27th Nov 2013
It was my first visit to Rajasthan and I was pretty much excited about the Jaipur city tour that I was going to take the following day. My friend Shridhar (Shridhar is what he’s called by his dear ones…his real name is Hariharan) and I had come to attend a 3-day ‘International Conference on History and Development of Mathematics’ at JECRC University in Jaipur which was to start on 29th Nov. It had been almost a year that I travelled for the sake of travelling and I had decided that since I was coming here all the way to Jaipur, I should take out a day see the city. For the same reason, we got our tickets booked for arriving in Jaipur a day prior to the conference. The convener of the Conference, Prof. Dr. Ramprakash Sharma, was kind enough to arrange for our stay in Rajasthan University’s guest house – a pretty good place to stay. We had early dinner tucked ourselves into the rajaai (blanket, as it is called in North India) early and called it a day.
28th Nov 2013
Morning woke me up at 6 am and we both got ready to leave for the city tour by 7:30 am. We had thought of having breakfast and then making a move immediately. The receptionist had told us that we would get a bus for the city tour around 8:30 am from the Govt. hostel. The previous night, Prof. Sriram (Retd. Prof. from University of Madras whom I had met at a couple of occasions) had arrived in our guest house. He too was keen on seeing around the city. Hence we three decided to leave the place together. In the morning, I got a call from Krishna Panda, a young chap (whom I had met in another Conference at IIT Madras) who had also come for the Conference gave me a call saying that he too would like to join us and will meet us at Govt. hostel. So, Shridhar, Sriram Sir and I finished our breakfast and we took an auto to Govt. Hostel. There we met Krishna and we booked a ticket for the full-day city tour which was from 9am – 6pm. Luckily we reached there right on time. There were half-day tours also for 3-4 hours. The buses were run by Rajasthan Tourism. A full-day bus tour costs Rs.300/- per person and half-day (3-4 hours) costs Rs.250/- (both excluding entry tickets, camera, meals, etc. Basically, it is the normal bus charge that we pay). Since we four were the last to reach there, we got the seats at the back. However, the journey was quite comfortable (thanks to the good roads).
9:20 am: We started off from Govt. Hostel to our first spot – Birla temple (situated close to Rajasthan University) which was a 25-year old Lakshmi Narayan temple made of marble. We had a quick darshan (visit to the temple) and moved to our next spot – Jantar Mantar. On the way, the tour guide in our bus showed us Jal-Mahal (Jal – water, Mahal – palace. It is a palace in the midst of an artificial lake), which used to be the summer palace of the king. We were not supposed to stop our vehicle there so the driver just slowed down and allowed us to click pictures from the bus before we moved on. On our way, we saw a Golf Course constructed by Raja Man Singh, a very handsome king, who was a Polo champion. His queens also played polo. Unfortunately, when he was 59, he fell off the horse while playing polo in England and died. We also saw another palace on the way which was taken up by the Taj group of hotels. There were few other temples, Vidhan Sabha, cricket stadium and some more monuments that came on the way.
Our vehicle slowed down at the entrance of Old Jaipur. The tour guide told us that till now we were in New Jaipur and beyond the gate is Old Jaipur. The city of Old Jaipur is surrounded by walls from all sides and can be entered through nine gates (Indian scriptures talk about nine openings in the body – navadvaara. This was probably kept in mind while constructing these nine gates that lead into the city). As we entered, we saw uniformly coloured, designed and same sized buildings on either side. All of them had the peculiar shade of pink which is the only shade that we see for old buildings in Jaipur.
