American historian Will Durant has said, " Before Indian art, as before
every phase of Indian civilization, we stand in humble wonder at its age
and its continuity. Probably no other nation known to us has ever had so
exuberant a variety of arts." "Textiles were woven with an artistry
never since excelled; from the days of Caesar's to our own the fabrics
of India have bee prized by all the world. Every garment woven in India
has a beauty that comes only of a very ancient, and now almost
Sir John Marshall, one of the acknowledged authority of the Indus
Valley, has said,
" To know Indian art in India alone, is to know but half its story. To
apprehend it to the full, we must follow it in the wake of Buddhism, to
central Asia, China, and Japan; we much watch its assuming new forms and
breaking new forms and breaking into new beauties as it spread over
Tibet and Burma, and Siam; we must gaze in awe at the unexampled
grandeur of its creations in Cambodia and Java. In each of these
countries, Indian art encounters a different racial genius, a different
local environment, and under their modifying influence it takes on a
different garb. "
Indian architecture can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization. The
great Bath at Mohenjodaro is finely built brick structure with a layer
of bitumen as waterproofing, and adjoining well that supplied water and
an outlet that led to a large drain. Surrounding the bath are porticoes
and set of rooms, while as stairway led to an upper level. The well
planned residential areas were laid out on a grid pattern ,with main
thoroughfares aligned north-south. The people lived in multi-roomed
houses, with a bathing room which were connected to a street drain. An
estimated 700 wells supplied Mohenjodaro residents with water and even
the smallest house was connected to a drainage system. The impressive
infrastructure of the Indus cities suggests an effective central
authority. The Indus people adorned themselves with beads and ornaments
of shell and terracotta, as well as silver and gold necklaces.
During the Gupta period, the Golden Age of India, the caves of Ellora
and Ajanta Ellora and Ajanta Ellora and Ajanta were dug out and frescoes
painted. The Mighty caves of Ellora were carve out of solid rock with
the stupendous Kailasa temple in the center; it is difficult to imagine
how human beings conceived this or having conceived it, gave body and
shape to their conception. The caves of Elephanta, with the powerful and
subtle Trimurti, date also to this period.
K M Pannikkar (1896-1963) has observed: "the two hundred years of the
Gupta rule may be said to mark the climax of Hindu imperial tradition."
(source: Indian Heritage and Culture - By P. R. Rao Publisher: Sterling
ISBN: 81-207-0930-6 p. 21)
"Stupendous work," wrote British artist James Wales in 1792 of his first
view of the Buddhist rock cave temple at Karli. Carved in the face of
the Western Ghats, the steep hills separating the coastal plain and the
central plateau southeast of Bombay, the temple dated from the first
century A.D. Unlike anything Wales had ever seen before, Karli, along
with other cave complex in the area, had been hollowed out of the rock
by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains as places of worship and monastic
residence through the ages.
Wales arrived in Bombay, intrigued by sketches he had seen of a rock
temple on the island of Elephanta. The images inspired Wales to visit
the great cave there with its high, pillared hall, housing a towering
three-headed bust of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Wales took meticulous
measurements, copied inscriptions, and sketched the ornate interior of
the caves. Following Wales's lead, artist Henry Salt visited Karli in
1804. A companion wrote of their awe at coming upon the temple: "The
entrance to the temple was through a very lofty gateway, I should
suppose about one hundred feet high, covered with carved work to the
summit." So much earth and rock had been gouged by hand, then carved
with great delicacy, all with rudimentary tools, that the explorers were
overwhelmed by the devotion of the followers of the ancient faith.
(source: What Life Was Like in the Jewel of the Crown: British India AD
1600-1905 - By The Editors of Time-Life Books. p. 106).
Shiva Nataraja: According to Epstein, "Shiva dances, creating the world
and destroying it, his large rhythms conjure up a vast eons of time, and
his movements have a relentless magical power of incantation. Our
European allegories are banal and pointless by comparison with these
profound works, devoid of the trappings of symbolism, concentrating on
the essential, the essentially plastic."
