Vedh Shala

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Vedh Shala
Vedh Shala, Ujjain 01.jpg
The Samrata Yantra at the Vedh Shala.
Location Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India
Coordinates
Altitude 1,679 feet
Established 1725 (1725)

The Vedh Shala or Vedhshala is an observatory in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India that was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1725. Jai Singh built a total of five observatories in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi; they were completed between 1724 and 1735. The Vedh Shala in Ujjain is the only one among the five, that is still in use today. The Vedh Shala is slightly smaller than those in Jaipur and Delhi. It is situated to the south-west of the city, 1 km south-west of the railway station, overlooking a bend on the north bank of the river Shipra.

The Vedh Shala possesses instruments, or yantras,[1] that are used to determine the locations of heavenly bodies for astrological purposes.[2] The main instruments constructed by Jai Singh in the observatory were the Samrata Yantra, the Nadi Valaya Yantra, the Digansha Yantra, the Dakshinottara Bhitti or Bhitti Yantra, and the Sun Dial. They can be used to study the motions and orbits of the planets, due to which the Vedh Shala is also referred to as Yantra Mahal.[3] The Shanku Yantra was constructed later. The Vedh Shala also has a small planetarium and a telescope for moon-gazing and observing Mars and Jupiter, and their satellites.[2] The observatory is also currently used for weather forecasts.[4]

History[edit]

Ujjain was the birthplace of mathematical astronomy in India, and was once the centre of astronomical study in India.The town was known as Urain to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who named it after Urania, the Greek goddess of astronomy.[5] Research into the motion of the stars and planets has been carried out in Ujjain since the reign of Maurya Emperor Ashoka. In Ashoka's time, it was the seat of a University, where astronomy was taught as a special subject.[1] Ujjain is mentioned in early Hindu astronomical works. Hindu astronomers fixed both the first meridian or prime meridian of longitude and the Tropic of Cancer in Ujjain.[5][6][7][8] The city of Ujjain is considered to be the "Greenwich of India"[9] because the first meridian of longitude passes through it. From the 4th century BC, considerable research took place in the field of astronomy and astrology. Ujjain enjoyed the reputation of being India's Greenwich, and great works on astronomy such as the Surya Siddhanta and the Panch Siddhanta were written in Ujjain.[4]

The Vedh Shala was built in 1725 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, who came to Ujjain while serving as the Governor of Malwa during the reign of Mughal Emperor Mohammad Shah.[1][5] He founded the suburb of Jaisinghpura in Ujjain, and built an observatory just near it on the bank of river Shipra. Jai Singh constructed five Jantar Mantars in total, in Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi; they were completed between 1724 and 1735.[5] The Vedh Shala in Ujjain is slightly smaller than those in Jaipur and Delhi.[2] It is situated to the south-west of the city, 1 km south-west of the railway station, overlooking a bend on the north bank of the river Shipra.[1] The latitude of the point where the observatory is situated is 23° ??′ 6" N and the longitude is 75° 46′ 3″ E. Its height above the sea level is 1,679 feet. The magnetic declination is 0-49' E. Local mean time is 26 minutes and 52 seconds behind the standard time.[5]

Jai Singh was a scholar, astronomer and astrologer, who studied books on mathematical astronomy, available in the Persian and Arabic at the time, and himself wrote books on astronomy. He also translated the works of Ptolemy and Euclid into Sanskrit from Arabic.[4] He employed his skills to set up new instruments in his five observatories. The four instruments viz. the Sun Dial, Nari Valaya, Digansha and Transit instruments were made by Jai Singh in the observatory, and the Shanku Yantra was constructed later under the direction of G.S. Apte. Jai Singh observed the activities of planets himself for eight years in Ujjain, and made alterations in a number of main astro-mathematical instruments. The observatory was neglected and remained unused for two decades, after Jai Singh left Ujjain.[3][5]

The observatory was renovated by the 5th Maharaja of Gwalior Madhorao Scindia in 1923,[2] as per the suggestions of Siddhntavagish Narayanji Vyas, Ganak Churamani and G.S. Apte, the first Supreintendent the of observatory.[3] Scindia, who was very keen in preserving the antiquities, had the observatory thoroughly repaired under the supervision of an astronomer and it is now equipped with a small establishment.[5] He funded it for active use, and it has been functioning continuously till date.[3] The astronomical studies of planetary motions are still conducted in this observatory under the Department of Education, and an ephemeris (Panchang) is published every year. This is the only observatory among the 5 constructed by Jai Singh where masonic instruments are utilised for astronomical studies even today.[2][4][9]

