Eyes That See Beyond

Nek Chand fantasy rock garden, Chandigarh

In the middle of the city of Chandigarh, India, is a quite unusual garden. It is an amazing testament to the artistic value of trash. That’s right, trash. Celebrated artist Nek Chand used materials people discarded as trash and formed them into an artistic wonder called the Rock Garden. Chand considers it an expression of his hope for humanity. While others may look at trash as a problem that needs to be hidden away, the artist saw it in a different way. He saw the trash as objects that could be creatively transformed into art.

“It all started out of personal curiosity,” says Chand, who started building the garden in the 1950s using urban and industrial waste. He began by clearing a little patch of jungle in order to create a small garden area for himself. He collected boulders, metal pieces, lag stones, overburned bricks, broken pots, chinaware, rags, plastic dolls, battered hats, broken bangles, shoes, bottles, you name it! All of it was used in his work to transform trash into a grand mosaic of treasure and beauty. There was no limit to what he could envision and create out of the trash.

Gradually his creative art display developed and grew, eventually covering several acres that displayed hundreds of sculptures. For the first eighteen years of his project, he had to work in the secrecy of night, fearing he would be discovered by the authorities. The funny thing is, when the government officials did discover the garden, they were confused as to how to handle the situation. The art garden was illegally built on a forbidden area, which meant they had the right to demolish it, but they recognized its beautiful and unique qualities. So instead of demolishing the sculpture garden, the city decided to give Chand a salary to allow him to work on the garden full time. They even provided a workforce of fifty laborers. The garden was finally opened to the public in 1976. Today there are more than twenty-five acres with thousands of sculptures set in large mosaic courtyards, linked by walled paths and deep gorges. There is also a series of interlinking waterfalls.

The Rock Garden is now admired as one of the modern wonders of the world and is considered one of the greatest artistic achievements seen in India since the Taj Mahal. Currently they have more than five thousand visitors a day. Carl Lindquist, who works with the international program at Arkansas State University, described it this way, “Built of industrial waste and thrown-away items, the Rock Garden in the city of Chandigarh is perhaps the world’s most poignant and salient statement of the possibility of finding beauty in the unexpected and accidental.”


Amazing! Objects that were once considered trash were turned into a beautiful work of art. I love Lindquist’s phrase “finding beauty in the unexpected and accidental.” Nek Chand didn’t see trash; he saw treasure. That’s what God sees in our lives! He holds the broken pieces of our life in his hands and fits them into a beautiful mosaic for eternity. We may see a mess here, a mistake there, a tragic loss, or an unfortunate incident, but God sees potential. Singularly a piece of trash isn’t so lovely, but like Chand, God sees the wonderful work that can be formed. As we draw close to him and hear his voice, we begin to hear the whisper of the Master Artist saying, Trust me. I can make something good come from this.


This is an excerpt from Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive



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