Jantar Mantar I - Do you have the correct time?
The Maharajah Jai Singh II was sometimes called "the Newton of the East" because of his intense interest in astronomy and all things celestial. In 1726, he constructed an incredible collection of astronomy-related buildings and facilities in Jaipur, at the time perhaps the most scientifically advanced items of their kind in the world. Even today, the technology assembled at Jantar Mantar is incredible.
OK, back to the "Does anyone really know what time it is?" tune for this tip....
There are two huge sundials constructed at Jantar Mantar. One of them (the largest, naturally) is THE largest sundial in the world. And in this case, bigger is also better.... this is one accurate sundial. Even though it was constructed some 270 years before the advent of atomic clocks, the larger sundial is capable of giving a time reading that is accurate to within 2 seconds. TWO SECONDS.
The sundials are set up as precision instruments, and the read-out scales look to be the fine scientific items that they are.... brass, with numbers and writings carefully etched at just the right points. They reminded me, in many ways, of 18th and 19th century nautical instruments I'd seen in maritime museums.
There ARE correction factors that must be figured into the reading coming from the shadow, usually based on the time of year. Remember, the angle of the sun hitting Jaipur (or anywhere really) will change as the year progresses, depending on the tilt of the earth towards the sun. This affects the sun's position in the sky, and therefore affects the angle of any shadows cast. Of course, it's impossible to pick up and move this giant sundial on a weekly basis to account for orbital variation, Jai Singh's scientists carefully figured appropriate correction factors to be added or subtracted, based on the day of the year.
I looked at my watch and then looked at the big sundial. There was maybe a disagreement of 8 seconds or so. After hearing Alok's presentation on Jantar Mantar, I'm inclined to doubt my watch. :) We were standing near one of the sundials, and I actually heard someone asking someone else, "what time is it"? Seemed kind of comical to me. :)
OK, here are the particulars for visiting Jantar Mantar...
The entry cost is an astoundingly low 10 Rs.
Using your still camera will cost you an additional 50 Rs.
(Note, remember.... you won't be able to take ANY photos inside many of the museums)
Using your video camera will cost you 100 Rs.
Jantar Mantar is located at Tripolaya Bazaar, which is very near the City Palace, within the "Pink City". (central Jaipur)