Do you know that Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar is the largest of the observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur? The construction started in 1728 and it was completed in 1734. 4 more observatories were constructed by Sawai Jai Singh II between 1724-1735 in cities like Delhi, Mathura, Varanasi and Ujjain as from an early age he was interested in astronomy.
In simple words, Jantar Mantar means calculation through instruments and all the 19 instruments at the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur were made for astronomical calculations with could be done with the naked eye. The monument was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2010. Jantar Mantar is basically an astronomical observatory and is a treat for people who have a lot of interest in astronomy and architecture. It uses the application of mathematics, physics and various other disciplines. The construction is done keeping in mind factors like religion, science and art.
This 18thcentury monument shows the awareness among the rulers of Jaipur city for science and technical concepts. The large size of the instruments was made to make sure that the calculations were as accurate as possible.
Instruments in the observatory
There are a total of 19 fixed instruments which were used for purposes like measuring time, calculating the position of the stars, planets and moon. The time calculated is according to the ancient standard time of Jaipur which is different from IST. The time calculated also depends on whether the sun is in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere.
- The Samrat Yantra is the world’s biggest stone sundial in the world which tells the local time of the day with an accuracy of 2 seconds by using the shadows cast by the sun. It is also known as the supreme instrument.
- Rama yantra is a pair of cylindrical structures which look exactly similar but actually complement each other. The function of these two instruments is to position any celestial object with the help of pillars in the centre of both the structures. It is still used by students for practicals.
- Jai prakash yantra is the most elaborate of instruments, again with exactly two complementing complex structures which are in the shape of a bowl.
- Rashivalaya yantra – We can figure out from its name that this instrument is related to the 12 zodiac signs (rashi). It is composed of 12 separate instruments each facing the signs respective constellation. It was used to make accurate horoscopes.
Other instruments include the Chakra Yantra, Narivalaya Yantra, Raj Yantra, Laghu Samrat Yantra and a few more.
These are some of the major instruments in the observatory. The good thing is that all of them are in a very good condition due to the restoration work which was done in the past years. The materials used in the construction were stone, marble and brass and all the instruments are engraved with the markings used for calculation. Some Sanskrit verses are also inscribed.
Tips before visiting
It is open for visitors from 9:30 am till 4:30 pm on all days. The entry fee for Indian tourist is Rs.50 whereas the entry fee for foreign tourist is Rs.200. On valid Indian student identity cards only Rs.15 is charged for the entry. You can easily find a guide for Rs.200 inside and there is also an option of an audio guide for the same price.
It is walking distance from city palace and is also close to Hawa mahal. There is no right time for visiting as you will get to see different aspects of the instruments as the sun changes its place in the sky throughout the day but the best time according to the local guides is in the afternoon.
After the guided tour you can also visit the museum which has miniature replicas of the instruments and other artifacts. A ten minute documentary is also shown which explains the story behind the construction of the monument along with the working of the instruments. There is also a light and sound show in the evening 🙂
There is a souvenir shop from where you can get a nice memorabilia and just outside it there is a stall selling beverages to keep you hydrated and cool in the summer. All the talk about latitudes and longitudes are bound to get you confused so if you want to understand the functions of the instruments it’s better to brush up your geography skills before going so that you can have a better understanding 😉 😀
Written by Anjali Sarda – Intern at Jaipur Beat
Edited by Jaipur Beat