Friday, August 12, 2011

Yantra Mantra...Jantar Mantar...hmm Abracadabra??

If you've ever traveled to India, you may have come across the curious term, "Yantra Mantra" (more commonly known as "Jantar Mantar").  The literal translation of "Yantra Mantra" is "instrument of calculation".  In my less well-read youth, my own translation for the words was "magical device", and in many ways, I still find these Yantra Mantras magical places.

Rama Yantra, New Delhi Observatory, 2007
 (used to measure the altitude and azimuth of celestial objects)

There are five Yantra Mantras in north central India.  All of them were constructed between 1720 and 1740 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, a scholarly warrior king who also had a keen interest in mathematics and astronomy. Designed for astronomical observation and celestial calculation, each Yantra Mantra site is a compound housing a collection of "instruments" made of sandstone, marble and metal, on a grand scale.  Shaped to precise, geometric specifications, these sculptural playgrounds are delightfully intriguing and visually stimulating to explore.  It is only upon closer inspection that one realizes that these constructions were used to measure time, predict eclipses, chart the lunar calendar, track the location of stars, and the declination of planets.

One of the twelve Rashivalaya (Star Sign) Yantras, Jaipur Observatory, 2007
(used to determine celestial latitude and longitude)
New Delhi Yantra Mantra, 2007

Jai Prakash Yantra, New Delhi Observatory, 2007
(an invention of the Maharajah Jai Singh, this was used to verify the readings of the other instruments)
Kapali Yantra, Jaipur Observatory, 2007
(used to determine azimuth and altitude of the sun)
The photographs I've included here don't capture the grand scale of the these Yantra Mantra sites.  Recommended for further exploration is the project: Jantar Mantar: The Astronical Observatories of Jai Singh II, in which Art Professor Barry Perlus at Cornell University has utilized advanced imaging technology to create interactive panoramic virtual reality (VR) photographs and time lapse sequences to allow us to explore and understand how India's Yantra Mantras functioned.  Fascinating stuff!

Section of the Samrat Yantra, New Delhi Observatory, 2007
(the Samrat Yantra ("king of all instruments) is a gigantic sun dial and is accurate to 2 seconds)

All of the images posted here are available for purchase as 8x10 and 5x7 fine art prints and A2 size greeting cards (all printed on archival water color paper) at  Be sure to send me a message if there is something you'd like that you don't see listed, or if you'd like a custom size or item, as I truly enjoy creating one of a kind items that hold special meaning. Thanks!!


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