As you walk through the Contemporary Arts section of the Government Museum and Art Gallery in Chandigarh, there is a small indiscreet space called the “M.N Sharma Gallery”. These are the objects donated by the Indian Architect in Corbusier’s team as a testimony of his legacy.
Amidst the 10-odd objects, there’s a replica of the Rooster-Fountain that stands proudly in the middle of Sector 17’s Plaza – the one designed to be the heart of the city by Corbusier. I’ve therefore always wondered why he chose the rooster of all birds / animals. The most sensible connect I could think of, was the rooster’s symbolism of a “new dawn”. After the horrific tragedy of Partition with 18 million people being displaced, Corbusier’s brief was to create a city free from the symbols of the past and one replete with hope. The rooster therefore, was perhaps the most suited choice. But there’s more to the Rooster than that – read on to know more!
The French (& Christian) Connection
The rooster became the symbol of France during the Middle-Ages following it’s role in the Passion of Christ. The biblical reference to the rooster occurs when Jesus made a prediction during the Last Supper that “Peter would disown him 3 times before the rooster crowed”
As the light conquers darkness and good triumphs over evil, the cry of the rooster is a symbol of victory renewed every morning. The Bible verses refer to the attitude of alertness and awareness required by Christians waiting for the return of Christ.
For the French, the rooster stands for courage, determination and celebrates the virility with which it defends its flock. The rooster emerged as a symbol of a new dawn during and after French Revolution and was represented on coins, etc. During the World War 1, it featured against Germany’s Imperial Eagle and is visible on the War Memorials too.
The Rooster In Chandigarh
Interestingly in India, Chandigarh as a city stands for fearlessness and courage. In its creation, the city refused to be defeated by the challenges that frequently appeared (whether political or architecture related); it also took to the “new-dawn” bit quite seriously, innovating and building not on the past, but on completely modern principles.
While this object has a story to tell at the Museum as well as at the Sector 17 Plaza in Chandigarh, many miss the connection that Corbusier felt between France and this new Indian city he crafted.
As we move closer to celebrating 70 years of Independence, it is worth a moment’s pause – to reflect on, remember the Partition, and celebrate the resilient spirit of the people of Punjab/Panjab.