(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru Oxford University
Press. 1995 p. 214).
For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred
Also the group of monuments at Mamallapuram in South India. The Ajanta
frescoes are very beautiful. They take one back to some distant
dream-like and yet very real world.
Hindu Art in the Old Indian Colonies:
It is the magnificent art and architecture of the old Indian colonies
that the Indian influence is most marked.
At Ankor Wat, bas-reliefs of the legends of Lord Rama and Krishna are
reproduced. Of Angkor, Mr. Osbert Stilwell has written: " Let it be said
immediately that Angkor, as it stands, ranks as chief wonder of the
world today, one of the summits to which human genius has aspired in
stone, infinitely more impressive, lovely and, as well, romantic....The
material remains of a civilization that flashed its wings, of the utmost
brilliance, for six centuries, and then perished so utterly that even
his name has died from the lips of man."
"From Persia to the Chinese Sea," writes Sylvain Levi, "from the icy
regions of Siberia to the islands of Java and Borneo, from Oceania to
Socotra, India has propagated her beliefs, her tales and her
civilization. She has left indelible imprints on one-fourth of the human
race in the course of a long succession of centuries. She has the right
to reclaim in universal history the rank that ignorance has refused her
for a long time and to hold her place amongst the great nations
summarizing and symbolizing the spirit of Humanity."
(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru Oxford University
Press. 1995 p .208- 210). For more information please refer to chapter
In Shiva’s temple, stone pillars make music - an architectural rarity
Shiva is the Destroyer and Lord of Rhythm in the Hindu trinity. But here
he is Lord Nellaiyappar, the Protector of Paddy, as the name of the town
itself testifies — nel meaning paddy and veli meaning fence in Tamil.
Prefixed to nelveli is tiru, which signifies something special — like
the exceptional role of the Lord of Rhythm or the unique musical stone
pillars in the temple.In the Nellaiyappar temple, gentle taps on the
cluster of columns hewn out of a single piece of rock can produce the
keynotes of Indian classical music. “Hardly anybody knows the
intricacies of how these were constructed to resonate a certain
frequency. The more aesthetically inclined with some musical knowledge
can bring out the rudiments of some rare ragas from these pillars.”
The Nelliyappar temple chronicle, Thirukovil Varalaaru, says the
nadaththai ezhuppum kal thoongal — stone pillars that produce music —
were set in place in the 7th century during the reign of Pandyan king
Nindraseer Nedumaran. Archaeologists date the temple before 7th century
and say it was built by successive rulers of the Pandyan dynasty that
ruled over the southern parts of Tamil Nadu from Madurai. Tirunelveli,
about 150 km south of Madurai, served as their subsidiary capital.
Each huge musical pillar carved from one piece of rock comprises a
cluster of smaller columns and stands testimony to a unique
understanding of the “physics and mathematics of sound." Well-known
music researcher and scholar Prof. Sambamurthy Shastry, the “marvellous
musical stone pillars” are “without a parallel” in any other part of the
country. “What is unique about the musical stone pillars in the
Tiruelveli Nellaiyappar temple is the fact you have a cluster as large
as 48 musical pillars carved from one piece of stone, a delight to both
the ears and the eyes,” The pillars at the Nellaiyappar temple are a
combination of the Shruti and Laya types.
This is an architectural rarity and a sublime beauty to be cherished and
(source: In Shiva’s temple, pillars make music - telegraphindia.com).
Percy Brown has remarked, "Konark (Temple) should be the wonder, not the
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India (1890-1905) was the first British ruler to
admire Indian civilization and to acknowledge that India’s architectural
heritage constituted ‘the greatest galaxy monuments in the world’ As
well as his contemporary, the first man to attempt an exposition of
Indian art, was Dr. Ernest Binfield Havell.
