Friday, January 29, 2010

The Jugga Rao Observatory

A crowd gathers to watch the transit of Venus at the Jugga Row Observatory in 1882
The Observatory at Visakhapatnam stood on the same grounds as the Dolphin Hotel (needs verification) does today. It was established by Venkata Jagga Rao, on whose immediate ancestors Francis W. heaps praise in the Vizagapatam Gazetteer.

About Jagga Rao’s paternal uncle, Surya Prakasa Rao, Francis quotes one Dr. Benza as saying, “He speaks and writes the English language uncommonly well, and his pronunciation evinces hardly any foreign accent. He disregards the show and glitter, the suite of attendants, the umbrella-carriers, and other indispensable appendages of his countrymen of rank corresponding to his own; and wears none of their ornaments. He came to visit the governor on a superb Arabian horse, and was introduced without a single attendant. We accompanied him on his return to Anakapalle, and he conducted us to his garden, which was laid out in a most beautiful style, rich with indigenous and exotic plants and trees.’ Francis W. goes on to say this uncle of Jagga Rao also helped capture a notorious rebel, Prakasa Rao, in 1834. Sounds like an accomplished Anglophile, whom the English liked in return.

Jagga Rao was the elder son of Surya Prakasa Rao’s only brother, Surya Narayana Rao. He studied at Madras under the then government astronomer, T.G. Taylor, from whom he seems to have acquired a love for astronomy. On returning home to Vizagapatam, in 1841, he built the observatory. He died in 1856, leaving behind a daughter. She married Ankitam V. Narasinga Rao, who carried on his father-in-law's work, even resigning his post of deputy collector, in order to find time to manage his newly-acquired estate.