The Man has always been fascinated by the Universe and the Cosmos. With every passing year we think we have come closer to unfolding the secrets of the dark skies. But just as we think we are close to discovering the key or the knowledge, we realize we haven't even crossed the threshold yet. Even our ancestors and the people before us, could not resist the temptation and made attempts to learn more about the mysteries of Time and Space.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the Rajput ruler of Amber and the founder of Jaipur was a learned man and an astronomer who was deeply interested in the workings of the celestial bodies and so built the Observatory, known as Jantar Mantar. The name 'Jantar Mantar' comes from Sanskrit's 'Yantra Mantra' meaning instruments and formulae.
Sawai Jai Singh II was commissioned by Emperor Muhammad Shah, to make corrections in the astronomical tables and to confirm the data, already available on the planetary positions. Sawai Jai Singh II took seven years to finish the task. He built the first stone observatory in 1724 in Delhi. The Jaipur observatory was built in 1728. There is actually a fascinating story in relation to the construction of the Observatory. According to the story, Sawai Jai Singh II sent his envoys to various parts of the world. The emissaries came back with manuals and astronomical tables besides tons of data on the advances made in the fields of astronomy. La Hire's "Tables" was one of these manuals, and impressed by it, Sawai Jai Sing II ordered the observatory to be constructed according to the data available in this manual. Amazingly, after Jantar Mantar was built, it was discovered that the Observatory was more accurate than the Table itself.
You can visit this very Jantar Mantar (Observatory) in Jaipur, Rajasthan and see with your own eyes the wonderful masonry instruments. The observatory has the Jaiprakash Yantra, Samrat Yantra, Ram Yantra and the Composite instrument, which comprises of a sundial and a massive hemisphere.
The Jantar mantar in Jaipur is the most famous one among the five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh and is located close to the gate of the famous City Palace of Jaipur. So when you are in Jaipur, do not miss the opportunity to check out the biggest stone observatory in the world, which is still in a running condition and stands witness to the wisdom of the former age.