Ever wondered How Jantar Mantar got its name? Well, the name is derived from Yantra, instrument, and Mantra, for formula or, in this context, calculation. Therefore, Jantar Mantar literally means - calculation instrument. Jantar Mantar is colloquially equated with the magical practices where Mantar refers to the incantation (or spell) and Jantar Mantar refers to questionable magical arts (astrology falling into such arts).The yantras have evocative names like, samrat yantra, jai prakash, ram yantra and niyati chakra; each of which are used to for various astronomical calculations. The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. So today, let us have a look at one such Yantra Mantra complex called the Jantar Mantar, which is situated in Jaipur.
The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. It is modelled after the one that he had built for him at the Mughal capital of Delhi. He had constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these. It has been inscribed on the World Heritage List as an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period. Early restoration work was undertaken under the supervision of Major Arthur Garrett, a keen amateur astronomer, during his appointment as Assistant State Engineer for the Jaipur District. This observatory has religious significance, since ancient Indian astronomers were also Jyotisa masters.
The observatory consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides. Each is a fixed and focused tool. The Samrat Yantra, the largest instrument, is 90 feet (27 m) high, its shadow carefully plotted to tell the time of day. Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur. The Hindu chhatri (small cupola) on top is used as a platform for announcing eclipses and the arrival of monsoons.
Built from 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. Thoroughly restored in 1901, the Jantar Mantar was declared a national monument in 1948. An excursion through Jai Singh s Jantar is a unique experience of walking through solid geometry and encountering a collective astronomical system designed to probe the heavens.
The instruments are in most cases huge structures. The scale to which they have been built has been alleged to increase their accuracy. However, the penumbra of the sun can be as wide as 30 mm, making the 1mm increments of the Samrat Yantra sundial devoid of any practical significance. Additionally, the masons constructing the instruments had insufficient experience with construction of this scale, and subsidence of the foundations has subsequently misaligned them. The samrat yantra, for instance, which is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra (The Supreme Instrument) is the world s largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Its shadow moves visibly at 1 mm per second, or roughly a hand s breadth (6 cm) every minute, which can be a profound experience.
Today the observatory is a popular tourist attraction. However, local astronomers still use it to predict the weather for farmers, although their authority is becoming increasingly questionable. Students of astronomy and Vedic astrology are required to take some of their lessons at the observatory, and it can be said that the observatory is the single most representative work of Vedic thought that still survives, apart from the texts. Many of the smaller instruments display remarkable innovation in architectural design and its relation to function, for instance - the Ram Yantra.
The Jantar Mantar consists of 13 architectural astronomy instruments. The site is one of five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, from 1724 onwards, as he was given by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah the task of revising the calendar and astronomical tables. There is a plaque fixed on one of the structures in the Jantar Mantar observatory in New Delhi that was placed there in 1910 mistakenly dating the construction of the complex to the year 1710. Later research, though, suggests 1724 as the actual year of construction. The primary purpose of the observatory was to compile astronomical tables, and to predict the times and movements of the sun, moon and planets. Some of these purposes nowadays would be classified as astronomy.
Many people believe in astronomy, while many don’t. But whichever category you fall in, if you love history, then this place is definitely made for you. Do visit the place in case you are in Jaipur and let it amaze you.