Cosmic Canvas: The Samrat Yantra at Jantar Mantar


Colored aquatint produced by T & W Daniell, 1808 SSPL/Getty

Indian cosmology never ceases to amaze, whether it's a matter of Hindu eclipse demons or the highly precise astronomical architecture we see represented in this 1808 aquatint by T & W Daniell. It's called the Samrat Yantra (giant sundial) at Jantar Mantar, an outdoor astronomical observatory in Delhi constructed in the early 18th century at the behest of Maharajah Jai Singh II (1686-1743).

Sigh questioned the accuracy of European, Islamic and Hindu astronomical tables inaccurate, so he built several observatories to accurately measure the position of the sun, stars, moon and planets via naked eye sight and massive, precise construction.

Here's a photo of the Samrat Yantra in Jaipur:

The Samrat Yantra in Jaipur, 1994.
Independent Picture Service/UIG/Getty

And here's Dehli's Samrat Yantra at Jantar Mantar as it appears today in its restored form.

The samrat yantra, 2005.
Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.