Hidden Gem Alert: Offbeat Places To Visit In Chandigarh

There is more to Chandigarh besides Corbusier's design and the Rock Garden. Here are five less-explored places in Chandigarh that should be on your travel list
The Fateh Burj at Chappar Chiri village, Mohali
The Fateh Burj at Chappar Chiri village, Mohaliwww.shutterstock.com / Geetansh Gautam

You may know of the Chandigarh of present as the home of major rap artists and shiny film stars with some of the best acting chops, but this city, named after the Hindu goddess Chandi, received its foundation stone way back in 1952. The then prime minister, Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru, invited the legendary French architect Le Corbusier to create its masterplan. Ultimately, another brilliant architect, Pierre Jeanneret, who was part of Corbusier's team, completed Chandigarh and became the Chief Architect and Town Planning Adviser to the Government of Punjab, and later returned to Switzerland in 1965. 

And that is not all. Chandigarh has a pre-historic past too. Once upon a time, the current plains of the city were a giant lake hemmed by a marsh. The fossil remains which have been found in Chandigarh point to the existence of aquatic and amphibian life. It is also reported that it may have also been home to the people of the Harappa Civilisation. 

While Chandigarh is an all-year destination, the winter visits to the city are best outdoors. Here are five sites in and around the city that are off the beaten track. 

Lesser Known Places To Visit In Chandigarh

Fateh Burj, Chappar Chiri, Mohali

Commemorating the legendary bravery of the Sikhs, the 328-foot-tall tower Fateh Burj and museum is dedicated to battles won by the warrior community. About 15 km from Chandigarh, this offbeat place in Chandigarh was started in 1999 and completed in 2011, and marks the victory of the Sikhs over the Mughals in the Battle of Chappar Chiri. The tower and museum are part of the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur War Memorial, which is over 20 acres.

The memorial replicates the battle scene, complete with six grass-covered mounds with statues of Banda Bahadur and his five generals. Renowned sculptor Prabhat Rai has created these. The three-storey tower is topped with a dome typical of Sikh architecture. Each of the three levels of the tower represents a battle—the victory of Samana, the victory of Sadhaura, and finally, the victory of Chappar Chiri. When visiting Fateh Burj, wear sturdy footwear, and carry refreshments. Entry into and up the tower is not advised.

Nepli Reserve Forest And Wildlife Sanctuary

The Nepli and Kansal reserve forests have been created to reduce the alarming rate of siltation of Sukhna Lake and are part of the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread over approximately 26 square kilometres, around Sukhna Lake, Sukhna Choe, and Patiala ki Rao waterbodies, the Nepli Forest has contributed significantly to the resident ecology. The increase in organic matter created a cycle of increases in phosphorus and potassium levels of the soil, leading to more flora, thereby reducing the siltation of Sukhna Lake.

On March 6, 1998, this offbeat place in Chandigarh was declared a wildlife sanctuary. Currently, about 40 species of trees, 20 species of mammals, 262 species of birds, 11 species of reptiles, 65 species of butterflies, etc., are found in the forest. It is well looked after, with the help of the 12 watchtowers, which are supported by three rest houses. 

The Kansal reserve forest
The Kansal reserve forestWikimedia Commons

You can go boating in the waters close to the Nepli Inspection Hut and Kansal Log Hut. If you prefer to roam the forest, stay on any of the four nature trails created for this purpose. The entry and exit timings are strict, so conclude your trip on time. Entry to the forest is from Saketri village in Haryana. 

The Garden of Silence
The Garden of SilenceWikimedia Commons

Garden Of Silence, Sukhna Lake

Any talk of Chandigarh is complete only with the mention of Sukhna Lake and its many virtues. Here, away from the walk-groups, children playing, and families picnicking, head towards the seated statue of the Buddha, set in the middle of the amphitheatre— you are now in the Garden of Silence. A meditative space for city residents, it provides succour to many as they stop by on their way from tough situations and work. The joint effort of the Ministry of Tourism, the Government of India, and the Chandigarh Administration created it.

The Japanese Garden

Developed at the cost of INR 6 crore by the Government of India, the Japanese Garden of Chandigarh is designed as per Japanese architecture and garden styles. It is spread over 13 acres and consists of two phases. Phase 1 of the park was inaugurated on November 7, 2014, and Phase 2 was thrown open to the public in 2016. Both phases of the park are connected by a tunnel adorned with Japanese artwork. 

The Japanese Garden
The Japanese GardenWikimedia Commons

The rock garden, or Karesansui, is a miniature stylised landscape, which has been carefully composed using rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees, and shrubs. The offbeat gem is meant to be viewed while seated, and that too from a single point, which is outside the garden. There is no entry fee, but there is a cafeteria for refreshments. 

Dhanas Lake

Sukhna Lake is not the only lake in Chandigarh. It has two others within its limits. Offering stunning views of nature, and a bird-watching spot, the Dhanas Lake, turned a bigger crowd-puller with the installation of the floating solar photovoltaic plant. It was set up by the Chandigarh Renewable Energy and Science & Technology Promotion Society (CREST), as a part of its initiative to promote solar energy.

The Information

Best time to visit: October to March

Getting there: Chandigarh is well-connected by road, rail, and air, to the rest of the country. 

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