Qutb Minar, Delhi

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Qutb Minar, spelt as Qutab Minar or Qutb Minar, is a ‘victory’ tower and a minaret, forming a part of the ‘Qutb’ complex. This is a World Heritage site for UNESCO in the area of Mehrauli in New Delhi. This is one place that is most visited by tourists.

Qutb Minar is compared to the Minaret of Jam, an all brick, 62 – meter, in Afghanistan. This was constructed in 1190. The Minaret of Jam was constructed almost a decade before even the Delhi tower started being constructed. The surfaces of both the structures are decorated elaborately with geometric patterns and inscriptions. The shaft in Qutb Minar is fluted with stalactite bracketing. This is under the balconies. Minarets were used slowly in India and are detached from the mosque.

History

The Qutb Minar was built over the Lal Kot ruins. This began after the Quwwat-ul-Mosque that started in 1192 by the first ruler of Delhi Sultanate Qutb-ud-din Albak.

It is believed that Qutb Minar is named after Qutb-ud-din Aibak who had started this, but it is also possible that this was named after Qutbuddin Bakhtar Kaki. HE was a sufi saint of the 13th century and his devotee was Shamsuddin Itutmish.

A number of monuments of significance surround the Minar. The north-east of the Minar has the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. This was built by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. This is the earliest mosque that was built by the Sultans of Delhi. This has a courtyard that is rectangular and is enclosed by cloisters. The cloisters have columns with carvings and also architectural members of 27 Jaina and Hindu temples. These temples were demolished and this has been recorded in the inscription of Qutub-ud-din Aibak.This inscription is on the eastern entrance. After some time, a screen that is arched has been erected. This mosque was enlarged by Ala-ud-Din Khalji and Shams-ud-Din Itumish. The courtyard has an iron pillar bearing an inscription in Sanskrit. This is of the 4th century A.D. According to this the pillar was meant to be the standard of God Vishnu (Vishnudhvaja) of King Chandra.

This complex of the mosque is considered to be the earliest surviving the subcontinent of India.

‘Smith’s Folly’, a pillared cupola nearby is one of the remnants of the restoration in the 19th century of the tower. This was an attempt to add some stories.

The Qutb Minar was damaged by an earthquake in 1505. Sikander Lodi got this repaired. There was a major earthquake in the year 1803 on 1st of September. In 1828 the tower was renovated by Major Robert Smith. He installed a cupola with pillars over the 5th story, and created a 6th story. In 1848, this cupola was taken down. This was under Viscount Hardinge’s instructions. He was the Governor General of India. This was reinstalled at the ground level to Qutb Minar’s east.

Architecture

The victory towers are one symbol of Southwestern Asian design and Islamic architecture. Islam beyond Empires by Elizabeth Lambourn has studied the introduction of Islam in the Southern Asia and how this region could influence the architecture of Islamic religion. Muslims escaping the Mongol Empire, immigrated to India. They constructed religious centers. This tower is a central marker to the new Muslims communities. This also served as a reminder of the presence of Islam in that area. The techniques, materials and decoration used for the Qutb Minar were influenced by the design of the Middle East’s mosques.

The tower minarets were not common in the Islamic design of South Asia till the 17th century. This is due to this typical style of Middle East being adopted slowly in India. This is detached from main mosque. This showcases the way the native culture affected the structure of Middle East design. Qutb Minar is the best and the earliest example of a synthesis fusion of the traditions of Hindus and Muslims, as stated by Ved Parkash in ‘Qutb Minar from Contemporary and Near Contemporary Sources’ an essay. Like the many mosques that were built during this time, the Hindu craftsmen and laborers constructed this minaret and the Muslim architects oversaw this. This construction, thus, synthesized the Islamic and Hindu culture.

The craftsmen being Hindus were not familiar with the Quran and thus the inscriptions present are Quran texts that are disarranged compilations.

More about Qutb Minar

This tower of victory is 73m in height and has 5 distinct storeys. Each of these storeys is marked by a balcony that is projecting and tapers from a diameter of 15m at the base to 2.5m on the top. The 1st three storeys are made from sandstone and the 4th and 5th storey are made of sandstone and marble. The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque is at the tower’s foot.

How to Reach Qutb Minar

The nearest railway station is the New Delhi railway station. AKashmiri Bus stand is the closest and the Indira Gandhi International Airport is the closest airport to Qutb Minar.

Qutb Minar is open all the days from 7.00 am to 5 pm

The Entry fees for Indians iis Rs.35 and for Foreigners this is Rs. 550.

The best time to visit Qutab Minar is from November to March.

Lesser Known Facts

Not many are aware of some facts about this historical structure, Qutab Minar.

  1. The top of Qutab Minar was destroyed by lightning. Firoz Shah Tughlaq rebuilt this. These floors are different from the rest of the minaret as these are made of white marble.
  2. The Bollywood actor and director, Dev Anand wanted to shoot a song in the tower. As the cameras were too big to be taken inside, this song was shot in a replica of the minaret.
  3. Before the year 1974, the public could access the top floor of the minaret. In 1981, on 4th of December there was a stampede in which 45 people died. This stampeded was due to total darkness on the staircase due to failure of electricity. After this incident, the public is not allowed to go inside.