If Varanasi symbolizes the spirit of ancient India, then Chandigarh is its city of ‘today’. Visitors used to the meandering sprawls and historic skylines of most old Indian towns are surprised at the planned layout of Chandigarh and its sleek buildings. In fact, the city is considered as the Mecca of modern architecture and planning all over the world.
Ironically, this new city of India was born out of the partition of the country. A new capital city for the State of Punjab was required and Chandigarh was created to serve this purpose, and even more, to be the symbol of faith and confidence for the resurgent republic. Today, this is a reality. Chandigarh thrives as a palpable city of half a million people-proud of themselves and their duty.
In spite of its modern faades, at heart, Chandigarh is quite traditional. In fact, it is a strange mix of the old and the new-perhaps a city in transition. Amidst the array of slick departmental stores can be seen the pavement hawkers doing brisk sales. Small vendors from their ingenious mobile shops on bicycle backs offer attractive bargains. In the residential areas, the traditional rehriwallahs (cart shops) are very popular with the housewives for purchasing their daily needs. Even the city’s fast-moving traffic roads are often slowed down by the presence of a ‘holy cow’ or a buffalo, sitting right in the center.
A city takes hundreds of years to develop a distinct personality and character of its own. But Chandigarh, barely 40 year old-an infant compared to other cities-has already come of age and assumed an ambience of its own. Built in the tradition of historic new towns of India like Mandu, Fatehpur Sikri and Jaipur, Chandigarh too is an act of the faith and daring.