Using light, artists from France and India projected onto the red brick and mortar walls of the 400 year-old observatory stars, planets, asteroids, astronomical instruments and motifs drawn from different mythologies and cosmic legends. "
Jantar Mantar is not just important for astronomy where heaven and earth meet. It also represents unity of elements and today it represents the artistic collaboration between France and India. We'll take you a little closer to the stars. That is how France says Bonjour India," said Minister of Culture and Communication for France Aurelie Filippetti while inaugurating the show at Jantar Mantar here late last evening.
'Luminocity', a Franco-Indian collaboration is part of the ongoing 'Bonjour India' programme to celebrate the "long and rich friendship" between the two countries.
It began in January and spreads over to March across various cities of the country.
So, a sweeping astrolabe could be seen followed by a swinging hour-circle or an ancient astronomical chart lavishly spread over the surface of the Samrat Yantra or various deities riding animals, horizontally cascading across the Ram Yantras and even Mandalas spinning out over the walls.
The Delhi observatory whose construction was begun in the early 1700s by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur has instruments like the Samrat Yantra, the Ram Yantras, the Jayaprakash Yantra and the Mishra Yantra designed on an iconic astronomical pattern.
Incidentally visual artist Nandita Palchoudhuri and her team of native artists who erected a "slice of sky" artwork at main entrance of Jantar Mantar along with 20-odd "time pieces" on its fences, hail from Chanadannagar, a once French town during colonial era in West Bengal.
"This artwork represents the sky seen as a piece of cake. And, I have guided about 40-50 native artists from city of Chandannagar who use this 'old' decoration techniques only during Durga puja to help create this ode to astronomy," Nandita said.
The installation artist who has worked on projects in London and Germany says it was a challenge to show the universe above. "So, it is here that we brought the 'taare zameen par' (stars on earth)," said Nandita.
French artist and "light sculptor" Patrick Rimoux whose team presented a sumptuous feast of light enthralled and mesmerised the crowd with its thematic and well-researched content and bravura display.
"I researched a lot for this in books, libraries, internet and films and collected it from various sources. So, you'll see Latin, French, Hindu, Chinese, Persian, among other
motifs in the visual content. The idea is to represent universality of time and space," said team member Julia Dantonnet, who helped to create the video art.
Visitors seemed to be in awe of the "extraordinary moment".
"The event brings together tradition and modernity. This also gives new life to monuments like the Jantar Mantar which is over 400 years old. And, I must add that if you don't have heritage you don't have a future," said Cesare Bieller, head
of culture, Italian Embassy.
Laurie Hemery, a French citizen, who is visiting Delhi for the first time with her two old friends seemed ecstatic to be part of that rare 'Indo-French' experience.
"It is great to see something this old as the monument alongside with something modern as the lightshow. I have also seen Jaipur and the Jantar Mantar there and this is beautiful...In France, we also try to preserve our history and events like this will help popularise many more monuments.
Also, it is a great way to learn about each other's culture," said Laurie who had come with her friend Notaro.
"I came here with my photographer friend and he shot the projections and its details after careful observations. I could see motifs from Tamil divinity, Egyptian, Persian,
Chinese and even Mayan, among others," said Jenni a student of French Language at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here.
For Gurpreet who visited the breathtaking work with his wife was "overwhelmed by it colour and magnificence".
"The colour and the ambiance is very appealing. I am overwhelmed by its magnificence. And, I'm glad that I'm seeing it here with my very eyes. Because, I don't think the experience of an immersive visual art can be matched by watching it second-hand on a screen or through a photograph," said Singh.
English citizen Anna said she had "earlier heard of Jantar Mantar as only a venue for protest and had seen the monument from outside but never knew that it was actually an observatory".
"I like decorating monuments now and would like to work on more such projects," said artist Pawan Kumar who was accompanied by five other fellow artists while the rest had worked on the project from Chandannagar only.
"The rectangular LED artworks on the fences are symbols of time, so we have hourglass, grandfather-clock, sundials, candles and days of the week, among others," Nandita added.
About 20 odd artists from India dressed as electronic bees and robots among others stood or walked around the venue as a performing art.
The fashion installation created by designer Lecoanet Hemnat comprises of 8 main outfits which are complemented with 12 small ones to depict the satellites orbiting one another.
Translucent synthetic fabrics were used for the outfits. French electro band Scratch Bandits Crew also performed.