The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION ASIA -

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: the­; coxand­ 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

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