Through My Lens

Exploring the World Through Photography

Category: India

Jantar Mantar: Jaipur’s Famous Observatory

Up until last year the Observatory in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar, was the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the city (Amber Palace is now one as well). Just this…

Up until last year the Observatory in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar, was the only UNESCO World Heritage site in the city (Amber Palace is now one as well). Just this alone makes it worth a visit, even if you are not super scientific. I was amazed by how much smarter the people who built these instruments, hundreds of years ago are then I am today, in terms of understanding the world outside our own.

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The observatory is a collection of instruments, designed by the king in the 1700’s that all tell different pieces of the time and space equation. There are multiple sun dials, mapping systems for the planetary movements, and instruments designed to tell what time in the horoscope you are in. All of these pieces are very important to the Hindu religion ( people only get married on certain days that work with their signs), so it was important for them to understand it all.

History

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The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh who was a Rajput king. It is modeled after the one that he had built at the Mughal capital of Delhi. He had constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these.

Here are some of my favorite things to see here:

The Sundials

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In the Jantar Mantar, there are many different sundials to tell the time by sun position but a couple main ones stood out as my favorites.

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The first is the main dial, right when you walk into the area, which has a large half circle to note the sun’s position and a stairway (no you can’t walk up any of them). This dial is accurate to about 20 minutes.

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The other main sundial is the largest in the entire world and is an amazing thing to see. You notice how overpowering it is as you walk around the park.

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 It is around 88 feet tall and is able to tell the time within 2 seconds of error. One of the crowning achievements of the park and my personal highlight in the park to see.

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You can also see the wind palace peaking up from behind the walls from here as well in the above picture.

The Celestial Trackers

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In the center of the park is two big half circles that can track the movements of the planets with Jaipur in the center. Each piece if stacked on each other would show the enter solar system, as they saw it. We got a lengthy explanation of it but I am not sure I fully understand how it works.

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The other tracker was a large stone circle that had Jaipur and the planets on it and could be moved to where the suns current location was as it tracked the movement of the planets.

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Here are some of the other spots I saw there, all with their own purposes for understanding more about time and space.

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Be sure to visit this UNESCO site when you are in Jaipur, it is worth it.

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Baby Taj Mahal: Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah in Agra, India

Located in the same city as the Taj Mahal itself, the Baby Taj is a beautiful example of both the history and the architecture of the country. On the off time…

Located in the same city as the Taj Mahal itself, the Baby Taj is a beautiful example of both the history and the architecture of the country. On the off time (for tourists) when I was in India, this was an amazing time to visit some of the smaller attractions in Agra like the Baby Taj. There is always people at the Taj itself but when I visited the Baby Taj it was almost completely empty and it was an overwhelming and beautiful experience.

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History

The tomb, built between 1622 and 1628 represents a transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture – primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, to its second phase, based on white marble which is what was used for the Tāj Mahal. The mausoleum was commissioned by Nūr Jahān who built it to honor her father.

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As I walked through the entrance in the late afternoon I was greeted by about 30 monkeys running through the grass on both sides, there were babies, mothers and everything in between. It was so fun to see these animals up close and a great way to be welcomed into the monument (they were not there when I left though so I am not sure when they come).

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As I walked through the archway I was greeted by the Baby Taj itself, the monument to the mother of one of the famous rulers and it took my breath away. It was stunning display of craftsmanship and marble work, all within a relatively small frame.

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As you approach you must remove your shoes and there is a man who watches over them while you are in the monument, he will expect a tip.

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The monument itself is symmetrical just like the Taj Mahal is. All sides are exactly the same and the gardens and smaller buildings are the same as well.

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As I entered the interior of the monument I actually let out a verbal “wow.” It was so much more than I expected, with extensive and beautiful ceiling work that you have to see to believe.

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I was also treated to the sun showing off as it entered into the sacred room. I couldn’t take a bad picture. The top of the area was even more crazy. The guide who was with it said it was the most amazing time he had ever seen the inside.

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After that I continued to walk around the small monument as I took photos from all angles. When I left I was so excited to have experienced what I did, from the monkeys to the temple itself, it was amazing. Obviously, the Taj Mahal itself is more majestic but if you are in Agra you must see the Baby Taj as well.

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As I exited I even got an ice cream bar for 15 rupees from a local seller. Adding the exclamation point to an epic trip.

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