Spotlight on Chandigarh: The City Beautiful

29 Mar 2017 by Akanksha Maker
Sukhna Lake, Chandigarh

The Independence struggle followed by the partition of the country in 1947 led to Punjab’s division into two parts. It was separated into east and west Punjab that fell into India and Pakistan respectively. Since the former capital of Punjab — Lahore — fell into Pakistan, India nominated the city of Chandigarh as the next capital of the northern state. The vision of then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, entailed the development of Chandigarh as the first ever planned city of independent India. He hired American planner and architect Albert Mayer to design Chandigarh in 1949, who built it in symmetrical blocks embedded with greenery all across its expanse.

Mayer’s master plan was executed by his successor, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, who fine-tuned the city’s design to inculcate world-class infrastructure. He beautified it with lakes and gardens, constructed the eminent courthouse and parliament buildings, and gave Chandigarh its symbolic personality. The well-planned city set an example for the rest of the nation and became a sought after destination for businesses in north India. The inception of the Indian state of Haryana in 1966 changed Chandigarh’s status; it was not only declared a union territory* but also the capital of Punjab and the then nascent Haryana state — a position it still enjoys.

Farmers of the states heavily invested their monies in the large expanses of fertile land across the region, creating an agricultural ecosystem here. Chandigarh’s commerce grew by leaps and bounds thereafter, and by 2006 its affluent population achieved the highest per capita income in all of India, at ₹67,370. With mostly old family wealth of farmers and agricultural traders, Chandigarh’s economic backbone was established by its land management, animal husbandry and farming capabilities. Being the capital of two of the most prosperous and arable states of India, it became the commercial centre of all the trading activities in the north of the country.

Even today, the city’s economic strength rests on millions of tonnes of maize, wheat and vegetable crops that are grown on the arable land of the two states. In fact, last year itself, wheat procurement in Punjab crossed 88,00,000 tonnes during the marketing season, substantiating its title of being the food bowl of the nation. While farming remains the largest feather in its cap, Chandigarh has not lagged behind in the rat race of modernisation. It evolved its economic landscape and opened up to small- and medium-sized industries that mushroomed here a few decades ago. It houses about 15 medium-scale and a few large-scale industries that operate in the private sector. It is also home to over 2,500 small-scale units that span across fields of paper, metal and alloy manufacturing, food products, sanitary ware, auto parts, machine tools, electronics and pharmaceuticals.

Apart from its industrial disposition, Chandigarh is also known for its educational institutions located in and around an area called Knowledge City — including Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and Indian School of Business. These schools impart world-class training to students hailing from different parts of not just India but the entire globe. There was a recognisable imbalance in the opportunities offered to the youth after they completed their education. After all, not all of them wished to become farmers and most were overqualified to join the ground-level job openings at the various industries that operate here. The administration of the city envisioned a tech project that would not only enhance the profile of Chandigarh, but also provide employment to the youngsters of the region.

Assembly building in the Capitol, Chandigarh

Chandigarh’s commercial character underwent a monumental transformation with the inception of Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park (RGCTP) in 2011. The project anchored by Infosys Technologies saw an investment of ₹1,500 crore by the Chandigarh administration in collaboration with real estate giant DLF to create a state-of-the-art campus sprawling across 350 acres. Today, it houses corporate offices of companies such as IBM, Net-Solutions, Wipro Technologies, Tech Mahindra and Silicon Valley Systech and employs hundreds and thousands of professionals. While the Park has achieved an international footing with its contemporary commercial temperament, RGCTP’s aspirational “Vision 2020” wishes to further enhance its positioning. The plan is to “improve the business environment for the IT Industry, to make Chandigarh a preferred destination for IT companies from within and outside India”. RGCTP also has The LaLit Chandigarh, a hotel and convention centre developed by The LaLit Group, and DLF that has the capacity to host 1,200 delegates for conferences. The property adds the advantage of accommodation to the IT complex and provides convenience to companies looking to host their employees from other offices in the city. Read more about The LaLit Chandigarh overleaf.

