Jantar Mantars

As you can tell from the previous few posts, our tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra included a lot of visits to tombs, forts and palaces. Throw in a couple of mosques and museums, and you’ve pretty much summed up the trip.

Except, that is, for the Jantar Mantars.

A Jantar Mantar is a uniquely Indian artifact: a set of giant, building-sized instruments for taking precise astronomical measurements. They were built in the 1720s and ’30s by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in several cities, including ones in Jaipur and Delhi, which still exist.

Overview of the Jantar Mantar at Jaipur (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

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Guard or guide?

One of the annoying phrases I’ve grown used to in India is, “I’m a guard, not a guide.” This is the start of a sales pitch by a security guard for tour guide services in the place he’s supposed to be guarding.

Actually, it’s not the start of the sales pitch. The usual opening is for the guard to just walk up to you, and without any request or agreement, start talking to you about the site or exhibits. Usually he’s not going to add anything that isn’t already written on signs and labels, and any information that does go beyond that is of questionable accuracy anyway. So you don’t want him to do this, since he’ll expect some kind of payment afterwards if you go along with it. It’s when you first tell him, no, you don’t want his information, that he assures you he’s a “guard, not a guide”. That’s when he’ll start haggling for the price of his guide services.

If you’re providing guide services, and expecting payment for it, you are a guide. And while you’re guiding, or touting for it, you’re clearly not being a very good guard, either.

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Holiday

I’m currently on a two week holiday, visiting the classic tourist destinations of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with my girlfriend. There will be a short blogging hiatus during this time. Normal service will be resumed after the break.

Edit 22/10/13: Actually I’ve got a bit of spare time while we’re in Jaipur for a couple of short posts.