The Digansh Yantra was re-constructed in 1974, having arrived at the last moments of its position. The Shanku Yantra was re-built in 1982. Marble notice boards displaying information about the instruments, in Hindi and English, were installed in 1983. Further renovation and beautification of the observatory was undertaken in 2003. Ten solar power operated solar tube-lights were installed with the help of the Energy Development Corporation, and banks were constructed along the River Shipra at the observatory site, under the auspices of Madhya Pradesh Laghu Udyog Nigam. An 8 inches diameter automatic telescope installed in Simhasth 2004, to facilitate visitors see planets through it.[3]

Samrata Yantra[edit]

The Samrata Yantra

The Samrata Yantra is 22 feet high and the edge of the Gnomon is 47 feet from south to north and the radius of each quadrant is 9 feet and 1 inch. If lines be drawn at right angles to the quadrants at their lowermost points and perpendicular to the edges of the Gnomon wall, the points where they meet these edges mark the zeros of the declination scale carved on the top of the wall. The inclination of the staircase to the horizon is 23-10', which is the latitude of Ujjain. The Dhruwa or polar star can be seen, in the direction of the staircase, when standing in front of the scale. On both the quadrants are marked, the hours and minutes to indicate time. From sunrise to noon the lines on the western quadrant and from noon to sunset, the lines on the eastern quadrant give the true local time, accurate to one-third of a minute. The standard time is obtained by adding to the true time, the correction which is engraved on stones fixed in the niches of the quadrant walls.[5]

This instrument is mainly used to find out the declination of any celestial body from the celestial equator towards the north or the south. The reading at the particular point on the edge of the quadrant from where the center of the celestial body could be observed to coincide with the edge of the wall, gives the declination.[3]

Nadi Valaya Yantra[edit]

The Nadi Valaya Yantra

The Nadi Valaya Yantra is a circular dial, constructed a few feet to the south of Samrata Yantra. It consists of a cylinder, 7 feet long and 3 feet and 7 inches in diameter. Its axis is fixed in the plane of the meridian, the faces of the cylinder being cut parallel to the plane of the equator. In the centre of each face and at right angles to it, is an iron style, round which, is a circle graduated into hours and minutes. The iron peg, fixed on the northern face indicates the time when the sun is in the northern hemisphere; and the peg on the southern face, gives the time when the sun is in the southern hemisphere. This Yantra helps to ascertain, the days on which fall, the equinoctial days in the year. It also gives us a clue as to the sphere northern or southern in which a particular star or planet is situated.[5]

This instrument made in the plane of the celestial equator has two parts - the north and the south parts. When the Sun is in the northern hemisphere for six months, the northern hemisphere disc is illuminated, and while the sun is in the southern hemisphere for the remaining six months, the southern disc is illuminated. The exact time of Ujjain is known by the shadow of the nails fixed parallel to the Earth's axis in between these two parts. This instrument is used to ascertain whether a celestial body is in the northern or the southern half. Astronomers observe a desired planet straight from a suitable point on the round edge of the northern part. If it is visible, then it is deemed to be in the northern hemisphere, otherwise it is in the southern one, likewise, information could be had from the southern part.[3]

Digansha Yantra[edit]

The Digansha Yantra is situated quite close and to the east of Samrata Yantra. It consists of an outer circular wall, 32 feet and 10 inches in diameter and 8 feet and 4 inches in height. Concentric with this is another circular wall 20 feet in diameter and of the same height as the outer wall. In the centre there is an iron rod which is 4 feet high. The inner circular wall is divided into four equal parts marking the cardinal points and degrees between them. By fixing a wire or a rope on the top of the pillar fixed in the centre and stretching it in the direction of a particular star or planet, the correct place of the star or planet, under observation can be determined.[5]

This instrument is used to fix out the altitude (distance from the horizon) and the azimuth (angular distance from the east or the west point measured along the horizon) of any celestial body. For this purpose a sextant type device called Turiya Yantra is fitted on the pole at the centre of the circular platform. The position of Turiya Yantra is then arranged in such a way that the two holes of the Yantra are in line joining the celestial body so that it may be visible through both the holes. The Pointer of the Turiya Yantra moving along the round graduated disc at top of the pole gives the azimuth. The suspending thread of the Yantra gives the altitude on the graduated seal of the quadrant.[3]

