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Nek Chand consigned to flames with full state honours

PTI 13 Jun 2015, 23:08:16 IST

Chandigarh: The mortal remains of Nek Chand, the creator of the iconic Rock Garden of Chandigarh, were consigned to flames with full state honours here this evening.  People from all walks of life thronged the Rock Garden during the day to pay their last respects to the man behind the iconic creation who breathed his last here yesterday.

The mortal remains of Chand were kept at the Rock Garden today for the public to pay their last respects. His funeral procession started from Rock Garden late in the afternoon and the convoy carrying the mortal remains of the legend passed through different Sectors of Chandigarh enabling people along the way to pay their homage.  The convoy had a vehicle carrying iconic creations of the legend.

The decorated convoy reached the cremation ground under police escort, even as people along the way showered flower petals.

Besides Nek Chand's family members, people from all walks of life accompanied the body during the funeral procession.  The body was brought to the Sector 25 cremation ground in the evening and the funeral pyre was lit by his son Anuj Saini, amid gun salute from the police as a mark of respect to the legend.

Earlier in the day, among the prominent persons who visited Rock Garden were Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator, Kaptan Singh Solanki and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

Chand had been ailing for the past few days and was admitted to a private hospital here. He was later shifted to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), where he passed away in the early hours yesterday.  He was 90.

Chand is survived by his wife Kamla, son Anuj and daughter Neelam.

Earlier today, his body was taken to the Rock Garden from his house at Sector 27 here on the same route along which Chand used to regularly cycle to the garden.  Entry to the Rock Garden was made free for the public for two days since yesterday.

The administration of the Union Territory of Chandigarh has made necessary arrangements to bid the artistic genius a farewell with full state honours.

The news of his death came as a big shock to the numerous employees who had worked with him at the Rock Garden.  “Baauji's (Chand's) demise came as a big shock. He was a kind-hearted man who inspired his employees to give their children the best education and teach them good values,” said 57-year-old Payni Muthu, who started working with Chand from the age of 18.

Another employee, Kaliamma, said that Chand used to be particular about every detail pertaining to his work.  “He would give us detailed instructions. Sometimes, he would also teach our children and play with them. His death has left a big void,” she said, adding it was because of Nek Chand that Chandigarh had become famous at international level.

A roads inspector with the Public Works Department in Punjab, Nek Chand had quietly built his magical kingdom using waste items like broken crockery, electrical fittings, glass bangles, bathroom tiles, wash basins, etc.  

The iconic Rock Garden, inaugurated in 1976, is now spread over an area of nearly 40 acres. More than 2.5 lakh people from India and abroad visit it every year. The annual revenue generated from ticket sales at Rock Garden is around Rs 1.8 crore.

Chand's unique art has also been showcased in museums abroad.

Governor Solanki paid a floral tribute to the departed soul and expressed his condolences to the bereaved family members.

Terming Chand a “revolutionary creator”, Solanki wrote a message in the visitor's book at the Rock Garden, saying, “His creation has left a huge impact in the history of Chandigarh and would always be remembered by all. I express my deepest condolences on the demise of such a great craftsman and human being.”

Solanki added in his message that Chandigarh is known for its Rock Garden and the Rock Garden is known for Nek Chand.