On our left side came Hawa Mahal. Hawa Mahal is not a palace, but a structure with a lot of windows. The vehicle slowed down but didn’t stop here. In a short while, we reached Jantar Mantar – what I would call as a Laboratory for learning practical Trigonometry! Jantar Mantar is really famous for its sun-dials that are exhibited in a huge open ground. We took a composite ticket of Rs.70 which could be used for entry to few places at a discounted rate. We were told that we could spend 45 minutes or so in Jantar Mantar. As we went in, the tour guide started explaining about every sun dial. But we went so crazy seeing such large sun dials some as big as a three-storied building, that we didn’t listen to him much and started exploring on our own (a mistake that we did for, we missed the explanations). We took some pictures and came back to our tour guide who was explaining about one of the sun dials that had a big arc with its ends facing north and bisected by a rectangular block in the middle. The arc had time measurements written on its left side for morning and right side for afternoon. When the sun rays would hit the block in the middle of the sun-dial, its shadow would fall on the arc (left or right side, depending on the time of the day). The spot where it falls will show a particular time. We need to add 15 minutes to get the present IST. We asked him why to add 15 minutes. He said, ‘In 1905 when the Govt. decided to give a standard time for the whole country, the time of Allahabad was chosen. Since the actual time of Jaipur was 15 minutes behind Allahabad, we had to add 15 minutes to the time shown on the sun dial. This was the case with every sun dial in the complex for the obvious reason that Jantar Mantar was built much before this rule was passed by the Govt. There were other structures on every star sign which we didn’t get much time to check out. These structures on star signs can be seen only in the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and not in other four Jantar Mantars situated in Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi.
The history of Jantar Mantar is really interesting. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh-II (1688 – 1743) was the founder of Jantar Mantar. Jantar comes from the word ‘Yantra’ (instrument) and Mantar comes from the word ‘Mantra’. Jai Singh was a great scholar, especially in mathematics and astronomy. The title ‘Sawai’ was bestowed upon him by the Mughal ruler Aurangazeb. ‘Sawa’ in hindi means, one and a quarter. By this title he meant that Jai Singh was 25% more intelligent than a normal man. Mostly the rulers of Jaipur were allies of the Mughals which allowed them to rule peacefully and enjoy the royal life. Jai Singh had become the king when he was just 11 years old. He discussed with Portuguese scholars in 1729 CE for construction of Jantar Mantar. The first one of its kind was constructed in Delhi (probably offering it as a token of love to the Mughal emperor who stayed in Delhi). The work of Jantar Mantar started in 1728 and was completed (in five different cities) in six years. There are 17 or 18 instruments in Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar:
3. Nadivalaya Yantra Dakshin Gola (equatorial instrument southern hemisphere)
6. Brihat Samrat Yantra (large sun-dial). In this sun-dial, local time can be known accurately upto 2 seconds. The reason they didn’t think of constructing one where the time could be accurately calculated upto 1 second is because human eye cannot see such minor change. Hence, it would be useless to do so. This is the largest sun-dial.
7. Yantra Raj (the astrolabe)
8. Rashivalaya Yantra (zodiac sign instrument)
9. Digansha Yantra (azimuth instrument)
10. Dhruvdarshak Pattika (pole star viewing plate)
11. Jai Prakash Yantra (the Master instrument constructed by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh himself)
12. Krantivritta Yantra (the ecliptic circle instrument)
13. Bhitti Yantra (meridian wall instrument)
14. Kapali Yantra (hemispherical bowl instrument)
15. Palabha Yantra (horizontal sun-dial)
16. Unnatansha Yantra (altitude instrument)
17. Sashthamsha Yantra (sextant instrument)
One can spend 2-3 hours easily if he’s interested in mathematics, trigonometry and the working of sun-dials. But our time was limited. Time flew and I could see my group walking out of Jantar Mantar. I quickly called out Shridhar and Prof. Sriram (who was trying to find the place where he could see the declination of the sun on the biggest sun-dial, the Brihat Samrat Yantra). As I walked out, I looked back at all those mathematically crafted artwork which would bring a lot of sense and purpose of practical implementation of trigonometry that is usually dumped into our heads in high school. How I wish I could bring a batch of students for a study tour some time to this place and explain something on trigonometry and astronomy!