Posted on: 3 August 2012

The Observatory of Rajah Jey Singh - 1860s

This photograph shows some of the astronomical instruments which make up the observatory or Jantar-Mantar, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur (1699-1743). He later built similar ones in Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi and Mathura (no longer survives). These astronomical instruments are built with brick rubble and plastered with lime. There is a discrepancy over the dates of construction and could be 1710 or 1724. In the photograph there are two figures on the right had side which give an indication of the scale of these structures.

Signature and negative number in bottom right hand side.

his photograph shows some of the astronomical instruments which make up the observatory (Jantar-Mantar) built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur. They are built of brick rubble plastered with lime. The two figures on the right-hand side give an indication of their scale. There is a discrepancy over the dates of construction, which could be 1710 or 1724.

This observatory is in Delhi. The Maharaja later built similar observatories in Jaipur, Ujjain, Varanasi, and Mathura (no longer extant).

The British photographer Samuel Bourne lived and worked in India between 1862 and 1869. During this time he toured the Himalayas and travelled through the subcontinent, photographing its landscape, architecture and historical sites. He set up a studio in Simla with Charles Shepherd and sold his prints sold to an eager public both in India and Britain.

Copyright: V&A Images


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If this is Delhi, much of the observatory was destroyed during the uprising of 1857. Thereafter only brick and mortar restoration was done as much of its instruments were plundered, before ASI took charge. Restoration work has commenced to return the observatory to its lost glory.

Which explains the missing sundial (now restored) in this picture! Thanks Arindam Sen. Interestingly, the triangular slant of the structure seen here is parallel to earth's axis.

all sundials have to be inclined at an angle = the latitude, hence they all point to the pole star and are parallel to earths axis

Not the sundial, but only the inclined straight edge, also known as the gnomon, must be parallel to earth's axis, which will automatically point to the north pole star (true only for higher latitudes of northern hemisphere). Sun's shadow of this gnomon falls on the sundial to mark the local time of the day. Sundial therefore may or may not be parallel to gnomon's axis (or earth's axis).