Havell’s is not a name writ large in the annals of the British Raj. He
came to India as principal to the Madras College of Art in the 1890s and
left as principal of the Calcutta College of Art some 20 years later.
But during this period his work and writings exercised considerable
influence both in India and in the West.
Havell (1861-1934) insisted that the Islamic architecture in India was
influenced by the Hindus. He supplied the following quotes from the
opening quotes of his book, Indian Architecture - Its Psychology,
Structure and History from the First Mohammedan Invasion to the Present
Day. These give evidence at the admiration the Muslims had for Indian
architecture: " Albiruni, the Arab historian, expressed his astonishment
at and admiration for the work of Hindu builders. "Our people, he said,
"when they see them, wonder at them and are unable to describe them,
much less to construct anything like them."
Abdul Fazal (wrote), "It passes our conception of things, few indeed in
the whole world can compare with them."
On page 321, Historian Vincent Smith in his book Akbar the Great Moghul,
" It is surprising to find unmistakable Hindu features in the
architecture of the tomb of a most zealous Musalman saint, but the whole
structure suggests Hindu feeling and nobody can mistake the Hindu origin
of the column and struts of the porch."
(source: Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence - By Stephen Knapp p.
Islamic architecture was one of rapid capitulation to the superior
indigenous art of India. Akbar was not the exception but the classic
example. His wholesale adoption of Hindu styles and his patronage of
Indian craftsmen marked the end of a brief experiment with non-Indian
forms (Tughlak’s tomb for example), and the beginning of one of the
greatest periods of purely Indian building.
Taking the bull firmly by the horn Havell turned to the classic age of
Moghul architecture, the reign of Shah Jehan (1628-58), and in
particular to none other than the Taj Mahal. The great dome of subtle
contour, the soaring minarets, the formal Persian garden, the chaste
inlay work and tracery, the clustered cupolas – nothing, surely, could
be more typically Mohammedan. But Havell was a determined polemicist and
uniquely qualified scholar. His first point was that whatever the
inspiration, ‘there is one thing which has struck every writer about the
Taj Mahal and that is its dissimilarity to any other monument in any
other part of the world..’
Outside India, its supposed precursor, Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, or the
other two white marble tombs, those of Itimad-ud-Daula in Agra and Salim
Chishti at Fatehpur Sikri, were so inferior as to be unworthy of
comparison. There was no precedent in the strictly non-representational
art of Islam. If the inspiration for the building was to be sought in
sculpture rather than the architecture, then it must be sought in Indian
sculpture. The purity of line and subtlety of contour which
characterized it were precisely the qualities that distinguished the
Mathura Buddhas or the Khajuraho apsaras.
There is also evidence that the building known as Humayun's Tomb is none
other than a captured Lakshmi Temple. Abul Fazal says Humayun is buried
in Sirhind. French writer G. Le Bon has published in his book The World
of Ancient India (Publisher: Editions Minerva - Spain Date of
Publication: 1974) a photo of marble footprints found in the building.
He describes them as the footprints of Lord Vishnu. This is typical of a
Vedic temple, to have the footprints of the main Divinity of the shrine.
In this case, it is the husband of Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu.
And only an Hindu artist with his purely conceptual approach could have
created a building that was so blatantly seductive.
It was a measure of the Taj’s uniqueness that some Englishmen suggested
that its designer might have been one of the Europeans employed by Shah
Jehan. It was just another example of foreigners trying to find a
non-Indian inspiration for anything in Indian culture that took their
fancy. James Todd had mentioned a Jain temple of the fifteenth century
with something similar. Besides, the records showed that the inlay
artists employed on the Taj were all Hindus.
The gardens, too, which add so much to the staging of the Taj, were the
work of a Hindu, from Kashmir. Havell had studied the Silpa-sastras -
the traditional manuals of the Hindu builder – and believed that even
the bulbous dome conformed more closely to Indian ideals than those of
Samarkhand. There was even a sculptural representation of such a dome in
one of the Ajanta cave temples. Moreover, the internal roofing
arrangement of four domes grouped round the fifth, central, dome
conformed exactly to the panch-ratna, the ‘five jewel’ system so common
to Indian buildings of all sorts.
