In Delhi, Jaipur, Benares, Ujjain, and Mathur India there exists a series of architectural installations that seem completely alien to understanding. These surreal environs, partly ruin, partly entirely intact monuments invoke all sorts of images seemingly conjured up in some Coleridge opium fueled vision; or endless horizons from De Chirico's easel slashed all throughout with stark planes radiant with harsh light, smokey shadows, and ominous edifices ~
Strange observatories manifest on a enormous scale, their huge size dwarfed only by their immense precision and sophistication.
Are they remains of some giant clockwork left behind by a forgotten race and alchemical time? A star-map guide built to withstand the sands and stony trials of the millenia; a diagram for a spaceship to travel the heavens? or perhaps they are the inner workings of some long decayed pleasure palace or garden installation? The recently unearthed remains of some ancient vedic temple? Or perhaps just another goulash of architecture follies built at the whim of the idle rich
In Point of Fact, "Jantar Mantar" the moniker used to address all five of Jai Singh the 2nd's cosmological installations are all of these things, and many more besides. So much so,,, that one could spend a lifetime pouring over their mysterious machinations, and writing treatise after treatise regarding these highly modern Astronomical observatories that seem to embody all the aspirations, idealism, outward thinking-ness, hyperopia, and monumentally defiant endless juxtapositions of acrobatic (and virtuosic) geometry that seem to define, in-a-word all the High Modernism of thae 20th Century -
The Samrat Yantra, which means "The Great Instrument" is still one of the biggest sundials in the world, if not the biggest, as some 27 meters or 88 feet tall, on a scale so enormous, that the shadow cast of the giant staircase, which essentially functions as this giant clock's "gnomon" or "stylus" can be seen to move millimeter by millimeter, one each 2nd for all the daylight hours! -
Jai Singh's five monumental observatories are the total spectacle.
Singh, Tarsem. "The Fall." (Film).
Volwahsen, Andreas. Cosmic Architecture in India. Prestel-Mapin Publishing. Ahmedabad - 2oo1.
"Jantar Mantar." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jantar_Mantar_%28Jaipur%29.
"Jai Singh II." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jai_Singh_II