Friday, March 06, 2015

Rajasthan 2015 - Feb 5th - Day 2: Jaipur sight-seeing II: Jantar Mantar, and Amer Fort S/L show

Let me go back to the evening of the 2nd day. What we did after completing the visits to Hawa Mahal and the City Palace is as follows:

One of the past kings (Sawai Jai Singh the IInd) was so enamoured by the joint sciences of astrology and its dependence on astronomy that he contracted the construction of architectural outdoor observatories in five Indian cities - Benares, Ujjain, Delhi, Mathura, and Jaipur. Of all the laboratories he constructed, the one at Jaipur was his last one, and as it has been maintained and repaired well, it is also the best preserved of all.

Since Jantar means instrument and Mantar means formula/calculation, Jantar Mantar essentially means "Calculations Instrument". We arrived here after finishing the visit to the City Palace. The huge slanted-top wall of one of the time-calculating structures was something we had already seen from the ramparts of the City Palace. Now, it was time to go deeper into the mysteries of this unique form of astronomical observatory. 

As I have said before, the scientists of that time used to rely a lot on astrology - and were, in fact, astrologers first. They used the knowledge of astronomical values and positions to derive "birth-charts" (kundlis) and also decide what the most propitious time would be for royal functions like weddings, engagements, coronations, war, etc. The remarkable gadgets and structures of JM are, however, not just gadgets. They are designed to clearly give information on celestial events like movements of stars, occurrence of eclipses, dates of equinoxes and solstices, planetary motion, and so on and so forth. The knowledgeable guide we had with us (he seemed to be a science-person, and his fees were a bit high, since the information he imparted was scientific and technical) helped us to navigate through the maze of these very unusual machines.  Here are some pictures. Those who desire more knowledge on these labs may consult THIS link.

Small sun-dial

Description of the Nadivalaya

Helps to locate the position of sun/moon/planets w.r.t. constellations
Twelve such machines represent one zodiac each
To understand the position of the sun/planets w.r.t. their height and so on.

From there, we went to see the much-touted sound and light show at the Amber Fort, located at Amber city, 11 km from Jaipur. The show was good, but not extra-ordinary. The lighted walls of the fort and its various landmarks were great - it's just that they were very far off, and hence, not as effective as they could have been had they been a more modern source of light such as laser. The stories of the kings of Rajasthan and their interaction with the ruling Mughal dynasty were captivating and interlaced with soulful and stirring musical passages of sadness and celebration. Photography was not allowed, and we had to leave our digital cameras in the SUV, minded by our driver Jitu, who had parked about a km away. However, when we left the theater, he was back at the entrance of the S/L show. We returned to our hotel and spent the rest of the evening recuperating, but not before a short but necessary diversion to the local Bapu Market for shopping. We bought some excellent bed-sheets and pillow-covers for the house, and I also purchased a gift of a single bed-sheet for my mom.

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