Nek Chand was born in Berian Kalan village, now in Pakistan on December 15, 1924. He emigrated to India with his family and settled in Chandigarh in 1950. It’s here that his transformation from a public transport official to creative genius acclaimed the world over took place.
His death comes days before his 40 figurative mosaic sculptures were to be put on display for the first time in the UK Pallant House Gallery in the charming setting of historic Chichester (West Sussex) from June 13 to October 25. The works are on loan from the Nek Chand Foundation in London.
Pursuing a vision, Nek Chand started off by clearing an area of jungle on the city’s outskirts. He amassed stones, bricks and materials retrieved from the city’s rubbish heaps in order to construct the Rock Garden. Today this extends over two hectares and is adorned by several hundred sculptures lined up on a series of terraces, arches, waterfalls and winding paths.
In 1972, the municipal authorities discovered this environmental marvel, and decided to provide a team of labourers and financial support to enable him to continue his work. The site, which came to be known as the Rock Garden, was officially recognised in 1976, and is a key tourist attraction of Chandigarh.
His son Anuj Saini told TOI that he was admitted in a private hospital after reports of medical tests indicated problems but was shifted to PGI on Thursday evening after his condition worsened.
His body will be kept at the Rock Garden, a fairyland he had created out of waste material so that his fans can pay tributes for at least a day.
The Times of India had celebrated Nek Chand’s 90th birthday on December 15, 2014.
Earlier in the day, Chandigarh adviser and home secretary visited him at the hospital.