The Jantar Mantar was built in 1724 by Sawai Jai Singh, on land owned by his great grandfather Mizra Raja Jai Singh of Amer. It is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments (or observatory), one of five such collections of instruments he constructed across India. The best preserved example is the Jantar Mahal in Jaipur.
Having inherited the land around Amer in 1699 at the tender age of thirteen, Sawai Jai Singh went on to build the city of Jaipur, and by all accounts he was obsessed by astronomy.
The Jantar Mantar has to be one of more unusual tourist attractions in Delhi, it’s a little like seeing a crazy golf course for giants ! But because it is so unusual, it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in the city.
There are four types of instruments at the Jantar Mantar.
Also known as the ‘supreme instrument’, this is the largest and most dominant instrument in the complex. It is also perhaps the easiest to understand, as effectively it’s one huge sundial.
The time of day can be read off of the curved quadrants below the gnomon (the triangular part of the sundial)
This is thought to have been built by Madhu Singh, Jai Singh’s son, as his personal papers that still exist to this day make no mention of it.
Misra means ‘mixed’, as this instrument was capable of making a number of different observations, including the altitudes of celestial bodies at the meridien.
These are a pair of identical dissected hemispheres, one the reverse of the other. This enabled observers to measure the position of the sun (by ways that I’m afraid are a little beyond me).
This is a side view, access to view the top of these hemispheres is no longer possible, but you can see what they look at from the examples in Jaipur.
For me this was the most interesting set of instruments, primarily because they were interesting to photograph. The Ram Yantra consists of two complementary structures, used for recording vertical and horizontal angles.
The height of both the walls and the central pillar is exactly equal to the distance from inside the wall to the edge of the pillar. There would have once been sighting bars incorporated into the structure which are now missing.
If you have seen the Jantar Mahal in Jaipur then the Jantar Mantar in Delhi might come as bit of a disappointment. Many of these buildings here were neglected and seriously damaged during the late 18th century, and much of the original marble removed. Restoration efforts occurred in 1852 and again in 1910, both financed by the Maharajas of Jaipur, and further efforts continue to this day to try and stabilise and preserve these structures.
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