The Jantar Mantar observatory of Jai Singh, Delhi
Pencil drawing, anonymous, 1826, British Library

Situated about two miles from Delhi, the Jantar Mantar, or Observatory, consists of a scattered group of curiously shaped buildings suggestive of the figures of a puzzle. At the request of Muhammad Shah, then in the third year of his reign, the Observatory was erected by the most famous astronomer of the age, Jai Singh II, Maharaja of Ambar and founder of the noted city of Jaipur. Although the original design was never completed, quite enough was done to prove considerable astronomical skill. In evidence of this the great equatorial dial still stands, its unusual dimensions having gained for it the title of Samrat Yantar, or 'Prince of Dials'. Besides the immense gnomon there are two on a smaller scale. The three are connected by a wall on which a graduated semi-circle is described for measuring the heights of objects lying due east or west.

Rather south of the Samrat Yantar are two round buildings open to the sky, with a central column in each. These were designed for observing the sun’s azimuth as well as lunar and stellar altitudes and azimuths. The fact that one is the facsimile of the other is attributed to a desire on Jai Singh’s part that observations made in the first should be verified or corrected by others taken in the second.

The Jantar Mantar sustained some damage at the hands pf Jats and other invaders, but was restored by a descendant of Jai Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur, in honour of King George’s visit to Delhi in 1911. A large and complete Jantar Mantar exists within the palace precincts at Jaipur.



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