The Pink City's celebrated astronomical observatory, Jantar Mantar, is in the race for the UNESCO's World Heritage status. The city fathers, the Rajasthan Government and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have readied enough material to push forward the cause of the 18th century scientific and architectural wonder, built by the former ruler and founder of Jaipur city, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, when the UNESCO's World Heritage Committee meets in Brasilia in Brazil end of this month.
Jantar Mantar—the name derived from “Yantra Mantra” (instruments and formulae) -- situated just outside the gates of the City Palace in the Walled City area of Jaipur, is one of the five astronomical observatories built by the former ruler in various parts of the country including Delhi. Considered to be the largest stone observatory in the world, Jantar Mantar took its final shape around 1733.
The monument, a remarkable collection of architectural-astronomical instruments, was renovated at the turn of the previous century and was declared a national monument in 1948. “ICOMOS, the evaluating agency appointed by UNESCO has given a positive report on Jantar Mantar terming it as a site of ‘outstanding universal value', a categorisation needed for nomination for the World Heritage status,” Bina Kak, Rajasthan Tourism Minister, said talking to The Hindu.
However Ms. Kak conceded that there were some conditions for the local and the State authorities to fulfil before the monument, which has over a dozen instruments which could even now measure time, accurately predict movement of stars and eclipses and forecast astronomical events, got the distinction.
“They are holding the nomination subject to fulfilment of certain conditions including a management plan for Jantar Mantar and strict implementation of by-laws in the buffer zone of the monument which include parts of Chowkri Sarad surroundings. We have taken the required action in this regard. The management plan has been signed. A notification on the Jantar Mantar buffer zone also has been issued,” Ms. Kak noted.
“If UNESCO is convinced, Jantar Mantar may be inscribed as World Heritage site is the coming session starting from July 25. If they ask for more evidence of actual enforcement (of the management plan and other conditions) then the chances of its inscription will be in the next year,” said Shikha Jain, Director of the Gurgaon-based Dronah, a body promoting conservation of cultural monuments. “In any case they have recognised the significance of the observatory,and it is just a matter of time when it gets inscribed,” she asserted.
ASI too is trying hard to get the inscription for Jantar Mantar this year as the previous monument to get into the coveted category was the Red Fort Complex, back in the year 2005. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur appears to be the lone contender this time from India as Matheran Railways, which was in the race initially, has been reportedly deferred.