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Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observatory with masonary instruments, built in 1724 by Jai Singh, the mathematician and astronomer king. The Samrat and Yantra supreme instrument, the largest structure shaped like a right-angled triangle, is actually a huge sun-dial; the other five instruments are intended to show the movements of the sun, moon etc.

At first sight, the Jantar Mantar appears like a gallery of modern art. It is, however, an observatory. Sawai Jia Singh II of Jaipur (1699-1743), a keen astronomer and a noble in the Mughal court, was dissatisfied by the errors of brass and metal astronomical instruments. Under patronage from the emperor, he set on himself the task of correcting the existing astronomical tables and updating the almanac with more reliable instruments.

It is dominated by a huge sundial known as Samrat Yantra, meant to measure the time of the day accurate to within half a second and the declination of the sun and other heavenly bodies. Jai Singh himself designed this yantra. Other yantras were also meant for the study of heavenly bodies, plotting their course and predicting eclipses. The two pillars on the southwest of Mishra Yantra are meant to determine the shortest and longest days of the year. Interestingly, in December one pillar completely covers the other with its shadow while in June it does not cast any such shadow at all. 

The Jantar Mantars may have fallen into disuse but they remain an integral part of India's scientific heritage. The Jantar Mantar in Delhi is often projected in travel books, brochures, on postage stamps and was the logo of the 1982 Asian Games. The Jantar Mantar shows that the spirit of scientific enquiry was not dead in India and would have yielded rich results if only an opportunity had been given to it to fructify. The Jantar Mantar on the Parliament Street remains one of the most intriguing structures of the capital, one that explodes in a burst of questions in the mind of the inquisitive tourist