When looking around from the top floor of Hawa Mahal, I noticed a strange tower-like structure towards the west: a small observation deck, with a slanting wall below it. I immediately realized that I was looking at the biggest sundial of the world, part of Jantar Mantar, to where I headed directly after finishing my exploration of the Palace of Breeze. Walking around the grounds of Jantar Mantar (calculating instrument) feels like entering a totally different world, especially in the middle of Jaipur. Outside: the struggle for survival, the noise of rickshaws and cars, the chaos of thousands of people roaming the streets - where inside, you look at astronomical instruments built by maharajah Sawai Jai Singh between 1724 and 1730.
After studying the map of Jantar Mantar, I walk around the grounds, read the signs next to all the instruments to know a little what I am seeing, trying to understand the words about these age-old instruments to measure time, distance of celestial bodies, latitude and longitude. Instruments built on a large scale which, Jai Singh believed, would improve accuracy and provide for precise measurement for a long future. I come to the Samrat Yantra, the largest sundial of the world, capable of measuring time with an accuracy of two seconds even now, almost 200 years after its construction, thus proving the case of Jai Singh. What a pity that access is blocked: like all the other instruments, visitors are not allowed to climb the gnomon (the ramp that casts the shadow to measure time) instruments.
Close to Samrat Yantra, I see a small building which is not an instrument, but instead shows a movie to explain the history and working of the instruments of Jantar Mantar. With a little more background, I now continue to explore the grounds, walk past the twelve unique instruments related to the signs of the zodiac. Right next to them, I find the two hemispherical instruments to measure time, which are sunken in the ground: the JaiPrakash Yantra, supposedly the most ingenuous instruments devised by Jai Singh to measure time. A metal line hanging over the two hemispheres projects a line on the bowl below. A little further, I find Laghu Samrat Yantra, a smaller version of the largest sundial of the world, with a little lower accuracy. Then, I visit Great Ram Yantra, see the metal circles of Chakra Yantra, and several other instruments, before I reach the exit, still trying to make sense of the sophisticated and specialized instruments that I have just seen.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Jantar Mantar (India). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Jantar Mantar. Read more about this site.