At first glance, Jantar Mantar may look to be nothing more than a bunch of larger-than-life abstract sculptures. But this is not an art gallery—it’s a special collection of astronomical tools started by Rajput ruler Jai Singh II to measure the heavens nearly 300 years ago.

Each of the 20 or so structures at the UNESCO World Heritage Site serves a distinctive purpose. The observatory’s massive sun dial, known as Samrat Yantra, is particularly striking. At 27 meters tall, it casts a huge shadow that accurately measures time down to two seconds.

The elaborate Jai Prakash also tracks the passing of time, using the shadow of a metal plate suspended above a sunken bowl-like structure. Other tools at the observatory can track stars and even predict eclipses.

Hot tip: It’s worth hiring a private guide at Jantar Mantar if you want to learn how each of the structures work.

Address: Gangori Bazaar, J.D.A. Market, Pink City, Jaipur

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