My dear Prakash,
I didn't realise that the whole scheme for celebration of 50th Anniversary of Chandigarh had been initiated by Charles Correa.
As far as I understood, he was allergic to Le Corbusier. But may have changed his mind.
He knows our MARG Book. But he has not contacted me for any contribution.
Orcourse, I can't talk about technicalities. And can only write about background. Which I have done in a short piece. Which I will send you as a possible afterward to your book.
I have told the story of how Thapar began to think of the idea of a Capital for Punjab. In a personal conversation in the house of his nephew Romesh Thapar, when I parried him about his whereabouts. And I showed him article about Le Corbusier in Marg. Gave him a letter to Andre Malraux so, that he might be able to see Corbusier through my friend.
Le Corbusier's first reaction was negative. Then Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry persuaded him to take on the Commission and they mention Nehru, which name was magic to Corbusier. So he agreed. Anyhow, I told that story in the piece I will give you for an Afterword.
Mulk Raj Anand
Shri Aditya Prakash
1118, Sector 8, C
In the summer of 1950, Shri P.N. Thappar I.C.S. Official of Punjab State came to Bombay on his way for a holiday in U.K.I asked him in our pure Punjabi, ‘Thappar Sahab Tusi Kithay Rahogey? (Where do you live nowadays?)’
He answered wearily: ‘Dar badar! Kedi ethey, Kedi Othey. Jallandhar Soloni! Ludhiana! Punjab Sarkar has no Capital!’ ‘Why not build one?’ I said airily. He asked surprised, ‘Kithey? Kon Banaige?’ (Where and who will build it?)
I said: ‘Le Corbusier?’ He enquired, ‘Woh ken bala Hai? (Who is this devil?)’ I replied, ‘Great Architect! Chairman of CIAM! World Architects Association!’ ‘How do we get to him?’ Mr. Thappar asked. ‘I have just published an article by him in MARG!’ I said. ‘He is friend of Andre Malrauz, famous French writer! I know him. I will give you a letter to Malrau. You see him and ask him to take you to Le Corbusier.’
Shri Thappar was enthused. We stopped in Paris enroute to London, met Malraux, who took him to Le Corbusier. And he put before the Architect a letter I had drafted for him asking Le Corbusier to consider planning and building a Capital city for Punjab Government, which was homeless after partition.
Le Corbusier kept silent for a long while. Then he laughed and said: ‘India! Tiger! Snake! Hot! I no go there!’ Shri Thappar wrote to me narrating what had transpired between them.
I felt that as Corbusier did not know French and was perhaps very modest, his negative response was inevitable. I wrote to Shri Thappar to contact in London, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, Architect who, I knew, were friends of Le Corbusier. Shri Thappar met them and told them that Punjab refugee state needed a Capital and Prime Minister Nehru was keen to have a city planned to house the refugee Government.
‘Did you mention Nehru’s name to Le Corbusier?’ Jane Drew asked Minister Thappar. On my suggestion Jane Drew agreed to go Paris with Minister Thappar to see Le Corbusier again.
This time the British Lady Architect, who had written manifesto for village architecture in Africa, told Le Corbusier that according to his CIAM Charter there was need for planning and building new cities for Agro-Industrial Civilisations. And she mentioned that Prime Minister Nehru was very keen to have a city planned for capital of Punjab Refugee Government.
The magic of Nehru’s name worked.
Le Corbusier agreed to go to India. And Shri Thappar took him to Prime Minister Nehru. The dynamic Prime Minister told Le Corbusier that there had been three planned cities in India—Fatahpur Sikri under Moghul Emperor Akbar, Jaipur under Maharaja Swai Jaisingh and New Delhi under Edwin Lutyens. The first two were for dominantly Agricultural civilizations. India needed new cities for Agro-Industrial phase and new village towns.
Le Corbusier had himself felt the same way. He agreed to go to Punjab for a weekend. He visited Jullundhur, Ludhiana and Kasauli. On his way down from Kasauli, he stopped to see the great Moghul garden near Kalka on the flat land, below the lower Himalayas. Charmed by the relatively small village on the foothills of lower Himalayan hills, he was fascinated by shrine of Goddess Chandi further down.
A team of Polish and American architects, he was told, had suggested the flat land below lower Himalayan hills for the new Capital of Punjab.He felt that the air and water of Himalayas in the big Nullah, away from small villages in area would be a suitable site for the new Capital of Punjab. He recalled the image of Goddess Chandi he had seen and played on name. ‘Chandi-town!’ Someone repeated, ‘Chandigarh!’
Le Corbusier agreed to do a Master Plan and then outlined to the Prime Minister his concept which was different from the earlier plans drawn by the American and Polish architect. Nehru agreed saying he had absolute trust in professionals. Thus, came Le Corbusier’s Master plan of Chandigarh.
The Central Government sanctioned the money for the town planning as advised for the carrying out of the plan. The file was sent for approval to Chief Minister of Punjab Government.
Some months passed, but Chief Minister, Bhimsen Sachar, did not take action inspite of reminders to his office from Shri P.N.Thappar. Shri Thappar took the courage to inform Prime Minister that the file was being held up because the Chief Minister felt that the money allotted for carrying out plan was not enough.
Prime Minister Nehru was dismayed by delay in going ahead with building of the planned city of Chandigarh and asked the Chief Minister to tell him of his difficulties frankly. He was told that the Engineers thought that the money allotted was not enough. The Prime Minister said, ‘We will double the grant.’
Still there was no action taken. It seemed to Shri Thappar that the Chief Minister and his colleagues who had lived in small two-storied houses in Lahore and worked in offices in British-built bungalows, could not elevate themselves to sample houses.
Prime Minister Nehru was reported to have lectured to the Punjab Chief Minister about the need to emerge from existence from congested small-town houses of previous times into large spaces in garden cities. He told them that even Conservative British had already built Welyan Garden City, fifty miles away from congested London. And Brazil, in South America, had built ‘Brazilia’ as the Capital of that South American state.
The tone of Prime Minister Nehru seemed to galvanise Shri Bhimsen Sarkar. I had the good fortune to be given the first Tagore Professorship of Art in University of Punjab. And my five years of stay in that University coincided with the time when Le Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeannert with a team of twelve young Indian architects, were designing and building Chandigarh.
And I was able to with help from that team, compile the first book on Chandigarh for MARG Publishing House which I had founded through cooperation of Modern Architects and Artists’ Research Group in Bombay.
I believe that the genius of Le Corbusier and the talent of his colleagues, Pierre Jeannert, Jane Drew, Maxwell Fry and the twelve young Indian architect has given us a pioneer planned city, which may inspire new generations of builders to design and build new townships, hundred miles away from big metropolises, to cope with the demands of the new Agro-Industrial civilization—which the world has to cope with in the new millennium.