The capital of India, Delhi, is quite a famous tourist destination because of the innumerable historical monuments it has. Among so many, one such notable astronomical observatory is the Jantar Mantar.
Known to be the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a trip to Delhi without visiting this scientific advancement of ancient India is known to be incomplete. The name Jantar Mantar is a colloquial term in which Jantar means instruments and Mantar means formulae.
History of Jantar Mantar Delhi
Located in the Parliament Street, Jantar Mantar Delhi was built by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1724 that forms a collection of the five such observatories in Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura.
The love of astronomy of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh made him come up with a purpose of building this observatory as in those days the astronomical instruments were incapable of providing correct observations.
He erected this building according to the instructions of Muhammad Shah. The observatory is built of brick, rubble and then has been plastered with lime.
The apparatus seen here are in close connection with Egypt’s Ptolemaic astronomy that follows the classical celestial coordinates to track the placement of heavenly bodies namely the horizon and zenith local system, the equatorial system, and the ecliptic system.
The Jantar Mantar history says that since King Sawai Jai Singh was quite a consummate scholar who was entrusted the responsibility of rectifying and noting down the data available on the movement of celestial bodies by emperor Muhammad Shah.
His other motive was to redefine the ancient Islamic Zij tables to determine the exact hour of the day. He also wanted to make a calendar that would reflect the astrological predictions for man and social benefits overall.
This could be achieved through the construction of the Jantar Mantar and the inception of this observatory took place in the year 1724. Other observatories were also constructed in Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura.
Jantar Mantar Architectural Style
The Jantar Mantar consists of 13 architectural astronomical instruments that were constructed by the great scholar Maharaja Jai Singh II in the year of 1724 that was entrusted with this responsibility by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah for revising the calendar and astronomical tables.
The impetus of the observatory was to collate the astronomical table so that the accurate movements of the sun, moon, and planets could be predicted.
There are four instruments within the observatory of Jantar Mantar namely: the Samrat Yantra, Ram Yantra, Jayaprakash and the Mishra Yantras.
The Samrat Yantra is believed to be the largest sundial in the world that is around 27 meters high. This installation can tell the exact time with great precision. Because of its gigantic size, the shadow can be seen moving at the rate of about 6 centimeters per minute.
The Jayaprakash Yantra consists of hollow hemispheres with markings on its concave sides. This instrument is used to observe the position of the sun and other heavenly bodies. It acts as a check on the observatory instruments that has been divided into two identical parts so that they work every hour alternatively.
The Ram Yantra consists of two large cylindrical structures which are used to measure the farthest distance and the altitude of stars based on the latitude and longitude of the earth.
Jantar Mantar Delhi Timings
The perfect time to visit Jantar Mantar are the months of September to March as the weather this time stays quite pleasant. The Jantar Mantar timings are 6 AM and close at 6 PM.
It is open on all days of the week with an entry fee of Rs. 15 per person for Indian citizens and Rs.200 per person for foreigners.
Jantar Mantar Nearest Metro Station
Being located at the heart of the city, Jantar Mantar is easily accessible road and metro rail. However, the nearest metro station of Jantar Mantar is the Patel Chowk and Rajeev Chowk.
Things to See in Jantar Mantar Delhi
The Jantar Mantar New Delhi consists of thirteen architectural astronomical instruments. But among these the most noticeable ones are the Ram Yantra, Mishra Yantra, Samrat Yantra, and the Jai Prakash Yantra. Let us have a close look at these structures through the description given below.
Also known as the ‘Supreme Instrument’, the Samrat Yantra is an equinoctial sundial that is of gigantic size. This structure helps to measure time at a precision that has never been seen or achieved before.
The vital parts of this structure are the gnomon, a triangular wall that has its hypotenuse parallel to the earth’s axis and a pair of quadrants on either side that is parallel to the plane of the equator.
When the sky is clear and the sun passes from the east to west direction, the shadow of gnomon falls on the scale of the quadrant to tell the local time.
As a sundial is believed to give the perfect time for a particular locality only, a formula to obtain standard time is used to compensate the longitude difference between the instrument location and its time zone.
Also, the daily adjustment needed in predicting the time should be made accordingly by closely keeping into consideration the earth’s orbit around the sun.
