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Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar also spelled Qutab or Qutb
, is an array of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli in Delhi, India, the most famous of which is the five-storeyed, and 72.5 m high Qutb Minar built in 1192 AD, by Qutbuddin Aibak, viceroy and general in Mohammed Ghori of Ghazni's army to mark their victory over Delhi. Qutbuddin later became the first ruler of the Slave Dynasty, and after his death the Minarwas added upon by his successor Iltutmish (aka Altamash) and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Tughlaq dynasty, Sultan of Delhi in 1368 AD. The complex initially housed a complex of twenty-seven ancient Jain temples which were destroyed and their material used in the construction of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque next to the Qutb Minar, in the Qutb complex, built on the ruins of Lal Kot Fort built by Tomar Rajput ruler, Anangpal in 739 CE and Qila-Rai-Pithora, Prithviraj Chauhan's city, the Rajput king, whom Ghori's Afghan armies had earlier defeated and killed, at the Second Battle of Tarain.

The complex was added to by many subsequent rulers, including Firoz Shah Tughlaq andAla ud din Khilji as well as the British. The most famous monument situated in the complex is the Qutb Minar; other important constructions in the complex are the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, the Iron pillar, and the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khilji and Imam Zamin; surrounded by Jain temple ruins.

Today, the adjoining area spread over 100 acres, with a host of old monuments, including Balban's tomb, has been developed by Archeological Survey of India (ASI) as the Mehrauli Archeological Park, and INTACH has restored some 40 monuments in the Park. It is also the venue of the annual 'Qutub Festival', held in November-December, where artists, musicians and dancers perform over three days. Qutb Minar complex, with around 3.8 million visitors, was India's most visited monument in 2006, ahead of the Taj Mahal, which drew about 2.54 million visitors.

Qutb Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, it is an important example of early Afghan architecture, which later evolved into Indo-Islamic Architecture. The Qutb Minar is 72.5 metres (239 ft) high, has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony carried on muqarnas corbel and tapers from a diameter 14.3 metres at the base to 2.7 metres at the top, which is 379 steps away. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with surrounding buildings and monuments.

Built as a Victory Tower, to celebrate the the victory of Mohammed Ghori over Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan, in 1192 AD, by his then viceroy, Qutbuddin Aibak, later the first Sultan of Mamluk dynasty. Its construction also marked the end last of Hindu kingdoms in North India, and the beginning of Muslim rule in India, which ended only in the 19th century with the arrival of the British, and even today the Qutb remains one of the most important "Towers of Victory" in the Islamic world. Aibak however, could only build the first storey, for this reason the lower storey is replete with eulogies to Mohammed Ghori. The next three floors were added by his son-in-law and successor, Iltutmish. The minar was first struck by lightning in 1368 AD, which knocked off its top storey, after that it was replaced by the existing two floors by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a later Sultan of Delhi 1351 to 1388, and faced with white marble and sandstone enhancing the distinctive variegated look of the minar, as seen in lower three storeys. Thus the structure displays a marked variation in architectural styles from Aibak to that of Tughlaq dynasty.

Iron Pillar
The iron pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities. The pillar, 7.21 metre high and weighing more than six tonnes, was originally erected by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–414 AD) in front of a Vishnu Temple complex at Udayagiri around 402 AD, and later shifted by Iltutmish from Udaygiri to its present location in the Qutub complex, sometime around 1233 AD.

The estimated weight of the decorative bell of the pillar is 646 kg while the main body weighs 5865 kg thereby making the entire pillar weigh at 6,511 kg. The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script dating 4th century AD, which indicates that the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja, standard of God Vishnu, on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra, believed to Chandragupta II. A deep socket on the top of this ornate capital suggests that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it, as common in such flagpoles.

Tomb of IItutmish
The tomb of Slave Dynasty ruler, Iltutmish, the second Sultan of Delhi (1211-1236 AD), built during 1235 AD is also part of the Qutb complex at Mehrauli. The central chamber is a 9 mt sq. and has squinches, suggesting the existence of a dome, which has since collapsed. The main cenotaph, in white marble, is placed on a raised platform in the centre of the chamber. The facade is known for its ornate carving, both at the entrance and the interior walls. The interior west wall has a prayer niche (mihrab) decorated with marble, and a rich amalgamation of Hindu motives into Islamic architecture, such as bell-and-chain, tassel, lotus, diamond emblems.

Tomb of Imam Zamin
Tomb of Imam Muhammad Ali, or Imam Zamin, stand on a raised courtyard, next to the Alai Darwaza. According to an inscription of the eastern entrance to the tomb, Imam Zamin was a saint from Turkestan, who settled in India in around 1500, during the Sikander Lodhi. He built his tomb during his lifetime, and was buried here after his death in 1539 AD. The sandstone structure has dome on an octagonal base, while its interior is finished in polished white plaster, and contains fine, perforated jalis, or screens common in Lodhi period architecture.

Alauddin Khilji's tomb and madarsa 
At the back of the complex, southwest of the mosque, stands an L-shaped construction, consisting of Alauddin Khilji's tomb dating around 1316 AD, and a madarsa, an Islamic seminary built by him. Khilji was the second Sultan of Delhi from Khilji dynasty, who ruled from 1296 to 1316 AD.

The central room of the building, which has his tomb, has now lost its dome, though many rooms of the seminary or college are intact, and since been restored. It was the first example in India, of a tomb standing alongside a madarsa. Near by stands the Alai Minar, an ambitious tower, he started constructing to rival the Qutub Minar, though he died when only its first storey was built and its construction abandoned thereafter. It now stands, north of the mosque.

Alai Minar
Alauddin Khilji started building the Alai Minar, after he had doubled the size of Quwwat ul-Islam mosque. He conceived this tower to be two times higher than Qutb Minar in proportion with the enlarged mosque. The construction was however abandoned, just after the completion of the 24.5 meter high first storey core; soon after death of Ala-ud-din in 1316 AD, and never taken up by his successors of Khilji dynasty. The first story of the Alai Minar, a giant rubble masonry core, still stands today, which was evidently intended to be covered with dressed stone later on. Noted Sufi poet and saint of his times, Amir Khusroin his work, Tarikh-i-Alai, mentions Aladdin's intentions to extend the mosque and also constructing another minar.

Ala-ud-din conceived a very ambitious construction programme when he decided to build the second tower of victory when he returned in triumph from his Deccan campaign. However, the Sultan died before even the first storey was finished and the project was abandoned. Ala-ud-din, felt compelled to increase even further the size of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. His scheme called for increasing the size of the enclosure four times, providing ceremonial entrance gateways on each side, and a great minar, twice the size of the Qutb. This is the unfinished base of the mammoth tower begun by Ala-ud-din Khilji intended to give competition to Qutb Minar.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
City: Kolkata
Country: India
Date: May 2, 2010