In an era where fashion and technology are at its peak, one of the many devices that has never ceased to upgrade itself is the ‘watch’. From an indiscreet dial with a metal casing, to the latest waterproof LED watches, man has taken his time-telling device into numerous makeovers. But there was a time when man did not know how to fashion devices out of metal to know what time of the day it is. But being the genius that he was, he found a way around it and called it a ‘Sundial’.
This ancient device relies upon the shadow cast by the sun at any time of the day to tell us the time, based on the sun’s position. The city of Jaipur, capital to the Indian state of Rajasthan, is home to the world’s largest sundial ever built by mankind – The Jantar Mantar. It is a gigantic sundial, with a huge gnomon (the part that causes the shadow) and its hypotenuse, parallel to the earth’s axis. It was built in the eighteenth century by Sawai Jai Singh, the Rajput king who served under the Mughal King Aurangzeb and other Mughals.
Sawai Jai Singh, yielding to his awe of the Universe and the Cosmos, built an astronomical conservatory which stands proud for many decades, housing the sundial as well. The sundial is about 21 feet high, and tells the time – day or night with an accuracy of 2 seconds. The enormity in size is credited to Sawai Jai Singh’s wish to create a time-telling device with the greatest possible accuracy. Due to its huge size, one can see the shadow of the gnomon moving at a speed of 6 centimeters per minute.
One really does find it difficult to contain their amazement when you think of how much importance has been given to science and astronomy in the history of our nation, and Jantar Mantar is a standing proof of that. It shows that Indians excelled in all fields of knowledge, even before the start of the technological era.
The Jantar Mantar is just one among the many historically famous masterpieces that have enriched our country’s culture and heritage in the outside world. It will forever stand witness to the scientific prowess of our nation and is something every Indian will feel proud of.