Jantar Mantar at centre of Jaipur tourism (With Image)

March 25th, 2011 - 2:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, March 25 (IANS) The ‘pink city’ has entered a new phase of heritage conservation and tourism with UNESCO declaring the 18th century Jantar Mantar there a World Heritage site last year.

The astronomical observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh II, a ruler of the erstwhile Rajput kingdom, is now at the centre of Jaipur’s future tourism development plan.

The observatory is drawing more visitors - both foreign and domestic - and has become the second largest contributor to the state’s revenue kitty from tourism.

The Jantar Mantar built by Jai Singh is one of the five observatories across the country - the others are in Delhi, Mathura, Ujjain and Varanasi - to measure time, record the position of the sun, stars and movements of planets and other celestial objects in the sky.

Built between 1727 AD and 1734 AD, it constitutes massive sundials and compasses built to geometric precision to coincide with the elliptic of the earth and the position of the sun.

“In keeping with the new international status of the Jantar Mantar, a bi-lingual sound and light show will open at the observatory in June to educate visitors on the importance of the instruments, their uses and the evolution of astronomy as a science down the ages,” S.P. Singh, director of the department of archaeology and museums of the Rajasthan government, told IANS.

Modelled on the sound-and-light show at the 16th century Amber Fort in the outskirts of the city, the sound-and-light module at the Jantar Mantar will be designed by a Delhi-based agency, which had earlier created the Fort Amber sound-and-light show.

According to figures furnished by the archaeology and museums department of Rajasthan, Jantar Mantar has been the second highest heritage revenue mopper in the state, grossing Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million/50,000 USD)) in February 2011 and Rs 25.77 lakh in January. It recorded a footfall of 50,000 in February.

In January, the monument drew 57,000 tourists.

Statistics cited that the Amber Fort topped the list with a revenue of Rs 1.16 crore (Rs 11.60 million/300,000 USD)) in February. The newly-renovated Albert Museum in the city was in the third position with Rs.15 lakh.

“A management plan under the guidelines of UNESCO has been drawn to oversee the implementation of the upgrade of infrastructure at Jantar Mantar and the beautification of the buffer zone around the observatory,” Singh said.

Besides the one-hour sound-and-light show, the state government was also building an interpretation centre at the observatory to make it easy for visitors to comprehend the utility of the instruments and “the principles on which they work”, the director of the department of archaeology and museums said.

Several government departments were working together to implement the UNESCO guidelines at Jantar Mantar.

“We have re-painted the monuments in the observatory, landscaped the lawns, installed new signages, restored and re-calibrated (marked the old numerical configurations afresh) the instruments with the help of local experts and set up a book stall on the premises,” Singh said.

“An audio guide facility in several foreign languages enables tourists to understand the implication of the instruments without the help of local guides,” he added.

The department plans to “check the veracity of instrument at least six times a year with the help of local astronomers, astrologers and experts from the Nehru Planetarium in New Delhi”, Singh said.

One of the reasons why Jantar Mantar has consistently figured on the top of the list of revenue moppers is the fact that it draws more foreign visitors than domestic ones.

“The price of entry tickets is double than that for Indian tourists,” Singh said.

To make heritage tourism more viable, plans are afoot to link the Jantar Mantar to the Hawa Mahal in the city through a contiguous heritage zone.

An official in the department said: “Traffic will soon be controlled in the buffer zone of the observatory and two old buildings on either side of the Hawa Mahal, barely half-a-km from the observatory, have been freed of its occupants and restored.”

A proposed global arts square at Jaleb Chowk near the Amber Fort will provide a platform to the crafts people of the state to showcase their colourful wares.

The heritage corridor in the pink city is woven around the Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar - encompassing a large swathe of area dotted in between with smaller historic monuments.

The state government has sent dossiers on five historic forts to UNESCO to be considered as potential World Heritage sites in 2011.

The monuments include the Amber Fort, the Chittor Fort, Gagron Fort in Jhalawar, the Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajsamand district and the Ranthambore Fort, Singh said.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at madhu.c@ians.in)

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