MANY historic monuments over the years have become an integral part of the nation’s culture. Today, we take a walk though the timelines of two such structures that have become a vital part of India’s history – Jantar Mantar in Delhi and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai
WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT
Located in the heart of New Delhi, Jantar Mantar holds a special place in the hearts of the people of the metropolis. Comprising of 13 huge architectural and astronomical instruments, it was built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II; he built five across western and central India.
There’s much confusion about the year of construction of the Jantar Mantar. A plaque was placed at the site in 1910, mistakenly suggesting the year of construction to be 1710. Archaeological research revealed the construction to have begun in 1724.
His son, Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh I refused to pay allegiance to the Kacchawaha kings since succeeding to the leadership of the Jats. Soon after the construction of the Misra Yantra, one of the four distinct astronomical instruments at the Jantar Mantar observatory, it was looted by Maharaj Jawahar Singh
The observatory was mentioned in the collection of aquatints of British artists Thomas and William Daniell as the Observatory at Delhi.
Even Syed Ahmed Khan, the 19th century philosopher, Islamic reformist and scholar, in his record of the historic buildings of Delhi, Atharal Sanadid, stated that the instruments have fallen into disuse and are almost in ruins.
Raja Rama Singh II of Jaipur commissioned conservation work for the most imposing Yantra of the observatory, the Samrat.
More than a century after its construction, the Jantar Mantar had decayed considerably. It had reduced to picturesque ruins.
1909 – 1910
Although negotiations had begun as early as 1889 between the Delhi District Board and Jaipur State, the elaborate restoration project began in 1909.
The Yantra became intriguing architectural shapes or archaeological remains. The symbolic, spatial and functional link between Yantras and the Bhairon temple had been severed. Hence, a wall and a gated entry was built between the two in 1960.
The gate was sealed in 2000 to introduce a ticketing system for the observatory.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) nominated Jantar Mantar for world heritage inscription in 2010 for cultural sites.
Once known for its historical and architectural importance, Jantar Mantar has now become the unofficial designated protest site in Delhi.
CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA
One of the oldest museums in Mumbai, it has strived to preserve documents and photographs, especially related to its history.
Eminent personalities including Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, Justice Chandravarkar, Justice Badrudin Tyabji, Narotamdas Gokuldas, David Sassoon, Jamshetjee Jeejeebhoy and Kikabhai Premchand got together to create something unique on August 14, 1904, in the form of the museum, to honour the visit of the Prince of Wales
The foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales and the museum was named after him. It soon started collecting important documents, art pieces and relics to display.
Architect George Wittet, the then consulting architect to the government, was appointed to design the museum building.
The statue of Prince of Wales, sculpted by George T Wade, was donated by David Sassoon to commemorate the visit of Prince George and Princess Mary of Wales.
Construction of the building began in 1909 and was completed in 1914. The cost of the block and the necessary additions and alterations amounted to about rupees nine lakh.
During, the construction, the collection was stored in the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society basement, now known as the Asiatic Library.
During World War I, the building was used by the military as a hospital and subsequently for the Children’s Welfare Exhibition.
The museum acquired Indian miniatures and other antiquities from the well-known collection of Seth Purushottam Mavji, which were once a part of the treasures of Nana Phadnis (1741-1800), a minister in the Peshwa period.
The famous excavated artefacts from the Buddha stupa of Mirpurkhas were brought to the museum by its excavator Henry Cousens.
The building was formally handed over to the board of trustees by the Public Works Department.
The museum was opened to the public by Lady Lloyd, wife of Lord Lloyd, the Governor of Bombay.
The major art collections of Sir Ratan Tata and Sir Dorab Tata were bequeathed to the museum. The Tata collection comprises two major sections, the European and the Far Eastern. Some outstanding Indian antiquities such as textiles, arms, bronzes and paintings formed part of this magnanimous gift. Lady Ratan Tata donated the furniture for the galleries.
The museum was also enriched by the gift of antiquities from the Sir Akbar Hydari collection.
A very interesting and valuable collection was added from Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Trust.
The Prince of Wales Museum was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, after the city was renamed Mumbai in 1995
The textile gallery, the first in the city, was launched in April.
New galleries were launched in July, highlighting the early phase of the JJ School of Art and the progressive art movement.