It may sound like a hipster cocktail bar that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but Jantar Mantar is, in fact, one of the world’s oldest observatories.
Built in 1734, on the orders of Sawai Jai Singh II, its name means ‘instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens’ – which adds a certain romance to the 19 monumental objects built to allow the sun, moon and stars to be observed with the naked eye.
Set within a creamy pavilion surrounded by gardens, this UNESCO World Heritage site is beautifully located next to City Palace and surrounded by craggy mountains. The area is unspoiled by modern influences, so when you retreat into Jantar Mantar from the busy city, it feels as if you’re stepping back in time.
The site’s 18th -century architects realised that to measure the movement of celestial bodies accurately they would need big structures – and they designed and built some pretty impressive stuff.
Not only are Jantar Mantar’s structures unusual and beautiful, but they are also testament to India’s rich history of scientific achievement. Their sheer awe-inspiring size and purpose can only be fully appreciated when you get up close and personal – these instruments are, in all senses, astronomical!
There are echoes of other ancient structures at Jantar Mantar – think Machu Picchu meets Rome in a distinctly Indian style! Slightly whacky, but in a good way. No longer at the cutting edge of science, Jantar Mantar has fallen out of use as an observatory – but astronomy’s loss is definitely your gain, because it’s completely open and you can take a good look at its unique and historic structures.
Allow yourself a good chunk of time to wander around the site, because Jantar Mantar has so much beautiful architecture, while the science that inspired it only really comes to life when you’re right in the thick of it. The biggest and most impressive instrument at Jantar Mantar is the Vrihat Samrat Yantra – at 23m high, it is the world’s biggest sundial. This triangular structure towers above everything else on the pavilion, making sure you know who’s boss.
But it’s not just a pretty face; the Vrihat Samrat Yantra tells local time accurate to two seconds. Not bad – although the last thing you’ll want to do when visiting Jantar Mantar is watch the clock!
Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar is the biggest of five historical observatories in India – the others are in Delhi, Ujjain, Mathur and Varanasi. So if you want to lose yourself in space and time again, why not check out those as well.
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Jantar Mantar is in the heart of Jaipur. If you don’t fancy a rickshaw or taxi, take a minibus to Tripolia Bazaar, and then it’s a five-minute walk to the observatory. You can’t miss it – it’s right next to the palace. Easy!
General entry is 9am – 5pm. Undoubtedly, the best time to visit is midday, when you’ll see the instruments working at their most accurate. Of course, this is also the busiest and hottest time of day – but they are worth venturing out of the shade for.
A Light and Sound show is put on every day at 6pm – so if you find yourself star-struck during the day, make sure you head back in the evening to find out more.
There is no specific dress code but it is always good to dress respectfully.
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