Usually when you think of Jaipur, Rajasthan, some of the first things to come to mind are the pink and red sandstone walls, palaces, and other architectural gems that make up the thriving Pink City. You may have Hawa Mahal and the City Palace on your list of sites to see, but please add Jantar Mantar Observatory to your list as well.
This aesthetically pleasing UNESCO World Heritage Site, being in such close proximity to the City Palace and Hawa Mahal, presents a wonderful collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments, as well as the world’s largest sundial made of stone!
Ancient versus modern technology
Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh completed Jantar Mantar in 1739. Not only will your eyes feast upon the magnificent architectural design, but you’ll discover many instruments made of brass and stone that were originally built by using astronomy as well as the design principles from the ancient Sanskrit texts.
In fact, Jantar Mantar’s name derives from the Sanskrit term yantra (यात्रा), meaning “instrument”, or “machine” and mantrana (मंत्रणा), meaning “consult”, or “to calculate”. It’s really interesting to see these items in comparison to the technology we use today when it comes to forecasting the weather, calculating time, and even understanding the classification of the zodiac signs.
Although this monument was damaged during the 19th century, some restoration has been done, and you are still able to see the original instruments that were placed here.
The world's largest sundial is here!
The observation deck was built using local stone and marble, and is considered to be the world’s largest sundial, known as Vrihat Samrat Yantra (great king of instruments), and it can be seen from the rooftops of many buildings, including Hawa Mahal, from afar.
It almost resembles a simple staircase when you are looking at it from afar; standing at 88 feet (27 meters) high. Though, I must tell you, it is even more spectacular up close. The shadow it casts, visibly moving at 1 mm per second, can predict the time with an accuracy within two seconds of the local time. You’ll want to stick around to watch as the shadow moves slowly, as it is a real profound experience.
Astronomy and astrology play major roles in lives
There are also many other instruments to see, such as the Chakra Yantra, which is pretty neat because it uses a gnomon (Greek for ‘one that knows or examines’) to cast a shadow, predicting the angular distance of the Sun four times a day. You are sure to be intrigued by the depth of the scientific knowledge our ancestors held.
Not only this, but these tools were extremely important during the ancient times, as this was the only way to tell the time and date, along with delving deeper into the Cosmos to learn about astronomy as well as astrology.
You may be familiar with Western Astrology (your sun sign), but Vedic Astrology (your moon sign) is a major part of life in India. Some couples in India will not even be married until it is deemed fit - according to the position of the planets and stars.
Opening hours and entrance fees
Jantar Mantar is open daily from 9am until 4:30pm, and is an excellent site to visit with your family and friends. The cost for foreign tourists is 200 INR (3.00 USD), though if you are a foreign student the cost is only 100 INR (1.50 USD). For Indian citizens, the cost of entry is 40 INR (0.60 USD), and for Indian students you will only need to pay 15 INR (0.23 USD).
I do recommend that you hire a tour guide, as it’s pretty difficult to understand exactly what you’re looking at without one. Prices for a private tour vary, depending on the sites you would like to see. It is highly advisable that you plan your visit during the peak season, which is from October to March.
From April to September the temperature is usually at a steady 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), however, it can climb to be a scorching high of 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). Afterwards, beat the heat by visiting one of the many nearby restaurants for an ice cold beverage, and indulge in a lovely vegetarian meal.
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