Friday, December 11, 2009

The Pink City of Jaipur

What time is it? If you are in Jaipur, head over to the Jantar Mantar for the answer.

Jantar Mantar Observatory Zodiac instruments
Jantar (instrument) Mantar (calculation) is a complex of astronomical measuring tools

Jantar Mantar is the largest of five ancient Indian observatories, completed in 1734. These will constructed under orders from Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II. This king accomplished so many things in his thirty-year rule that his title of maharaja, or grand king, was modified by "sawai", which is Hindi for one and one quarter. The massive astronomical devices at Jantar Mantar were used mostly for religious purposes: marking times of the year for Muslim and Hindu festivals. Jai Singh was a religious astronomer himself and strove for accuracy in timing important decisions regarding politics with heavenly events, for the gods' favorable assistance.

Samrat Yantra

At a height of nearly thirty meters, the shadow of Samrat Yantra (supreme device) moves about one milimeter per second across its dial, giving time accurate to two seconds. It would be more accurate, but the builders misaligned the instrument, most likely due constructing something this large without proper tools for precision.

Jantar Mantar Observatory
Samrat Yantra is the world's largest sundial

Jai Prakash Yantra

Twin bowls, each over five meters in diameter, were constructed from metal with marble covers. These metal-marble plates could be removed so people could enter the bowls to take readings. An astronomer would enter the bowl where a slab was removed and use a sighting device to find celestial positions of stars. Sunlight only hits the center of the bowl during the vernal equinox.

Jai Prakash Yantra, Jantar Mantar Observatory
Jai Prakash Yantra

Jai Prakash Yantra
Jai Prakash Yantra

Jai Prakash Yantra, Jantar Mantar Observatory
People in the photo for scale perspective


The Rashivalaya Yantras are a group of devices for tracking key stars in zodiac constellations. Astrology was equally important to the astronomers at Jantar Mantar.

Rashivalaya Yantra (Zodiac circle instrument)
Steps and dial of one constellation tracker

Scorpio within the Rashivalaya Yantras, still under restoration
Some of the instruments are being restored

Other sites in Jaipur

Check out the Amer Fort, which has a mix of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Get there early in the morning (unlike us), so you can take an elephant ride to the top of the hill.

Amer Fort
Amer Fort, once the rulers' palace

The Jal Mahal is a five-storied palace of red sandstone. I believe it is being converted into a hotel at the present time. It contains Bengali construction elements, setting it apart for all other area buildings.

Jaipur's Jal Mahal (Water Palace)
Most of Jal Mahal's floors are below the water line

At Jaigarh Fort, you can view the world's largest wheeled cannon. This was also constructed during the reign of Jai Singh II.

Speaking of the "world's largest", Jaipur's City Palace contains the largest silver objects ever constructed. The two jars were used to carry water from the Ganges to England in 1902, for the coronation of King Edward VII. Each jar is made from a single sheet of silver, which came from melting fourteen thousand coins. City Palace also has a weapons display and a museum.

City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
One of City Palace's silver jars (photo by Shoban Sen)

Jaipur's City Palace
The City Palace

Ending the Day

Me, as a Yogi in Jaipur, India
Perhaps you can wind down with some meditation

You can purchase cold bear at the base of Amer Fort in Jaipur
Or, an ice-cold bear

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