpath to walk on, there was so much to love about this place that I started to wonder if I should move off to this place !!
Bonus point, Punjab and Haryana are bordering this union territory to choose different tourist places to visit. The only thing that kept confusing me from time to time was that Chandigarh is the capital of both Punjab and Haryana. Suddenly you will see a government building stating it is Punjab, and suddenly there will be another government office stating Haryana!
And I was like, where am I!
I had one day to spend at Chandigarh, and this is how it went. Well, not exactly like this, but I am drafting it in good order, so you need not goof up a few things that I did !!
Chandigarh Hop On Hop Off
Chandigarh Tourism runs a hop-on-hop-off bus that starts from Hotel Shivalikview at Sector 17 and runs to prominent sites like the Rose garden, Museum and Art gallery, Bougainvillea Garden, Rock Garden, and Sukhna Lake. There are no restricted timings for the hop-on-hop-off bus. It keeps playing throughout the day.
So, you can spend as much time as you want in one attraction and then wait for the bus before proceeding to the next. It is a double-decker bus and looks cool. I noticed this bus only when I was at the Museum and Art gallery. By then, I was done with half a day; hence it was a piece of late information for me. It is a good idea to take the bus and then combine the attractions you want to visit.
Here is a One Day Itinerary of Must See places at Chandigarh...
Tuck yourself with aloo paratha and be at the gates of Rock garden at 9:00 am
Rock Garden - Chandigarh
Rock garden, also known as the Nek Chand's Rock Garden, is a sculpture garden at Chandigarh.
One man's vision to convert waste materials into a garden is something you need to visit and appreciate. Nek Chand started working on this garden secretly using the debris collected from the demolition site across Chandigarh as that was the time Chandigarh was being built. He started it at a gorge near the Sukhna lake, which was protected land and the garden was illegal. He kept it a secret for nearly 18years, building stuff and artificial water bodies and figurines. That place is a marvel.
Who would have thought that broken tiles or a commode and pipes from your bathroom can be made into a piece of art?
It is astounding to see figurines made of glass pieces, colored tiles, broken pottery, so creative!
The newer additions like the place with used clothes are not as creative as what Nek Chand had done. It is a place that you will quickly need 2 hours to spend.
Quite possible to get lost in the maze of this garden too. I was like Alice in Wonderland, walking through tiny small doorways and entering into mythical gardens.
It is so much fun. Every city should take inspiration from this Rock garden and channel their waste into beautiful pieces of art.
By the time you are out of the garden, it will be 11:00 am.
Head to the Tourist Facilitation Center at the Capitol Complex and book yourself for a tour of some of the famous architectural spots in Chandigarh, like Capitol Complex, Open Hand Monument, etc., a 3:00 pm slot.
You cannot visit these buildings on your own! From there, head to the Museum and Art Gallery.
Government Museum and Art Gallery
Even if you think you are not a history buff and museums are boring, you have to go here !!
It is vast and a wealth of information and filled with an excellent collection!
The building itself was constructed by architect Le Corbusier, who designed and built Chandigarh.
The museum has everything from the history of Chandigarh to information on textile, images, sculptures from the past, history of India, antiques from the prehistoric and historical period, beautiful different style of paintings, collectives from the partition period.
As I walk through the museum and when I see stunning sculptures, but it reads, "the other half of the collection is in a museum at Lahore as it was divided during the partition," I felt terrible.
Such wealth of information and we decided to break up our country!
A prominent part of the museum has Gandhara Buddhist sculptures. If you read about the Gandhara kingdom, you will feel like packing your bags and going off on tour to Pakistan. The majority of the empire was in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hence most of the artifacts excavated from the Gandhara period and Indus valley civilization have been split between India and Pakistan.
The Gandharas were followers of Mahayana Buddhism, and you can see their representation of Buddha will have an Indo Greek influence.
A Patua Scroll Painting is on display. Patua scroll painting gets the name from the patua community, who are painters and storytellers. The stories are painted in a vertical scroll that runs for meters, each scene bound by floral patterns that separate one from another.
And as they move across villages telling stories, they unravel one scene after another by unscrolling it.
This one on display was on a pillar that ran for two floors!
According to mythology, Hariti was a demon who would teach children, and Buddha to teach her a lesson and hide one of her children. Grief-stricken, she decided not to harm children and turned into a protector of children, and subsequently, people call her a Buddhist Goddess. This is a principle taught in Buddhism, like despising the sin, not the sinner.
Bodhisattva Maitreya representation, Gandhara sculpture with open hair and mustache
It will easily take 2 hours, and if you do not keep tap of time, you will land up spending 3 to 4 hours in this museum. Be out by 1 pm. Have a simple lunch. And then let's head to the Le Corbusier Centre.
Le Corbusier Centre, Chandigarh
Once, the office of work for Le Corbusier, who was the architect of Chandigarh, is now a museum or instead stands as a tribute to its creator.
Please don't think of them as two consecutive museums at a stretch, and they are both different in many ways.
Le Corbusier center talks of how Chandigarh came into existence, how a city is planned, the design templates of the famous buildings, and a little bit of the French architect himself. It was here that I came to know that Chandigarh is named after Chandi Mandir, the temple dedicated to Chandi matha, Goddess Parvati.
