The Jantar Mantar was constructed in 1724 by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh, who fostered the idea of building a fully functional and well-equipped structure that can obviate the need of inaccurate astronomical instruments present at that time.
Now on the same pattern, in the first decade of 21st Century, the Sundial has been constructed by the Delhi Development Authority. The project was executed as part of beautification drive during the Commonwealth Games held in 2010.
On the eastern fringe of the elevated Barapullah road, on the Sarai Kale Khan side, lies the giant steel Sundial built just ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. It would not be incorrect to say that ‘The Sundial is a monument to the legacy of the Commonwealth Games’ held in October 2010.
DDA is proud of the gnomon of the Sundial that weights 42 tonnes and measures 12.7 metre high and 24.5 metre long. It is decorated with tiles borrowing motifs from the Indus Valley era and the surface of the Sundial has 762 alternating Shiva and Nandi Bull tiles.
Designed in-house by the DDA’s landscape unit, it was built by the agency engineers under the structural guidance of IIT Roorkee and sculpted by Gagan Vij.
Vij started work on the project in June 2010. Since then, it has been sucked into a Bermuda Tringle of human, bureaucratic and elemental complications.
For a piece of art, the instrument is surprising useful. A group of scientists that tested it on the 21 December Solstice found its North-South alignment correct and declared it accurate. But don't use your watch to test it.
What the Sundial shows is local time as opposed to your clock time which, in India is the Indian Standard Time(IST) calculated in Allahabad. For example, it is noon by the sundial, when the shadow of the gnomon disappears. But your watch set to IST will read 12.21 pm at that time, as Delhi is 21 minutes behind Allahabad.
Sun casts a shadow of the part rising up from the gnomon on the dial. The edge of the gnomon's shadow works like a hand of the watch, showing the time difference is not constant. It can vary according to the position of the sun, so that you may have to add or subtract a few minutes.
Presently, only a few know that it is the largest horizontal Sundial in Delhi, which has been made on the pattern of the Jantar-Mantar. In future, it may well become one of the major tourist attractions in the national capital.