All this was not enough to shake the traditional views, but Havell was
not finished. In the 19th century, as now, people were inclined to
concentrate too much on the buildings of Delhi and nearby Agra. For
most, the style were the sum total of Islamic architecture, because they
were inclined to concentrate too much on the buildings of Delhi and
nearby Agra. Havell, was convinced that away from the political turmoil
of north-west India, the architectural continuity before and after the
Mohammedan conquest was unbroken; and that it was from these provincial
centers that the ideals and craftsmen used by Shah Jehan had been drawn.
In Gujarat, some of the mosques of the first Mohammedan dynasty are
indistinguishable from temples; also in Gujarat, white marble had been
used extensively by both Hindu and Jain.
At Bijapur the Mohammedans also inherited a local building tradition,
for nearby lay the great Hindu capital of Vijayanagar. European accounts
of Vijayanagar before its destruction only hint at its architectural
wonders, but certainly the dome and the pointed arch were in general
use. It was no coincidence that the great building period in Mohammedan
Bijapur began immediately after the fall of Vijayanagar. Encouraged to
concentrate on the dome, the erstwhile Hindu architects produced first
the Bijapur Jama Masjid and then the giant Gol Gumbaz with one of the
largest domes in the world.
According to Havell, it was on the skills of these master dome builders
that Shah Jehan drew for the Taj Mahal.
The Rajput palaces, are arguably the most impressive and certainly the
most romantic group of buildings in India. For, as Havell rightly
observed, there could be no argument that in secular architecture the
styles of Hindu and Mohammedan, of Rajput and Moghul, were one and the
same. Moreover, the origins of this style were wholly Indian.
Witness the great fifteenth-century Man Singh palace in the Gwalior
‘One of the finest specimen of Hindu architecture that I have seen…the
noblest specimen of Hindu domestic architecture in northern India.”
Noted General Sir Alexander Cunningham. Babur, the first of the Moghuls,
evidently agreed. His official diary shows that he admired and coveted
this building above all others in India. In due course it became the
inspiration for all the palaces of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, for the Moghul forts of Delhi and Agra as well as for the
Rajput forts of Orchha, Amber and Jodhpur.
“ If our poets had sung them (wrote Havell of the Rajput palaces), our
painters pictured them, our heroes and famous men had lived in them,
their romantic beauty would be on every man’s lips in Europe. Libraries
of architectural treatises would have been written on them.”
Bishop Heber had been equally impressed when he toured the palace of
Amber a century earlier.
“ I have seen many royal palaces containing larger and more stately
rooms – many the architecture of which was in purer taste, and some
which have covered a greater extent of ground – but for varied and
picturesque effect, for richness of carving, for wild beauty of
situation, for the number and romantic singularity of the apartments,
and the strangeness of finding such a building in such a place, I am
unable to compare anything with Amber….The idea of an enchanted castle
occurred, I believe, to all of us, and I could not help thinking what
magnificent use Ariosto or Sir Walter Scott would have made such a
James Ferguson, historian of India’s architecture, was not blind to the
romantic appeal of the Rajput palaces. He praised their settings and
lack of affectation.
Havell noted the way these buildings seemed to grow organically out of
the rocks on which they stood ‘ without self-conscious striving after
effect.’ Thus, above all, their romantic appeal; but there is also a
grandeur and an elegance of detail beside which the Moghul palaces pale
into mere prettiness. Here was Hindu architecture both more virile and
more noble than its Islamic equivalent.
