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What did the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory instruments in Jaipur actually do?

Some of the most fascinating historical buildings in India are the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories, and I went to the one in Jaipur to discover what these intriguing instruments were actually used for.

Jantar means instruments and Mantar means calculation and the one in Jaipur is a UNESCO-listed building. There were also Jantar Mantar observatories built at UjjainVaranasi, Mathura and Delhi. They all still exist except the one in Mathura.

There is a wealth of budget accomodation in Jaipur if you’re coming here and we stayed at Boby Mansion which was a lovely guesthouse. Before I changed guesthouses in Jaipur, I had my worst ever hostel experience in 70 countries at Lazy Mozo Backpackers. Be sure to check hotel reviews before you book by clicking on the Tripadvisor link below:



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Jaipur is one of North India’s most fascinating cities so if you’re planning on going then find out why it was my favourite part of the Golden Triangle and whether the Raj Mandir is world’s most beautiful cinema?

It costs 200 rupees to visit Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar as a foreigner or it can be visited as part of a combined ticket which is ₹1000 for a foreigner, valid for two days and gives you entry to the Amber Fort, Central Museum, Hawa Mahal, the Isarlat tower and the Narhargarh Fort.

Map of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India
Map of Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India

Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar was built in the early 18th century and it is made up of twenty fixed instruments, some of which I’m going to talk about. Some of these are the largest of their type ever built. The reason they came about is that Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II commissioned them towards the end of the Mughal period.

The prince wanted his observatories to be meeting points for scientific cultures, that would further cosmology with its astrological forecasting but also speak to both politics and religion.

Dakshinottara Bhitti, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Dakshinottara Bhitti, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Jantar Mantar uses Ptolemaic positional astronomy which is a geocentric model used by many older civilizations to measure time. It is incorrect as it assumes that the sun, moon, stars and planets all orbit the Earth. One of the first structures you’ll see is the Dakshinottara Bhitti which is a sundial near the entrance.

Samrat Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Samrat Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Samrat Yantra, aka the ‘Supreme Instrument’ is a massive equinoctial sundial, in fact, it is the world’s biggest. The point of it is to measure time with more precision than your average sundial as it can measure time with a two-second degree of accuracy.

Rasivalayas Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Rasivalayas Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Rasivalayas Yantra is made up of the 12 signs of the zodiac and is very popular with tourists taking selfies. They are meant to measure the latitude and longitude of celestial objects so they read time by the constellations and not the sun. The twelve instruments actually work together to track an entire elliptic curve of the year.

Jai Prakash, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Jai Prakash, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Jai Prakash is thought to be the most elaborate and complex instrument here and based on the early concepts of hemispherical sundials dating to as early as 300 B.C. There is also the smaller Kappala Yantra which also tracks the sun’s movement. You use the place where the shadow falls to track the sun.

Rama Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Rama Yantra, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

The Rama Yantra is made up of two cylindrical structures, with open ceilings and a pillar or pole at the centre. The pillar and walls are equal height, and that equals the radius of the structure. The measurements on the floor and walls have markings to show the angles of altitude. The Rama Yantras were only constructed at the Jaipur and Delhi observatories.

Jantar Mantar was one of my favourite places in Jaipur and in North India in general as I love intriguing sights, I also thought the Hawa Mahal was pretty awesome as well. I recommend Jaipur in general as you don’t have the extreme pollution problems of Delhi and Agra.

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Have you been to any of the Jantar Mantars? What did you think of Jaipur? Did you see the whole Golden Triangle? Let me know in the comments below!



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