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The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja (Ruler) Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734.
The name is derived from jantar ("instrument"), and Mantar ("formula", or in this context "calculation"). Therefore jantar mantar means literally 'calculation instrument'.
The observatory consists of fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars in their orbits, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides.
The samrat yantra, for instance, which is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about two seconds in Jaipur local time. The Giant Sundial, known as the Samrat Yantra (The Supreme Instrument) is the world's largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Its shadow moves visibly at 1 mm per second, or roughly a hand's breadth (6 cm) every minute, which for most people is a visibly profound experience.
Students of astronomy and Vedic astrology are required to take some of their lessons at the observatory, and it can be said that the observatory is the single most representative work of Vedic thought that still survives, apart from the texts.