Sir Edwin Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi, thought the palaces of
Datia one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in India. It
is also one of the most impressive. Conceived as a single unit, unlike
the Moghul palaces, it towers above the little town of Datia like the
work of an extinct race of giants. Each side is about 100 yards long
rises from the bare rock so subtly that it is hard to tell where
nature’s work ends and man’s begins. The impression is of immense
strength, and only the skyline of flattened domes and cupolas gives any
hint of the treasures within. Datia was built by Rajah Bir Singh Deo in
the seventeenth century. The palaces of Orchha were also his work, and
here there are more painted halls and dappled pavilions as well as some
of the finest carved brackets. Today hardly anyone visits these
masterpieces. It is a setting one of ruination – miles of crumbling
stables, overgrown gardens and forgotten temples. Forlorn masterpieces
(source: India Discovered - By John Keay 1981. chapter 9. pg- 111-130)
For more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred
Taj Mahal, a Hindu Temple?
E. B. Havell,(1861-1934) the English architect, principal to the Madras
College of Art in the 1890s and left as principal of the Calcutta
College of Art some 20 years later), has all along stressed that the Taj
is entirely a Hindu structure in design and execution. Within its three
floors - basement, ground and first floors - the marble structure has a
nearly 25 room palace suite. The four towers used to sport multi-colored
lights. The Taj precincts are a huge building complex encompassing over
three hundred rooms.
Many believe that the Taj Mahal was a 12th century temple-palace seized
from Raja Jaisingh of Jaipur and converted to accommodate Mumtaz's tomb.
Mullah Abdul Hamid Lahori, Shah Jehan's own official chronicler, has
written, that Mumtaz's body was laid to rest in a "lofty sky-high palace
with a majestic dome" procured from Raja Jaisingh.
The journals of Tamerlane (1336-1405) and Babur (1483-1530) show that
this palace pre-dates Shah Jehan and also points to the notable absence
of any claim by Shah Jehan himself for its construction.
A passage from Shahjahan’s court chronicle, the Badshahnama, which
despairingly admits that the Taj Mahal is a commandeered Hindu palace.
Mansingh’s mansion (manzil) was then in the possession of his grandson
Jaisingh – says the Badshahnama.
"In a paper that Professor Mills read in Chicago on November 4, 1983 at
the 17th Annual Meeting of Middle East Studies Association of North
America, based on his preliminary research endeavors involving an
archaeometric analysis of the so-called Muslim buildings in ancient
Spain, Mr. Mills observed, 'Two specific potentially fertile monuments
for the application of archaeometry are the Taj Mahal and the
(so-called) Mosque of Cordoba. Neither face Mecca.
The (so-called) mosque that is part of the Taj complex faces due west
whereas Mecca from Agra is 14 degrees 55 minutes south of west. It is
oriented to the cardinal directions as would be typical of a Hindu
temple in India."
Prof. Mills then describes how a wood sample he took from the rear,
river-level doorway of the Taj and had it tested for carbon-14 dating by
Dr. Evan Williams, Director of the Brooklyn College Radiocarbon
Laboratory, provided that even the door was pre-Shah Jahan. Similar
samples taken from the Fatehpur Sikri also proved that the township,
usually attribute to the third generation Moghul emporer Akbar, is also
much more ancient."
(source: Proof Vedic Culture's Global Existence - By Stephen Knapp p.
In the course of his research, P. N. Oak discovered the Shiva temple
palace was usurped by Shah Jahan from then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai
Singh. Shah Jahan then remodeled the palace into his wife's memorial. In
his own court chronicle, Badshahnama, Shah Jahan admits that an
exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh
for Mumtaz's burial. The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur still retains in his
secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for surrendering the Taj
building. Using captured temples and mansions, as a burial place for
dead courtiers and royalty was a common practice among Muslim rulers.
For example, Humayun, Akbar, Etmud-ud-Daula and Safdarjung are all
buried in such mansions. Oak's inquiries begin with the name Taj Mahal.
He says this term does not occur in any Moghul court papers or
chronicles, even after Shah Jahan's time.
