The people of New Delhi, India’s capital city, won’t be able to see today’s total solar eclipse. But they still get astronomical bragging rights—for nearly three centuries they’ve hosted one of the world’s most striking observatories. Built in the 1720s, the astronomical instruments that make up Jantar Mantar are geometric forms constructed at such a large scale that they could measure time and track heavenly bodies with unprecedented precision. The structure seen here is called the Rama Yantra, and was used to observe the position of celestial objects like stars and planets. The observatory complex also includes an enormous sundial that could measure time to an accuracy of 2 seconds, a degree of precision never previously achieved. The Maharaja Jai Singh II commissioned the construction of five such observatories across northern India between 1721 and 1730, each named Jantar Mantar. By locating the sites in different locations, astronomers could compare readings from different coordinates, enabling them to achieve greater accuracy.
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Jantar Mantar is located in the modern city of New Delhi. It consists of 13 architectural astronomy instruments. The site is one of five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, from 1723 onwards, as he was given by Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah the task of revising the calendar and astronomical tables. There is a plaque fixed on one of the structures in the Jantar Mantar observatory in New Delhi that was placed there in 1910 mistakenly dating the construction of the complex to the year 1710. Later research, though, suggests 1724 as the actual year of construction.
Address: Parliament Street, New Delhi, Delhi 110001 Opened: 1724