By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, Jan 29 (IANS): Chandigarh -- the first planned modern and green city to be conceived after India's Independence in 1947 -- is rolling out the red carpet for the delegates attending the two-day International Financial Architecture Working Group meeting here on January 30-31 in the run-up to the G20 Summit.
The City Beautiful, planned by the Swiss-French architect and town planner, Le Corbusier, is located some 240 km north of New Delhi at the foothills of the Shivalik range and two seasonal rivulets flowing on its two sides. Famous for its gardens and open spaces, Chandigarh is calling upon the delegates from across the globe to explore nature with all their senses during their stay in the city.
"Go out to the nearby woods or gardens, try your hand at golf or enjoy the beautiful locales of the city," suggests an official who is overseeing the arrangement for the meeting, whose delegates were treated to an exhibition match at the Chandigarh Polo Club on Sunday, January 29.
As many as 170 delegates are attending the meeting, which has been divided into two sessions. The first will be on strengthening multilateral development banks to address shared global challenges of the 21st century and the second will be on the International Monetary Fund's 16th General Review of Quotas.
There's a lot in the city for the delegates to let their hair down. It has three world-class golf courses, starting with the oldest, the Chandigarh Golf Club, and the Chandigarh Golf Association as well as the Panchkula Golf Club. The Chandigarh Golf Club was established in 1960 and it has produced champion golfers, notably Jeev Milkha Singh and Irina Brar.
"We are expecting an enormous response to playing golf from the delegates," added the official, who did not want to be named as he's not authorised to speak to the media.
Adjacent to the Chandigarh Golf Club is the rain-fed manmade Sukhna Lake with the Kasauli hills and lower Shivalik hills in the backdrop.
Conceptualised by Le Corbusier as a tranquil and serene space, the Sukhna Lake, the most popular tourist spot and home to many species of winter migratory birds, was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills.
The lake, the heart and soul of the city, is situated in the VIP area of Chandigarh, with the governors of Haryana and Punjab, senior officers of the administration and affluent people residing in its vicinity.
Close to the lake is the fairyland known globally as the Rock Garden, whose creator Nek Chand's world of fantasy has put the City Beautiful on the world tourist map.
The Rock Garden explores a different side of human artistry. Thousands of animal and humanoid figures made out of multicoloured useless stones, industrial and urban waste, and other throwaways are the main attractions of Nek Chand's unique creation.
The garden houses sculptures made by using different discarded waste objects, such as frames, mudguards, forks, handlebars, metal wires, playing marbles, porcelain, auto parts, broken bangles, and so on.
A visit to the Capitol Complex, one of the monumental architectural compositions of modern times, has also been planned for the delegates.
Strategically located at the geographic and topographic 'head' of the city against the backdrop of the Shivalik hills, the Capitol Complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The three pillars of democracy -- legislature, executive and judiciary -- stand together at the Complex.
For the delegates, Chandigarh Administration has planned two dinners -- one on the lawns of The Lalit, the venue of the meeting, and the second at the Sukhna Lake Club House, where a cultural programme is also being organised.
"It is a matter of pride for Chandigarh to host delegates from different countries," UT Adviser Dharam Pal said. He called upon the residents of Chandigarh to be excellent hosts and make this event the most memorable among those planned in the run-up to the upcoming G20 summit.
The administration has also beautified the city's famous roundabouts and prominent locations that the dignitaries are visiting with flags of the participating countries.
Le Corbusier and his team had, in the 1950s and 60s, envisioned the city's 'lungs' to be in the form of green belts and gardens, but the administration has over the years continued to add more green areas and theme parks to the 114-square-km union territory.
As of today, Chandigarh boasts of the Japanese Garden, Bougainvillea Garden, Butterfly Park, Leisure Valley, Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj, Fragrance Garden, Hibiscus Garden, Garden of Annuals, Terraced Garden, Floral Garden, Bamboo Garden, Garden of Herbs and Shrubs, Champa Park, a sprawling Botanical garden, and the 400-acre Rajendra Park and many more.
Chandigarh has nearly 1,500 parks, gardens and green belts. The green cover through trees of the traditional and exotic varieties is also ample for the city, which has a population of nearly 1.1 million people.
Asia's largest rose garden, the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, came into existence here in 1967. It was named after the third President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain, who was a keen horticulturist, and is spread over 30 acres.
Inaugurated by the city's first Chief Commissioner M.S. Randhawa, in the heart of the city in Sector 16, the rose garden has over 50,000 rose bushes of approximately 800 varieties, including exotic ones, in 1,400 flower beds.