Chandigarh is India s first planned city, quite distinct from the rest of the country and considerably better organized. It is the capital of both Haryana and Punjab, but the city itself is not part of either state, being a union territory, i.e. administered directly by the Central government. The most striking thing about the city is the expanse of resplendent blue sky with the mountains in the backdrop. When you approach the city, you see the jagged skyline of the Shivalik Hills looming large over the city and the faint image of an old temple dedicated to Goddess Chandi (15 km from Chandigarh) from which the city got its name.
Chandigarh may appear oddly familiar to Western visitors and idiosyncratic to the rest of India. Because of this, Chandigarh is a good place to visit if you need a break from the chaos of the rest of India. Chandigarh is also a very secure city. With the lowest crime rates in the country, you can feel safe at any hour.
Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh is an artificial lake at the foothills of the Himalayas, the Shivalik hills. This 3 km² rain fed lake was created in 1958 by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills. Originally, the seasonal flow entered the lake directly causing heavy siltation. To check the inflow of silt, 25.42 km² of land was acquired in the catchment area and put under vegetation. In 1974, the Choe was diverted and made to bypass the lake completely, the lake being fed by three siltation pots, minimising the entry of silt into the lake itself.
The creation of the lake was one of the greatest gifts from Le Corbusier and the Chief Engineer P L Verma to the city of Chandigarh. To preserve its tranquillity Corbusier insisted that it be forbidden to motor boats and the top of the dam (promenade) prohibited to vehicular traffic. The lake is fringed by a golf course to the south, and Nek Chand s famous Rock Garden of Chandigarh to its west.
Sukhna is an inseparable part of the city of Chandigarh. Le Corbusier had foreseen that the residents of the city would be drawn to it. The city planners were deeply attached to the lake. So much so, that Pierre Jeanneret s ashes were immersed in the lake in 1970 as per his wishes by his niece.
The roof of the bandh or dam has become a favourite promenade. Serious walkers pursue an exercise regime, families enjoy an evening stroll and nature lovers mingle with children on roller skates. Photographers and painters love to capture its scenic beauty of the setting sun, or the heavily clouded monsoon sky, or the early morning mist in winter set amidst the tranquillity of the lake. Even anglers do not leave unrewarded.
Sukhna has a membership-based Lake Club with lawns, a gym, indoor games, swimming pool and tennis courts with both synthetic and grass courts. Boating, rowing, sculling, sailing, kayaking and water skiing can be enjoyed throughout the year. The lake, which was the venue for the Asian Rowing Championships, has the longest channel for rowing and yachting events in Asia. It also has facilities for other water sports like water surfing, skiing and sculling.
Sukhna is a sanctuary for many exotic migratory birds like the Siberian duck, Storks and Cranes, during the winter months. The lake has been declared as a protected national wetland by the Government of India.
During summers, there are streams of men, women and children from all walks of life offering voluntary service to desilt the lake bed for about three months. This annual ritual has been a regular feature since long ago.
Sukhna Lake is the venue for many festive celebrations too. The most popular is the Mango Festival held during the monsoons when scores of varieties of mangoes are on display. From time-to-time other food festivals, featuring specialities from different Indian States, are also held here, along with cultural performances.
But over the years, the Lake has been facing many problems. Careful steps are being tried to save the Lake from Shrinkage, etc. However only time will tell on the same.