Close to the Capital Complex, the Rock Garden is a surreal fantasyland fashioned from fragments of shattered plates, neon strip-lights, pots, pebbles, broken bangles and assorted urban-industrial junk. The open-air exhibition is the lifelong labour of retired Public Works Department road inspector Nek Chand. Inspired by a recurrent childhood dream, he began construction in 1965. His intention was to create just a small garden, but by the time it was discovered in 1973 – to widespread astonishment – it covered 12 acres. Though it was completely illegal, the city council recognized it as a great artistic endeavour and, in a conspicuously enlightened decision, awarded Chand a salary to continue his work, and a workforce of fifty labourers to help. Opened to the public in 1976, the garden now covers 25 acres and contains several thousand sculptures.
Now over 85, Nek Chand continues to oversee expansion of the site, a labyrinth of more than a dozen different enclosures interconnected by narrow passages, arched walkways, streams, bridges, grottos, waterfalls, battlements and turrets. Stick to the path, or you could end up wandering the maze until the chowkidar finds you at closing time.