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Raja Sawai  Jai Singh II's
or " The One-And-A-Quarter"
(Source: India-Rajasthan by Knopp Guides pg 132-141)

Spreading Fame

Raja Jai Singh II (1693-1743), was given the title of "Sawai", meaning "The One-and-a-Quarter", by Emperor Aurangzeb for his intelligence. Ever since, the rulers of Jaipur have flown two flags, one full and one quarter-sized, to symbolize this tile. 

The Building of Jaipur -  In the 1720's Raja Sawai Jai Singh II, realizing that his kingdom had outgrown its old capital at Amber, began to dream of a new city which would someday be the capital of a unified Rajaputana - a great, flourishing center of commerce, the arts, and religion. He started work on building Jaipur 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 Singh I.

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").


                                                             Wrote RUDYARD KIPLING, LETTERS OF MARQUE, 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.


Janatar Mantar

The Jaipur astronomical observatory built by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1827 is am amazing monument. Jantar Mantar ( the name roughly translates as “The Formula of Instruments”) was one of five observatories he built in northern India. Its instruments, which look like giant, abstract, futuristic sculptures, are actually highly sophisticated devices that could, among other things, mark time accurate to one second.

The first observatory was built in Delhi. The second and more sophisticated one is Jaipur. In addition, three smaller ones, in Varanasi, Ujjain, and Mathura, were built to supplement the observations made in Jaipur. ( The Mathura one has since been destroyed.) 

In Pursuit of Astronomy 

Raja Sawai Jai singh II eagerly devored every known work on the subject written by Indian, Arab, and Greek astronomers and even went to the extent of having Ptolemy’s Almagest and Newton’s Principia specially translated into Sanskrit for him. He greatly admired the work done by the Turkish royal astronomer, Ulugh Beg, who had built an observatory in Samarkand in the 15th century, which had produced the most accurated astronomical reading to date. In the introduction to his own comprehensive treatise, he wrote that since nobody had one any significant work in the field since Ulugh Beg, he would undertake the daunting task himself. He sent out his emissaries to collect all the most advanced astronomical instruments that were being used by 18th century Europeans and Islamic astronomers. During the course of his studies he discovered the inaccuracies in the existing astronomical tables of the time. In the tables of the French astronomers, Pere de la Hire, for example, he was able to detect a discrepancy of half a degree in the placement of the moon and planets. He was outspoken in his criticism and once wrote: 

“ Ptolemy is a bat…the demonstrations of Euclid are imperfect sketch of the inaccuracies in the existing tables were all a result of mechanical limitations of the instruments used at the time – they were too small in size to be accurate, and their moving parts made them unreliable. His solution therefore, was to build gigantic instruments from stone, masonry, and marble instead of conventional brass ones.  

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.  

Other Instruments 

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.



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