Stairs of Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
Image © by Jenny Mackness @Flickr

The Jantar Mantar is one of 13 astronomical instruments with stairs outposts built in New Delhi by king Jai Singh II of Jaipur.

These Astronomical instruments were used to calculate astrology as well as the time of day in numerous countries. Four of the thirteen devices are located in the complex in New Delhi. The other devices are located in the Jaipur Complex. Within each complex is a large sundial with stairs that allowed an observer to calculate the time of day and other numerous astronomical calculations.   The various stairs allowed the observer to calculate from a higher altitude.   The observatory in Jaipur consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes. Each is a fixed and ‘focused’ tool. The Samrat Yantra, the largest instrument, is 90 feet high, its shadow carefully plotted to tell the time of day. Its face is angled at 27 degrees, the latitude of Jaipur. The Hindu Chhatri made of stairs on top is used as a platform for announcing eclipses and the arrival of monsoons.   Built from local stone and marble stairs, each instrument carries an astronomical scale, generally marked on the marble inner lining. Bronze tablets, all extraordinarily accurate, were also employed. Thoroughly restored in 1901, the Jantar Mantar was declared a national monument in 1948. People still use the stairs of the Jantar Mantar to provide calculations   An excursion through Jai Singh’s Jantar is a unique experience of walking through solid geometry and encountering a collective astronomical system designed to probe the heavens.   Each individual stair of the complex is made of stone slabs. the stair height is important to the elevation of each tool. The stair is also visually and architecturally appealing, with each stair fitting the general design of the structure.   The instruments in Jantar Mantar are in most cases huge structures. The scale to which they have been built has been alleged to increase their accuracy. However, the penumbra of the sun can be as wide as 30 mm, making the 1mm increments of the Samrat Yantra sundial devoid of any practical significance. Additionally, the masons constructing the instruments had insufficient experience with construction of this scale, and subsidence of the foundations has subsequently misaligned them. The Samrat Yantra, for instance, which is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra (The Supreme Instrument) is the world’s largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Its shadow moves visibly at 1 mm per second, or roughly a hand’s breadth every minute, which can be a profound experience. So If you enjoy astronomy or architecture you should visit one of the Jantar Mantar or the Samrat Yantra.