City Monument – Jantar Mantar, Opposite Park Hotel
Check the time.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Formally Delhi’s largest pissoir, this 18th century tongue-red solar observatory underwent refurbishment that includes installation of public toilets. Built in the early 1700s by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, this curious complex of concrete hemispheres, quadrangles and circles was originally called Yantra Mantra, meaning “instrument and formulae”. It is these yantras, or instruments, that make up the five most prominent landmarks within a landscaped garden.
As the observatory’s central building, the Samrat Yantra is a giant quadrangular slab of rubble masonry. Ascending to more than 20 metres, its stairs look to the highrises of Connaught Place, which one author described as “purpose-built to obscure its [Jantar Mantar’s] view of the heavens”. Athletic boys running up and down the surrounding sloping walls are only faintly aware that they are playing on a sundial.
The two other yantras, consisting of circular buildings (Ram) and complementary hemispheres (Jai Prakash), have enough appeal to excite a person with no interest in sky watching. The most picturesque structure is closest to the entrance; a mix of four instruments, Misra Yantra has a peepal leaf look and is conveniently spacious for group photo shoots. But the truth is that most visitors to Jantar Mantar don’t care for the sun and stars. The lovers etch vows on tree trunks and tourists lounge on the grass.
Where Opposite Park Hotel, Parliament Street, Connaught Place Nearest Metro Stop Rajiv Chowk Time 9 am to 5 pm
Come on, climb
Up the stairs
Into thin air
Careful as you walk
Boys will be boys
Top of the world
Love me, kiss me