The term "Mahal" has never been used for a building in any of the Muslim
countries, from Afghanistan to Algeria. "The unusual explanation that
the term Taj Mahal derives from Mumtaz Mahal is illogical in at least
two respects. Firstly, her name was never Mumtaz Mahal but
Mumtaz-ul-Zamani," he writes. "Secondly, one cannot omit the first three
letters 'Mum' from a woman's name to derive the remainder as the name
for the building." Taj Mahal, he claims, is a corrupt version of
Tejo-Mahalaya, or the Shiva's Palace.
Oak also says the love story of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan is a fairy tale
created by court sycophants, blundering historians and sloppy
archaeologists. Not a single royal chronicle of Shah Jahan's time
corroborates the love story. But she as not Shah Jahan’s first wife.
Shah Jahan’s first wife, the queen, was a great grand-daughter of the
ruler of Persia – Shah Ismail Safwi. Shah Jahan had numerous other wives
and many consorts. He not only was married before taking Mumtaz as his
wife but also married again after her death. In between these weddings
he also used to take consorts by the hundreds into his harem. It is,
therefore, futile to argue, as is traditionally done, that Shah Jahan
was so devoted to Mumtaz as to lose all interest in life after her death
and that he, therefore, perpetuated her memory in a magnificent
During the 18 years of her married life she bore 14 children of whom 7
survived her. That meant in no single year was she free from pregnancy,
which shows Shah Jahan’s utter disregard to his wife’s health, so much
so that Mumtaz died soon after her last delivery. She was only 37 years
Furthermore, Oak cites several documents suggesting the Taj Mahal
predates Shah Jahan's era, and was a temple palace dedicated to Shiva
worshipped by the Rajputs of Agra city. For example, Professor Marvin
Miller of New York took a few samples from the riverside doorway of the
Taj. Carbon dating tests revealed that the door was 300 years older than
Shah Jahan is often misrepresented in Indian histories as a fabulously
rich Mughal. The image o his derives from the belief that he built a
number of costly buildings while he actually did not build even a single
one. Far from being a monarch possessing fabulous wealth Shah Jahan
could hardly command any resources worth his name because his near – 30
–years reign was marred by 48 military campaigns. Shah Jahan’s relative
poverty is fully borne out by Tavernier’s remark that from “want of
wood” the scaffolding, including the support of arches, had all to be
made of bricks. The reader may well consider whether a monarch who
cannot muster even the timber necessary for a scaffolding, in a country
like India which had vast stretches under dense forest, can ever hope or
dream of ordering a building as magnificent and majestic as the Taj
European traveler Johan Albert Mandelslo, who visited Agra in 1638(only
seven years after Mumtaz's death), describes the life of the city in his
memoirs. But he makes no reference to the Taj Mahal being built. The
writings of Peter Mundy, an English visitor to Agra within a year of
Mumtaz's death, also suggest the Taj was a noteworthy building long well
before Shah Jahan's time. Oak points out a number of design and
architectural inconsistencies that support the belief of the Taj Mahal
being a typical Hindu temple rather than a mausoleum. Many rooms in the
Taj Mahal have remained sealed since Shah Jahan's time, and are still
inaccessible to the public. Oak asserts they contain a headless statue
of Shiva and other objects commonly used for worship rituals in Hindu
temples. Fearing political backlash, Indira Gandhi's government tried to
have Oak's book withdrawn from the bookstores, and threatened the Indian
publisher of the first edition with dire consequences.
(source: The Taj Mahal: The True Story - By P. N. Oak).
Nicolo Conti described the banks of the Ganges (ca 1420) as lined with
one prosperous city after another, each well designed, rich in gardens
and orchards, silver and gold, commerce and industry.
