In 2010, Jaipur’s astronomical experiment ground, Jantar Mantar, with what many referred as the “world’s largest sundial” was inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage. The world’s largest sundial Vrihat Samrat Yantra was said to provide time with an accuracy of 2 seconds. Built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734 as one of the five Jantar Mantars (Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain, Mathura) in India, Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar was used to observe the movement of the sun, moon and planets, and compile astronomical tables.
We are no astronomical experts, but were curious to check out the 18th century observatory. Even without any astronomical knowledge, the splendid instruments can be appreciated purely for their physical beauty and historic values. From Amber Fort, it took us a while to bargain with different tuk tuk driver to take us back with the same price that we paid in the morning. In Jaipur, we get off at the entrance of Jantar Mantar, directly across the street from the City Palace.
The moment we entered the compound, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the huge sundial, Vrihat Samrat Yantra.
Right by the entrance, we started from something much smaller, the Unnatamsa Yantra, an instrument to measure the altitude of celestial bodies.
After several smaller instruments, we arrived at the biggest of them all, the Vrihat Samrat Yantra.
With 27m (88 ft) in height, Vrihat Samrat Yantra literally means the “king of all instruments”.
Its shadow moves visibly 1mm per second. Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur.
Rashi Valaya Yantra is comprised of twelve gnomon dial to measure ecliptic coordinates of stars and planets.
They were also used to measure the coordinates of the 12 constellations.
A small piece of artwork indicates the corresponding constellation.
All instruments were made of stone and marble, with astronomical scale marked on a marble lining.
It must be delightful to witness the gentle movement of shadows across the astronomical scale.
Planet study was also a popular subject at Jantar Mantar.
The last instrument we encountered was Jai Prakash Yantra.
Jai Prakash Yantra is consisted of two bowl shaped marble slabs with inverted map of the sky. it allows astronomers to move inside the slab to measure altitudes, azimuths, hour angles of celestial bodies.
The nearby Kapali Yantra is also consited of two sunken bowls with a map of the heaven carved on the bowl.