CHANDIGARH Chandigarh, called the "City Beautiful" by its residents, was built to replace the Indian state of Punjab's loss of its old capital, Lahore. Lahore, the quintessentially Islamic city with its warrens of streets and colorful bazaars, had successfully served for several centuries as the capital of Punjab until India's partition in 1947. The loss of Lahore to Pakistan was felt intensely by Sikhs, Hindus, and Indian Muslims alike.
Chandigarh represents the best urban hopes of independent India. Indian leaders shared a common vision concerning the character of Chandigarh. The charismatic, urbane Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru provided the urban-architectural framework for the new capital city: "Let this be a new town symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past . . . an expression of the nation's faith in the future." Other Punjabi leaders enthusiastically echoed Nehru's sentiment. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Nehru's minister of health, noted that as a Punjabi, she wanted "the new capital of the Punjab to be the last word in beauty, in simplicity and in standards of such comfort as it is our duty to provide to every human-being." Punjab's chief minister, Gopichand Bhargava, hoped that Chandigarh would be "the world's most charming capital."
Chandigarh bears the imprint of several Western architects and planners testing out the prevailing trends in architecture and urban planning. The American Albert Mayer drew the initial plan for the city; Matthew Nowicki, a Polish-American architect, was to design the capitol buildings. Nowicki's death in a plane crash in 1950 forced the Indian government to find a new team. In the end, the city has come to be associated with Swiss-born French modernist Le Corbusier. Whereas Mayer had looked to India's villages as his inspiration for the city's plan, Le Corbusier looked to India's industrial potential in detailing the plan, although he made only superficial changes in Mayer's plan. His cousin Pierre Jeanneret and English husband-and-wife architects Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew assisted Le Corbusier. In Chandigarh, Le Corbusier had argued that India's great civilization was essentially agrarian in character, and much of India's building efforts had been directed to building temples and mosques. Through his modernist designs for Chandigarh, he was proposing to expose India to an industrial civilization that celebrated business, industrial complexes, and modern buildings. This was inherently more appealing to Prime Minister Nehru.
In 1966 Indian Punjab underwent yet another bifurcation: between Hindi-speaking Haryana and Punjabi-speaking Punjab. Chandigarh became the joint capital of both states, while the city itself came to be administered as a Union territory. Because of its relatively new urban infrastructure, clean environment, and good services (including medical), the city has grown rapidly, attracting both corporate enterprises and private citizens. Originally planned for 500,000, the city in 1999 had an estimated population of 800,000 and was still growing. Assuming a conservative 4 percent annual growth rate, Chandigarh's population is expected to grow to 1, 942,329 by the year 2021.
Evenson, Norma. Chandigarh. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.
Prakash, Vikramaditya. Chandigarh's Le Corbusier: The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002.