Immediately south of the City Palace lies the remarkable Jantar Mantar, a large grassy enclosure containing eighteen huge stone astronomical measuring devices constructed between 1728 and 1734 at the behest of Jai Singh, who invented many of them himself. Their strange, abstract shapes lend the whole place the look of a weird futuristic sculpture park. The Jantar Mantar is one of five identically named observatories created by the star-crazed Jai Singh across north India, including the well-known example in Delhi, though his motivation was astrological rather than astronomical.
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It’s a very good idea to pay for the services of a guide to explain the workings of the observatory, which was able to identify the position and movement of stars and planets, tell the time and even predict the intensity of the monsoon. Probably the most impressive of the observatory’s constructions is the 27m-high sundial, the Samrat Yantra, which can calculate the time to within two seconds. A more original device, the Jaiprakash Yantra, consists of two hemispheres laid in the ground, each composed of six curving marble slabs with a suspended ring in the centre, whose shadow marks the day, time and zodiac symbol – vital for calculating auspicious days for marriage.
Astronomical Instruments at Jantar Mantar © Travelview / Shutterstock
There are five cities that are home to each Jantar Mantar; New Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi. Opening times vary for each site so you will need to check the times on the official websites before visiting. The Jantar Mantar is opening from 9 am to 4:30 pm in Jaipur.
History of Jantar Mantar
Jai Singh II, born in 1688, descended the throne at just 12 years old after his Father died. The young king was highly intelligent and eager to learn and actually founded Jaipur, in which he is responsible for much of its architecture. In the early 1700s, Jai Singh met Pandit Jagannatha Samrat who became his chief advisor in astronomy and heavily influenced the Jantar Mantar. The two became close friends until Jai Singh's death in 1743.
Jai Singh had a keen interest in the stars and planets and enjoyed exploring them, as Hinduism focuses on their changing alignments to make personal decisions, many of his people were also eager and encouraged his interests. At this point, telescopes had been used for 100 years however Jai wanted to use ancient methods. Together with Pandit, they improved the traditional tables that indicate the changing positions of the stars and created the Jantar Mantar.
Meaning of Jantar Mantar
The name Jantar Mantar translates more or less to Calculation Instrument and the Samrat Yantra that belongs to Jaipur translates similarly to Supreme Instrument, a name given in the 18th century that still holds it meaning today as the Samrat Yantra is deemed the world's largest sundial - quite supreme!
Featured Image, Jantar Mantar © Ferrantraite / Shutterstock