Jantar Mantar Jaipur India

jntrmntrWhen Maharajah Jai Singh II built his new capital in Jaipur, India he decided to quench his thirst for knowledge about time and the movement of the heavens a number of large astronomical devices which would help him, and his scientists, to better understand the cosmos.

Known as the Jantar Mantar, or calculation instrument, the one that was built in Jaipur was the fifth and largest of the devices that he built in different places at different times. It has both scientific and religious significance and is so accurate that it is still used to predict local weather.

This observatory has fourteen devices that were designed to measure and aid the prediction of a number of scientific processes such as measuring time, predicting eclipses, studying the movement of planets across the skies, and other astronomical calculations.

The largest of these instruments is the Samrat Yantra is considered to be the world’s largest sundial. It is 27 metres (90ft) in height and is a sun dial that is accurate to an incredible two seconds. Design as well as function was an important element in the construction of the devices and sometimes markings which look to be purely decorative do actually have scientific relevance.

Built of local stone and marble, each instrument carries an astronomical scale, generally marked on the marble inner lining; bronze tablets, all extraordinarily accurate, were also employed. Jai Singh had the choice of constructing the observatory either with metal instruments or masonry instruments. The metal instruments, constructed according to the texts of the Islamic school of astronomy, did not measure up to Jai Singh’s expectations. He discarded them in favour of the instruments of stone and masonry that he himself designed.

As well as taking astronomical calculations, some of the implements are used for astrological purposes also. For instance, the Dhruva Yantra is used to locate the position of 12 Zodiac signs and also the Pole Star at night. The double-bowl structure which is called the Jai Prakash Yantra is used to locate the positions of celestial bodies during both day and night.

The Jantar Mantar represents an outstanding example of the coming together of observation of the universe, society and beliefs of the time and bears witness to very ancient cosmological, astronomical and scientific traditions.

Jaipur is, with Delhi and Agra, one of the three most visited cities in India. The city was once at the centre of the Mughal Empire and is endowed with an age old charm and attractions which should delight any visitor.

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