A Walk Around Jantar Mantar

The Jantar Mantar is an open-air observatory, a collection of astronomical instruments built by Sawai Jai Singh II in the early eighteenth century. He constructed it through a royal sanction of the Mughal ruler at the time, Muhammed Shah ‘Rangeela’. Called the Yantra Mantra (‘Instruments and Formuale’) originally, the observatory was sited on flat ground free of trees to ensure that no shadows obstructed the use of the instruments. The structures are unrelated to each other and their arrangement is such that none of the instruments interfere with the readings of another. Jai Singh II was a student of astronomical works of India and Europe and discovered that astronomical tables and instruments in use at the time were inaccurate. The Jantar Mantar rectified the inaccuracy through its scale and its permanence, the instruments being fixed on the ground. To reaffirm the readings in Delhi, he constructed four more observatories, one each at Mathura, Ujjain, Benaras, and Jaipur. The initial construction here was of the Samrat Yantra, Jai Prakash Yantra, Ram Yantra, and the Shashthamsa Yantra. While the Samrat Yantra was reproduced in the other observatories, the last three are specific to Delhi and Jaipur. In the eighteenth century, the Jantar Mantar fell prey to various kings and raiders who attacked Delhi for its riches. Repairs to the instruments has been carried out a number of times since their construction, twice by the royal family of Jaipur in 1852 and 1910. The instruments now painted in red were originally covered in limestone plaster, with white plaster being used to mark the scales. The temple of Bal Bhairav that today lies just outside the eastern wall was once within the complex, perhaps close to the original entrance to the Jantar Mantar Complex.

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