Do you have a dream? Nek Chand, a humble Roads Inspector, did and now people travel thousands of miles to visit his magical kingdom.

Nek Chand

Do you have a dream? Most people do. Some keep theirs hidden, feeling their dream is too big or too foolish or too scary to share. Others share their dreams… some follow them and others don’t, but most of us have held a dream dear to our hearts at some point in our lives… or still do. Today, I want to share with you the story of Nek Chand Saini. His story made an enormous impact on my life and I think you may also find it interesting. His dream was to create a magical kingdom inhabited by Kings and Queens, just like the ones he had heard about in the stories his mother told him when he was a boy.

Born in 1924, Nek Chand moved to Chandigarh in 1951 after losing his home and native village in the 1948 partition of India. He began work as a Roads Inspector in the new city designed by Le Corbusier. To make way for the construction process, over 20 villages and many buildings were demolished. This created a mass of waste and in 1958, Nek Chand made a little clearing in an area of forest outside the city and began collecting the stones and materials he knew he would be using and built a little hut in which to store them. His work for the Public Works Department allowed him access to waste dumps and at the end of the day he brought back materials on the back of a bicycle.

By 1965, he was ready to begin work on his kingdom. In the little clearing, he positioned his stones and began work on his first sculptures, made from cement on a wire framework and covered in broken glass bangles. His creations developed and grew and it was not long before the sculptures covered an area of several acres. Only his wife Kamla and a few trusted friends knew what he was doing. He kept quiet about his dream as it was built on Government land where no development was permitted. After dark, he worked by the light of burning tyres, afraid that he may be discovered by the authorities.

In 1972, when a Government working party began clearing the jungle, they came across almost 2000 sculptures in various sizes. Amazed by what they discovered, but aware that Nek Chand‘s work was illegal, they were thrown into turmoil. Within a few days, everyone in Chandigarh knew about this extraordinary discovery in the forest. Hundreds of people flocked to see Nek Chand‘s work and whilst many city officials were outraged, Nek Chand received incredible support from the local people.

By 1976, public opinion forced the city authorities to relieve Nek Chand of his duties as Roads Inspector and give him a full time salary to work on his environment. His kingdom was officially inaugurated as the Rock Garden and administered by the city of Chandigarh who made the enlightened decision to give him a workforce to assist him in the continuation of his work. Almost 34 years on, the Rock Garden continues to grow. It is made up of three separate phases, includes hills and valleys and enormous waterfalls as well as a stage and performance area for public festivities.

His life’s work has involved turning waste into beauty. The Rock Garden is known all over the world and is one of the largest creative recycling projects ever built. Nek Chand has travelled far and wide as a result of his work, with exhibitions in London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Madrid and Washington DC, but he remains a humble man dedicated to his vision.

Nek Chand WaterfallWith a long term involvement in the world of Outsider Art, it was my dream, some 20 years ago, to visit Nek Chand‘s kingdom. In 2001, I realised that dream when I led a group of 15 art enthusiasts on a tour to India and celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the Rock Garden. Dreams can come true… it is up to us to take steps to make them happen.

What is your dream? I would love to know.

If you are ready to commit to your dream… or at least take the first step towards living it, you may be interested in the Dream Seed Magic Workshop that I will be facilitating with Diane Leigh on July 5 here in London. We are ready to guide and support you in living a life beyond your wildest dreams. The fun starts here.


    • Julia Elmore says

      Thank you Richard. So glad you enjoyed this. I thought of you as I was writing it… from little acorns and all that! So many other inspiring stories – many of wonderful artists – to share… watch this space and keep following your heart. J x

    • Julia Elmore says

      Thank you so much Camille. I am pleased this story touched you. More stories to follow. In the mean time, let’s keep our dreams alive! x

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