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...Celestial Voyage

delhi Updated: Feb 16, 2009 01:20 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

It’s not only the colour of Jantar Mantar that is undergoing change. The monument, which is among some of the functional monuments in the country, is going to turn a new leaf, making a trip to this wonder worthwhile.

Identifying the place for conservation and environment development through National Culture Fund, the Archaeolo-gical Survey of India (ASI) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the year 2000 with Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels Ltd for illuminating the monument, providing signages and undertaking conservation of Misra Yantra (mixed instrument).

The MoU envisages raising awareness and appreciation about the monument, coming up with a visitor movement plan, site management plan and providing lights (for illumination) at a very low height so as not to interfere in the utility of instruments. Of these, illumination and signage panels are complete.

Astronomical lab

The year 2009 has been declared the International Year of Astronomy. This is likely to boost the prospects of the monument as a functional observatory to collect actual readings to prepare a database of positional astronomical observations obtained using the instruments.

Dr N. Rathnasree, director of Nehru Planetarium, said, “This is an astronomical laboratory and we want people to know how accurate observations can be obtained through these instruments. Such activities can go a long way in inculcating a scientific temper in the common man, especially students.”

“Once you understand how to use these instruments, you can come up with your own readings for knowing the position of celestial bodies … even prepare your own almanac,” Rathnasree said.

But in the absence of an astronomer, a visitor will be unable to comprehend the complex instruments and how to use them. “An interpretation centre is being planned keeping precisely this in mind,” Rathnasree added.

The Conservation Plan

The first in the step-by-step process is documentation of existing structures.

“As part of the project, measured drawings and condition survey have already been prepared. The ASI has agreed to update measured drawings for rest of the yantras too,” Mukherji said adding, “These drawings —plan, section and elevation —can be a reference for future too.”

The monument would be touched only after the drawings are done. The walls are made of stone rubble and plastered with lime. The outer layer would be restored with lime plaster keeping with the original appearance.

Misra Yantra

The Misra Yantra (mixed instrument) will be the first to undergo complete makeover. Many people still remember it as the logo for the 1982 Asian Games held here. It is believed Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh’s son Maharaja Madho Singh constructed it after his death.

“We plan to start from inside and gradually move to the walls outside. The curved portions need careful handling as they are graduated for certain readings and a slight increase in width and/or length may alter readings,” said Mukherji.