Dr Anthony P Stone stone_catend at COMPUSERVE.COM
Sat Oct 14 10:48:28 UTC 2000

On Mon, 2 Oct 2000 Anand M. Sharan wrote:

> I was waiting to see if any one on this web site would clarify the meaning
> of the above mentioned word mentioned by Dr. Stone who thinks it means in
> this context as observatory .
> G.R. Kaye has written a book entitled, " A Guide to the Old Observatories
> at Delhi; Jaipur; Ujjain ; Benares " published in 1920, and republished by
> The Academic Press, Gurgaon, Haryana, in 1985 .
> He also writes that the place was called Jantar Mantar even then. While the
> instruments made of brick etc have names such as Samrat ( Emperor ) Yantra
> etc. none of the instruments or mechanisms have the name Jantar Mantar .
> Who gave its name - Jantar Mantar ?
> Jantar is - Yantra . The letter Ya has different pronounciation in
> different regions of India . If we start from the South India , its
> pronounciation is as it should be in Sanskrit - it is Ya . As we move
> north, Ya gets changed to Ja . Secondly, in Yantra , tra gets changed to
> tar in the North India in local spoken languages . Hence, Yantra becomes
> Jantar . I am not a linguist but this what I have observed .
> Now , we come to the second word - Mantar . Here, using the same reasoning
> as before, Mantra becomes - Mantar . Hence Yantra - Mantra has become
> Jantar Mantar .


> Where is the Mantra in these instruments ? Usually, a Mantra is something
> which can not be explained by cause and effect relationships in common
> usage . Something that is not readily apparent . In which of these
> instruments is this applicable ?
> It is in the Samrat Instrument - The Sundial . There was no  other dial
> then.In Europe, at that time the clocks were made which were small and
> accurate but the need was to know the longitude for sea farers. The need
> was very different . Here, it was for astronomy . Jaisingh did not rely on
> brass instruments which could not maintain allignments, and dimensional
> accuracy due to temperature changes . It was the need which determined the
> type of construction. In Jaisingh's instruments bigger gave better
> resolution i.e., smallest unit of time which one could see .

I have just noticed that in 1844 Sir Thomas Metcalfe presented his daughters
with a compilation entitled 'Reminiscences of Imperial Dehlie' [imperial here =
Mughul].   Near the beginning is an account of the Delhi Jantar-Mantar, which

The Observatory at Dehly denominated the "Juntur-Muntur", literally Witchcraft,
was constructed by the Maha Raja Jey Singh of Jeypoor ... . [ref 1]

Hindi 'jantar-mantar' can mean "jugglery, conjuring, witchcraft, an
observatory", while 'yantramantra' is "sorcery, magic". [ref 2].

Hence one may speculate that 'Jantar-Mantar' is something of a popular name
arising from the mystery of astronomical/astrological work as a whole, and not
from any particular instrument.

I have not been able to ascertain whether the observatories at Ujjain and
Varanasi bear the same designation.

[1] Reproduced in M.M.Kaye, The Golden Calm. New York, 1980.
[2] Bhargava's Standard Illustrated Dictionary of the Hindi Language. Varanasi,

Regards, Tony Stone

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