The City of Jaipur
The building of Jaipur began in 1727. The city turned out to be an
astonishing well-planned one, based on the ancient Hindu treatise on
architecture, the Shilpa Shastra. The town planner was a talented, young
scholar and engineer, Vidyadhar Bhattacharya, whose family had been
invited to settle in Jaipur from the distant state of Bengal by Raja Man
Jaipur was built on a grid system. Its main streets, 119 feet wide were
intersected at right angles by secondary streets, 60 feet wide, which
were further criss-crossed by lanes and bylanes, 30 feet and 15 feet
wide respectively. The streets were lined with fine buildings of uniform
design and shaded by trees. In the middle of the main road run an
aqueduct, and there were wells for drinking water at regular intervals,
many of which are still used today. The city was divided into nine
rectangular sectors (representing the nine divisions of the universe).
Different streets were allotted for different professions such as
potters, weavers, dyers, jewelers, and bakers.
Louis Rousselet, the well-known 19th century French traveler, wrote,
"The town is built in a style of unusual magnificence....I doubt whether
at the time it was built there were many cities in Europe which could
compare with it."
The 19th century English bishop, Heber, wrote that it was comparable to
the Kremlin in Moscow. Raja Sawai Jai Sing II named the new city after
himself (fortuitously Jaipur also means "City of Victory").
"... THE GOOD PEOPLE OF AMERICA BUILDED THEIR TOWNS AFTER THIS PATTERN,
BUT KNOWING NOTHING OF JEY SINGH, THEY TOOK ALL THE CREDIT THEMSELVES."
Wrote Rudyard Kipling, Letters of Marquee, 1899
Raja Sawai Jai Singh II’s observatory prompted the Portuguese Viceroy in
Goa to send an emissary to Jaipur in 1729 to study it. Later, as its
fame spread, French and German scholars, astronomers, and priests also
came here. Through his Portuguese friend, Padre Manuel de Figueredo,
Raja Sawai Jai Singh II procured the latest astronomical texts and
instruments from Europe.
Using his huge masonry instruments, he was able to detect errors in the
well-known astronomical tables of Pere de la Hire, who like other
European astronomers, used only standard-sized brass instruments. Raja
Sawai Jai Singh II’s eclectic collection of astronomical instruments and
manuscripts from all over the then known world are displayed at Jantar
Mantar and the City Palace Museum. The astrolabe, is a kind of celestial
map engraved on a 7 foot wide metal disc. He called it the Raj Yantra,
and wrote two volumes on the principles and utility of the device, which
became one of his proudest possessions.
Samrat Yantra - His great Samrat Yantra, for example, is basically a
sundial, except that it is a massive 89 feet high and 148 feet wide. As
a result, when the sun moves across the sky it casts a shadow on the
finely calibrated quadrants on either side, which moves at a precise and
measurable 0.08 inch every second. It was designed to measure local time
as well as such things as zenith distances, meridian pass time as well
as such declination of the stards with remarkable precision.
Interestingly, the Samrat Yantra at each of his five observatories
varies slightly in shape in order to ensure that the hypotenuse of its
great triangle is aligned perfectly with the axis of the earth and the
flanking quadrants are perfectly parallel to the Equator.
In all, Raja Sawai Jai Singh II invented fifteen different instruments,
all of them based on his principle of accuracy through gigantic size.
They ranged from Ram Yantra, which determines the azimuths and altitudes
of various heavenly bodies, to Misra Yantra, which, among other things,
tells the time at four different foreign observatories. The instruments
are in such a good condition that, surprisingly, they are still used
today. Samrat Yantra, for instance, is consulted every year on the full
moon night of Guru Purnima, along with the ancient Sanskrit texts, to
predict the onset of the monsoon. One of the instruments on display at
Jantar Mantar and the City Palace Museum is a telescope, indicating just
how aware the Raja was of the latest technology of his time.
(source: Knopf Guide India : Rajasthan : Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer,
Jodhpur, Udaipur and Mount Abu Kota, Bharaatpur (Knopf Guides) pg
For more information on art, please refer to chapter on Hindu Art). For
more refer to chapter on Greater India: Suvarnabhumi and Sacred Angkor