These sundials were believed to provide the precise time measurements by a special technique of reading the shadow of the gnomon. But the common criticism faced by Samrat Yantra is that the dubious precision is provided because of the distance of the edge of the gnomon from the quadrant scale as it has a soft edge.
This leads to the inference that although the surface of the quadrant is inscribed with fine markings to indicate the second time intervals, the soft edge of the shadow spans from 6-7 marks which leads to only an estimation of the center of the shadow.
Well, a solution can be provided here by holding a thin object like a twig to the edge of the shadow and about a centimeter above the quadrant surface. When the twig is moved into and out of the shadow, this helps in giving the exact indication of the center of the shadow.
This is known to be Jai Singh’s most complex instrument as it is based on concepts that date back to the early 300 BC. This era witnessed the Grecko Babylonian astronomer Berosus making the hemispherical sundial.
There are many hemispherical sundials at the observatories found in Nanking, China and in some European churches too. But the one in Jantar Mantar Delhi is believed to be one of the most complex and versatile than any other found around the world.
The Jai Prakash is a bowl-shaped instrument that is partly above and partly below the ground level. The diameter of the rim is 27 feet where the interior sector is divided into segments with recessed steps that provide observation for the viewers.
There is a taut cross wire tied to the level of the rim to hold a metal plate with a circular opening directly placed over the center of the bowl. This plate serves as an observing medium during the night time that helps to cast an identifiable shadow on the interior of the bowl for solar observations.
The surfaces of the Jai Prakash are engraved with marks that co-relate to the azimuth-altitude, or horizon and equatorial coordinate systems to describe the exact position of the celestial objects.
In fact, the ‘doctrine of the sphere’ is rightfully demonstrated by the Jai Prakash Yantra of Delhi as it shows the apparent movement of the sun and is a great structure to add educational value to the field of astronomy. The marble slabs in it are also introduced to recognize the zodiac symbols.
This consists of cylindrical circles that face the sky and has a pillar or pole at its center. The pillars are of equal height and also have a radius equal to the structure.
The floors and the interiors have inscriptions that indicate the angles of the altitude and the azimuth. This structure is used to measure the position of a celestial object with the help of the top of the central pillar and the position on the floor that helps to complete the alignment.
During the day, the sun’s position comes directly at the place where the shadow of the pillar top falls on the floor or wall. At night time, when the star or planet gets aligned with the top of the pillar and interpolates that point on the floor or wall, the alignment gets completed especially with the help of a sighting guide.
The floor of the Rama Yantra is on a raised platform at nearly about chest height that is arranged on multiple sectors with open kind of spaces between them. This helps to get a space for the observer to comfortably see upwards from the inscribed surface.
The instrument shows its precision at the intersection of the floor and wall that corresponds to an altitude that is at an angle of 45 degrees.
The markings here are at the widest that help to get an accuracy of +/-1 of arc. For altitude readings that are greater than 45 degrees, the accuracy dissolves and comes to +/-1 degree near the base of the pillar.
The Daksinottara Bhitti or the Misra Yantra is known to be the smallest instrument of the Delhi observatory. This is located on the east facing a wall of the Misra complex which is a semicircular arch or more clearly, a double arc jointed at the top.
The arcs have a radius of 1.6m and 1.66m respectively. These two arcs have a slight difference in their radii which hinders them meeting at the top. The scale of the instrument is 2.5cm wide with its zero marks at the top. The quadrants placed at either side of the zero have 15 main divisions.
The left quadrant has been graduated with 6 parts. Most of the divisions are 2.8cm wide with variations as much as 2.5mm. Devanagari script has been used in labeling the divisions.
In order to measure the altitude of the midday sun with this instrument, a pin or rod needs to be held vertically above the scale so that the shadow of the pinfalls over the fixed style at the center. This part of the shadow that falls on the scale indicated the zenith distance of the sun.
Similarly, the zenith distance of the moon can be determined in the process mentioned above but only if the moon is bright enough. With this instrument, the procedure for measuring the planet and star’s altitude is not quite possible because the instrument is too close to the ground to help to get an easy reading.
That is why many feel that this instrument was never quite used for any serious reading. The Misra Yantra has the following instruments included in it.
Jantar Mantar New Delhi has been featuring on projects to get to know a lot about the observatories and the pre-telescope sky observation. So, the next time you are in Delhi, do visit this astronomical marvel to get an idea of the magnificence of work and thought of people of the past era.
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