Chandigarh, the dream city of India's first Prime Minister, Sh. Jawahar Lal Nehru, was planned by the famous French architect Le Corbusier. Picturesquely located at the foothills of Shivaliks, it is known as one of the best experiments in urban planning and modern architecture in the twentieth century in India. The Union Territory of Chandigarh has a total area of 114 sq. kms and has witnessed decennial population growth (1991-2001) of 44.33% . It had a population of 9,00,914 in the last census. Chandigarh is unique, because it is the capital of two state governments, Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh is a planned city, with a high standard of civic amenities. Chandigarh's infrastructure was originally planned for a population of 5 lakh, but the city has expanded rapidly over the last three decades and faces problems common to other growing cities in India, including the proliferation of slums and squatter settlements. Despite these problems, Chandigarh ranks first in India in the Human Development Index, quality of life and e-readiness.
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 in the ancient past, 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.
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.
Chandigarh falls under Koeppen's CWG category i.e. it has cold dry winter, hot summer and sub tropical monsoon. Evaporation usually exceeds precipitation and the weather is generally dry. The area experiences four seasons : (i) Summer or hot season (mid-March to Mid-June) (ii) Rainy season (late-June to mid-September); (iii) Post monsoon autumn/transition season (mid September to mid-November); (iv) Winter (mid November to mid-March). The dry spell of summer is long but with the occasional drizzles or thunder storms. May and June are the hottest months of the year with the mean daily maximum & minimum temperatures being about 370C & 250C, respectively. Maximum temperatures can rise up to 440C. Southwest monsoons with high intensity showers commence in late June. The weather at this time is hot and humid. The variation in annual rainfall on year to year basis is appreciable i.e. 700 mm to 1200 mm. The 20 year average rainfall for Chandigarh is 1100.7 mm. January is the coldest month with mean maximum and minimum temperatures being around 230C and 3.60C respectively. Winds are generally light and blow from northwest to southeast direction with exception of easterly to southeasterly winds that blow on some days during the summer season.
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 etc. 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.
Considered to be an uneconomical project that earned much criticism from politicians when it was being constructed, the Capitol Complex in Sector 1 has brought the city to the world heritage map. For its creator Le Corbusier, it was a project he was convinced should be set up in the newly created city that was a product of the vision of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Le Corbusier collaborated with his cousin and fellow architect and designer Pierre Jeanerret to build and furnish an entire government city. The Capitol Complex comprises three buildings Ė Secretariat, Assembly and the High Court. The fourth building planned by Corbusier was the Governorís Palace which has not been built till now. Apart from the buildings, six monuments had been planned. Of these two, including the Geometric Hill and the Martyrsí Memorial, have been completed only partially.
In the Complexe du Capitole, concern for natural air-conditioning and energy saving, led to the use of sunscreens, double-skinned roofs, and reflecting pools for the catchment of rainwater and air cooling. Chandigarh is considered to be Le Corbusierís masterwork but the project was beset by a range of practical and political difficulties. The subtropical heat and annual monsoons demanded complex solutions for ventilation and flood drainage, while Le Corbusierís frequent clashes with local planners and builders resulted in uneasy compromise throughout the decade-long construction. The Complexe du Capitole, the focal point of the plan for the city of Chandigarh, is seen as the most complete contribution to its principles and to the idea of the Radiant City.
Though beloved by its inhabitants and the international architecture community, Chandigarh is undoubtedly a fading beauty. Years of wear and neglect have resulted in crumbling, dilapidated buildings and once green spaces are now overrun with waste, yet somehow the magic of Nehruís modern vision still peeks through.
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