Photographer's Note

Sawai Jai Singh II of Amber was a genius in statecraft as well as a keen astronomer. Among many of his accomplishments one can count the building of the city of Jaipur which was a confluence of traditional Indian town planning and contemporary European influences.

Astronomy was Jai Singh's passion. With the help of a Bengali mathematician, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, Jai Singh II built a massive astronomical laboratory (Jantar Mantar) in Jaipur in 1734, and also a few smaller observatories in Delhi and Mathura. The massive precision instruments that are on display in Jantar Mantar were made in the traditions of pre-telescopic age of observational astronomy, which was eclipsed by the popularity of telescope shortly thereafter.

In this respect Jai Singh's contribution to astronomy was rather shortlived, but its main value today is that of a grand historical summary of the technological perfection of pre-telescope astronomical instrumentation.

Here is a description of the instrument you see in this photograph (I quote): "The most fascinating of all is the ‘Jai Prakash Yantra’, which consists of two large, bowl-shaped, complementary, marble hemispheres that have planetary latitude and longitude markings and are deep-set in the ground with channels for allowing the instrument reader access to other parts of the hemispheres. A small pointer on a wire is hung over the centre of each hemisphere, and by the position of the sun’s shadow on the marked hemisphere sections it is possible to read the supernal coordinates of the sun." In a simpler term, it is an instrument to predict the position of the sun on a point in the sky as seen from any geographical position on the earth.

These indirect methods were soon overtaken by the influence of Newtonian synthesis. These almost surreal yet austere constructions harken back to the age of meticulus empirical observations.

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Additional Photos by Animesh Ray (AnimeshRay) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 689 W: 44 N: 846] (9089)
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