Chandigarh is also interdependent with the cities within the Chandigarh capital region that include the neighbouring satellite city of Mohali, Zirakpur, Kharar, Kurali (in Punjab) and Panchkula (in Haryana). The economic landscapes of Chandigarh and Mohali are connected, as the latter paves the way for Punjab’s information technology industry. Steering this is one of the largest projects of the modest town of Mohali  — QuarkCity. It is an ambitious corporate expanse piloted by Denver-based company, Quark that invited an investment of US$500 million in the Chandigarh capital region. QuarkCity has been instrumental in inviting information technology companies that are looking to expand their presence in north India. It is a 46-acre multi-use space that houses corporate offices, residential arcades, retail stores and a special economic zone. It also provides accommodation options to the urban youth that has moved to Chandigarh for employment, or wishes to move from the traditional housing set-up of Chandigarh. Equipped with shopping centres, condominium apartments, cinema halls and other entertainment options, it presents a high standard of living in a city with a comparatively humble lifestyle. It also houses 3- and 5-star hotels within the complex itself, offering convenience to companies hosting employees from their other offices. Some of the technology firms that have invested here are SPAN Infotech, Dell, Philips, FIS Global and Emerson Electric.

With the urban landscape of Chandigarh evolving along with its economy, it has welcomed a wave of overhaul in the aviation and the hospitality industry as well. The Oberoi Hotels & Resorts has opened a luxury property here, and budget hospitality chain, Lemon Tree Hotels is also eyeing more property launches in the city. Indian airlines too are constantly improving connectivity to and from Chandigarh. Opened only two years ago, the new eco-friendly terminal laid with plants and open spaces has upgraded the experience of passengers flying in and out of Chandigarh. Currently nine Indian airlines operate domestic and international services from Chandigarh, with a number of routes to be added this year. Destinations including Pune and Leh have recently been added by Air India, while IndiGo has begun flying internationally to Dubai from the city. More international flights by the national carrier to Singapore and Bangkok are expected to launch this year.

The vision of Jawaharlal Nehru was to make Chandigarh India’s first planned city. It’s safe to say that it has gone far beyond; from proving its agricultural prowess to welcoming contemporary corporate cultures — it is the economic powerhouse of not just Haryana and Punjab, but all of north India.

*A union territory is a type of administrative division in the Republic of India. Unlike states, which have their own elected governments, union territories are ruled directly by the Central Government.


“Welcome to Chandigarh. The City Beautiful.” — reads a large, green board upon entering the union territory. The endearing city of Chandigarh is lined with gardens that boast of manicured landscapes, blooming flowers and well-maintained promenades. With distinctive pleasant weather, a trip to this union territory must involve visiting a few of many lovely gardens here.

Begin with Garden of Fragrance (Sector 36A; open 5am-11pm) to take in the whiff of fresh flora as you walk alongside a carpet of greenery. Some of the flowers that keep you company on your morning walk here are damask rose, plumeria, jasmine and many other fragrant ones. There is also the lovely 20-acre Bougainvillea Garden (Sector 2; open 8am-5pm) that houses 65 varieties of the plants with carefully laid out walking tracks that allow you to run in the company of nature. The garden also hosts an annual bougainvillea show for floral enthusiasts.

Hibiscus lovers will enjoy spending an evening at the namesake Hibiscus Garden (Sector 36; open 8am-10pm). This eight-acre expanse prides itself with 40 different species of the plant. One of the first parks of the union territory, this charming natural haven can be accredited for giving Chandigarh the title of “city of gardens”. Wanderers and photography enthusiasts mustn’t miss Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, that’s lined with 1,600 types of roses, swarming bees and rare birds. This garden conceived in 1967 is a gem in Chandigarh’s crown of natural beauty.

Those interested in the rich history of this union territory, must spend a few hours at Le Corbusier Centre (Old Architect Building, Madhya Marg, Sector 19B; open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm) scrolling through displays and exhibits from the life of the Swedish-French architect that gave Chandigarh its characteristic appearance. The showcase has preserved dated manuscripts, blueprints of the master plan, photos of Le Corbusier along with political letters revealing secrets behind the aspirational project.

Head to the Sukhna Lake, located ten minutes from Le Corbusier Centre, where you can rent boats to enjoy a leisurely cruise on its calm waters overlooking an idyllic view of the Shivalik hills. There are enough restaurants and cafes alongside the lake to ensure a hearty meal after some lazy sailing. 

An alternative way to experience this city is on bikes. PedalChandigarh offers cycles for rent on a per day basis. Beginning at Sector 17, you can even opt for its three-hour long bicycle tour that takes you to the charming locales of Chandigarh including the aforementioned Sukhna Lake and Zakir Hussain Rose Garden. Write to [email protected] fore more information.

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