Cox & Kings has a 13-day Himalayan Foothills escorted tour that includes two nights in Chandigarh and visits to Amritsar, Shimla, Dharamsala and Delhi. With architecture and interiors inspired by Le Corbusier, The Lalit Chandigarh is a luxury hotel 10 minutes’ drive from the city centre. More: thelalit.com; coxandkings.com.au den. Somnath Ray and his wife, Aprile Age, have come from New York. Like many visitors, they’re architects.
“I’m so excited about this,” Aprile says. “I’ve always wanted to come here. It’s such a special example of planning in totality.”
Somnath remembers the city from childhood. “It used to be a quaint little town,” he says. “You could cycle from one side to the other. It’s not like that any more.”
Well, no. Chandigarh may originally have been dedicated to pedestrians, with “man his own master, on foot, walking and living without fear”. Now, though, it’s so big, it’s practically impossible to get around without a car. And with summer temperatures touching 43C, says Ravi, “it can be unbearable indoors without airconditioning”.
Across the piazza and down bunker-like steps, the angular Architecture Museum traces the absorbing story of the city’s creation with original typed documents, letters, telegrams and even government memos.
In an upstairs gallery, next to a wall-sized plan of the city (like an enormous electrical circuit), a couple are hunched over an iPad watching a Bollywood movie. The music echoes incongruously across the gallery.
India’s newspapers hailed Chandigarh as a “Green City Against Blue Hills”. “City of Tomorrow”, trumpeted one, with “Ideal Homes for All”. Nehru was more circumspect. “It hits you on the head and makes you think,” he said. “You may squirm at the impact, but it has made you think and imbibe new ideas, and the one thing that India requires in many fields is being hit on the head so that it may think. I do not like every building in Chandigarh … [but] I like the creative approach, not being tied down to what has been done by our forefathers.”
It remains a fascinating one-off, a concept as much as a city. “It’s two sides of the same coin,” says Ravi. “To