There is enough said about how fascinating it is to visit the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur but nothing prepared me for the absolutely amazing and awe-filled experience that this UNESCO Heritage site offered. Amazing – for the instruments still work with absolute precision and awe for the science and knowledge that went into building this centuries ago. So here is me, sharing this thrilling experience of Jantar Mantar with you .
Jantar is derived from the word that means instruments while Mantar means formula. Jantar Mantar is an ancient scientific astronomical observatory which relies on the movement of the Sun and heavenly bodies to predict time, astronomical calendars and lunar charts. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, this heritage site consists of 5 major instruments that were used by the royal astrologers and time-keepers. The precision with which these instruments were made makes you wonder how advanced and learned was the civilization back then – so much so that even with our modern time keeping, you cannot refute the accuracy of these instruments. So, sit upright and let’s go through these instruments to understand why I am so awe-struck.
) Samrat Yantra – the solar clock
This instrument gives you the time of the day based on the shadow formed by the sun. The curved marble surface is marked with lines denoting hours, minutes and degrees. There are two such instruments – the small Samrat Yantra as shown above and a larger version of the same. The shadow of the center projected line falls on the right hand marble slab in the first half of the day and post noon, shifts to the other side. The center is at right angles to the ground and is generally termed as gnomon.
Now prepare to be amazed. The time units on this are well marked with the main large marking being the hour, which is further divided into 15 minutes. Each of the 15 minutes is calibrated into five minutes, further broken to minutes and then 20 seconds.
At the time I took this picture, the shadow was on 11:34. On that day, with the Sun’s position, we needed to add 12 minutes to our time, giving us the time of 11.46. And guess what????? That was exactly, the time on our wrist watch. To add further proof, the picture that you see here has recorded the same time in its camera properties. Mindblowing, right?
The time correction in minutes changes by the day and is generally displayed on a board at the entrance. To discover this magic on your own, remember to take a note of this time correction.
The Large Samrat Yantra is the biggest Sundial in the world and is the center piece of this entire observatory. It is over 27 meters in height and works on the same principle as its smaller model, except that this is even more accurate, to a point of 2 seconds as against the smaller Samrat Yantra where the smallest division on its scale at 20 seconds. The center of the gnomon is a flight of steps that lead right upto the highest point of this observatory.
It is said that in the olden days, during Guru Purnima, the Royal astrologers would climb up and hang a white flag. Based on the winds and the incline of the Sun, they would predict the monsoons that year. I would have loved to climb and take a view from atop- and yes, capture it for you – but sadly, it is not allowed.:-(
2) Jai Prakash Yantra – guess the zodiac month
Imagine the Earth cut into two hemisphere and each hemisphere is set into a depression. This is exactly how this instrument looks. The hemisphere is marked with some lines representing latitude and longitude of the Earth, along with the zodiac signs on it. There is a small metal sheet suspended over it with a set of wires. Based on the Sun’s position, the metal sheet casts a shadow on the depression. Wherever the shadow appears, it indicates the zodiac sign at that point in time. The other markings are read for further calculations.
I visited this on the 18th of October, and well, guess where the Sun cast its Shadow? Clue: Linda Goodman would have been proven right!
3) Rashivalyas Yantra – the zodiac machine
This is a set of 12 instruments- each one representing a zodiac sign or Rashi. The manner in which they are placed and angled had been calculated to ensure that the Sun’s rays falls only on one instrument, where it would cast a shadow- indicating the Sun Sign at that time of the year.
Based on the zodiac month indicated by the Jai Prakash Yantra (one that I have marked as 2), the Royal astrologers approached only that zodiac instrument in the Rashivalyas Yantra to calculate the exact angle of the stars and the Sun on a particular day and time. The arcs of the instrument were caliberated with marks that represent the angle of that Zodiac constellation in the sky.
Note the Shadow formed in the picture. This was used as a pointer to the angle that was duly noted down by the Royal astrologers for their horoscopes.
4) Yantra Raj – know where your stars are aligned
These are a set of metal discs- now hung separately but could be used one over the other. The entire disc is marked with various planets on a circle. Here is a close up of the marking on the disc.
If you notice, there is a small hole in the centre of the plate. This is where a telescopic pipe was inserted. Based on the angle of the constellation, which was determined by the Rashivalyas Yantra, the disc was rotated to that angle and the planetary conditions were observed in the night sky to see their alignment for the lunar calendars and horoscopes.
5) Ram Yantra – how high is the Sun today?
Ram Yantra is a set of 2 complimentary models as seen in the picture above. Don’t they resemble the Stonehenge? 😉
Inside the instrument is a long perpendicular rod at the center while around the same are circular discs calibrated with markings. Depending on the shadow cast by the sun on these markings, one could figure the altitude of the Sun. The instrument gives you a direct reading of the same. Fascinating right?
And if you did not want to get into such complicated calculations, all you have to do is head to the simplest instrument called the Narivalya Yantra – a simple dial – one side of it for the Winters and one for the Summers.
This behaves like a normal clock that we are used to, wherein the needle formed by the shadow of the iron rod in the centre, falls on the time. Simple enough, right?
What is amazing is that these instruments are still accurate. Imagine the science and math that went into getting them up. Just so that they were constructed accurately and the design was not lost in any war or natural disaster, they were actually pro-typed and tested. The small models of each of these major instruments can still be seen in the premises.
So, if you are planning a trip to Rajasthan, you must definitely add Jantar Mantar as a definite thing to do in Jaipur. Your trip to Jaipur would be incomplete without it.
Getting to Jantar Mantar:
Jantar Mantar is quite accessible and central to Jaipur. You can either hire a Tuk Tuk or Rickshaw to reach the same. There are several local buses that will drop you here too.
Check out my general travel tips for Rajasthan here. Do make a note of my suggestions on hiring guides and local transport.
The approved guide charges are displayed at the Entrance. There is an audio guide available in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.
The adult ticket costs you INR 55 if you are Indian and INR 200 if you are a foreign national. Students and Children are at concessional rates.
Taking a composite ticket that allows you access to 5 – 6 other monuments like the Hawa Mahal, Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh, Sisodia Gardens and Albert Hall over the next two days. This would cost you INR 300 if you are an Indian or INR 1000 if you are a foreign national.
Cameras are charged extra.
Jantar Mantar is open from 9am to 5pm on all days.