Bhitti Yantra[edit]

The Bhitti Yantra

The Dakshinottara Bhitti or Bhitti (Transit) Yantra is a meridian instrument. It is built in the plane of the meridian circle (i.e. the circle joining the south-north and the zenith point) is used for observing the zenith distance of any celestial body (corresponding to its mid-day).[3] The instrument consists of a wall lying in the plane of the meridian and constructed in the directions of north and south. It is 22 feet both in height and length and 7 feet in thickness. On the eastern surface of this wall, are double quadrants, the centres of which are at top corners of the wall. On the quadrants are marked the degrees with their sub-divisions, while in the centre of each quadrant, an iron peg is fixed. By fixing a string in the iron peg of the quadrants and stretching it in the direction of the shadow of the peg, just at noon, the zenith distance and the declination of the sun can be determined. If the experiment is made on 21 March or 23 September, the exact distance in degrees and minutes of Ujjain from the equator can be ascertained; and if the experiment is made on 23 December and 22 June, the maximum declination of the sun from the equator can be ascertained.[5]

There are two nails at the top of the instrument fixed with string in the center of graduated quadrants. When the object is in the south of the prime vertical (the circle joining the east the west and the zenith point) the southern nail is used. The northern nail is used, likewise, if the object is found in the north. At the time of the transit of the celestial body, the observer must keep their eye on the string, and move it forward or backward, to determine the particular position of the string at which the center of the heavenly body could be seen, through the point of the intersection of the nail and the wall. The reading of the quadrant at this position gives the zenith distance.[3]

Sun Dial[edit]

Reverse view of the Sun Dial at the Ved Shala.

The upper planes of the two walls on the sides of the steps in the middle of the Sun Dial are parallel to the axis of the earth. In the direction of the planes the pole star is visible. To the east and the west of the wall the quarter of a circle is formed in the plane of the Celestial equator on which hours, minutes and a third part of a minute are engaged. When the Sun shines in the sky, the shadow of the edge of the wall falls on some mark, indicating the local time of Ujjain by calculating the hour and minutes. The Indian Standard Time can be determined by adding minutes to this clear time table given on the east and the west side of the instrument.[3]

This instrument is mainly used to find out the declination of any celestial body from the celestial equator towards the north or the south. The reading at the particular point on the edge of the quadrant from where the center of the celestial body could be observed to coincide with the edge of the wall, gives the declination.[3]

Shanku Yantra[edit]

A vertical gnomon (Shanku) is fixed at the centre of the circular platform having a horizontal shape. The seven lines drawn according to the shadow of the gnomon indicate the twelve zodiac signs. Among these lines, the 22nd December makes the shortest day, the 21st March and the 23rd September make the days and nights equal, and the 22nd June makes the longest day of the year. With the help of the shadow of the gnomon the angle of elevation and zenith distance of the sun can determined. The Altitude of Ujjain is determined by the mid-day shadow of Shanku Yantra when the days and nights have equal length.[3]

Current status[edit]

Astronomers at the Vedh Shala have been bringing out Ephemeris (Panchang) every year since 1942. The Ephemeris (Panchang) published from 1942 to 2013 are sold at the observatory's office. The observatory also executes weather activities viz. measurement of rainfall, temperature and humidity recording, state of clouds, speed and direction of air, air pressure etc. daily.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d The Rough Guide to India. Rough Guides. 2003. p. 448. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Vedhshala (Jantar Mantar)". ujjaintourism.in. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Vedh Shala (Observetory)". ujjain.nic.in. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Vedhshala". ujjain.daccit.net. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dongray, Keshavrao Balwant (1935). In Touch with Ujjain. pp. 37;44;118;149–153. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Strolling in the City of Time". Deccan Herald. May 27, 2007. Retrieved 10 May 2014. 
  7. ^ Ujjain – The City of Mahakal, puratattva.in, Retrieved 11 July 2013.
  8. ^ http://hinduism.about.com/cs/festivals/a/ujjainkumbh.htm
  9. ^ a b Singh, Sarina (15 September 2010). Lonely Planet India. Lonely Planet. p. 703. Retrieved 3 December 2013.