Chandi Mandir is, however, not within Chandigarh. I was told that it is about 15 kilometers away from the city inside an army camp that we do not have permission to visit. There are many photos from the past on the town, on the architect, on politics of India, about Nehru's vision to build the city, and much more.
So, when Punjab was split, and its capital went away with the partition, Chandigarh became the capital of Punjab. Nehru had this vision to have a planned city, and thus Chandigarh was born.
We can see many letters going back and forth between the architect, the labor community, and politicians of India to make this thing happen despite the differences. This centre also houses a few furniture and other stuff used by Le Corbusier.
If you are not very keen to do Le Corbusier Centre, you can replace this with one of the many gardens like a rose garden, cactus garden, terrace garden, Japanese garden, etc.
Check if it is the right weather and season to visit that garden and you can spend some time in the gardens too. I skipped all the parks as it was too humid and not that time of the year when roses would be in bloom.
Leave a little time before 3:00 pm and reach the capitol complex by 3:00 pm, ready for your tour.
Leave a little time before 3:00pm and reach the capitol complex by 3:00pm ready for your tour.
Open Hand Monument
The symbol of Chandigarh can be found all around Chandigarh, and Le Corbusier designed the first emblem. You can visit this monument only as part of the Capitol Complex tour.
The tour covers the High court building and museum, Open hand monument, Punjab assembly, Punjab & Haryana Civil secretariat. These buildings have architectural nuances that are nice to take a tour of and see. I was not part of this tour, I did not have this information, and I missed all the tour timings for the day. There is one at 10 am, 12 pm and 3 pm. Public entry is prohibited.
This information was provided to me by the police security forces stationed at the Open Hand Monument. They still let me take a photo of the monument after making a little bit of inquiry and submitting my ID, bag, etc.
Open Hand Monument is the emblem or symbol of the Government of Chandigarh and symbolizes "the hand to give and the hand to take; peace and prosperity, and the unity of mankind."
What Open Hand Monument represents, according to the snippet from the letter by Le Corbusier also is that,
"The Open Hand will affirm that the second era of the machinist civilization - the era of harmony - has started."
The open hand is a tall structure that pretty much looks like a flying bird. Erected on a concrete platform, it moves along with the speed of the wind. This monument is highly guarded, and it is best you come along with the Capitol complex tour.
You should be out by 5 pm from this tour. Let's head for some breezy time at Sukhna Lake.
You should be out by 5pm from this tour. Lets head for some breezy time at Sukhna Lake.
All these are just kilometers apart. Sukhna lake is a huge human-made water body on the foothills of Shivalik hills. It is a reservoir, and hats off to Le Corbusier, who could foresee that the city will expand and the people will need water. Let's build a huge reservoir.
The place is ideal for sunrise and sunset. Sunsets opposite the lake and not on the water body are still a pleasant place to be. Many Chandigarh people can be seen walking around the lake as their daily exercise regime.
There is a boating option available, both pedal and a motorboat which takes you around the lake. The lake has a few birds nesting and some ducks. With trees lining the lake, a neat huge footpath to walk, a children's area to play, a small food court to munch on, this is a place to wind up your day. You can walk around the lake till the end and watch flora and fauna. Or find your sweet spot, sit, munch on peanuts, and watch people.
With that being 7:00 pm, let's head out for some shopping or window shopping and have dinner.
Sector 17 Market Chandigarh
The popular hangout place of Chandigarh people is the Sector 17 Market. Plenty of high-end shops lining the streets with lights gleaming away, a cobbled footpath, a neat parking area, and benches for people to sit in, this place is just the feel of a piece of Europe.
There is some nitty-gritty shop or the other for you to buy a souvenir even if you cannot afford all the branded stuff. And who says no to window shopping!! Wind your day at the sector 17 market, and have some dinner at one of the many options available in this place.
And that, my friends, is how you can spend Chandigarh in a day !!
It also has things like zoos and many many gardens, but these are my favorite picks. Happy traveling.
How To Reach Chandigarh
Chandigarh has an airport, so not a problem in reaching it by air. The airport is pretty outside the city, but we don't have a hand in it. By rail, many trains ply from New Delhi, which is about a 5hour journey.
So you can always fly to the capital and take a train from there too.
By road, many Volvo buses ply from Delhi, Amritsar, etc.[mappress mapid="40"]
Where to stay at Chandigarh
This is not a sponsored or promotional post that I recommend this stay, but the hosts were lovely, so I recommend this Airbnb. A spacious bedroom, kitchen, and spacious bathroom come along with a big garden in the front.
The property is in an excellent residential area with restaurants close by, parks to stroll, and markets and shops nearby for your daily needs. The room has a separate entrance. The host, Harmandar, and his family were very friendly and made me feel at home in a new city. Harmandar himself, being a well-traveled person, was exciting and fun to catch up with his travel stories.
Keep in mind that AirBnBs are not hotels. You should not expect room service, or party, or bring other guests and have fun.
You will be sharing the house of another family and be their guest. So if you are one of those polite travelers who can mind their business, not demanding and polite, then please check out this property.
Property Link - Maison Loin De La Maison, Chandigarh