It was a pretty cold winter afternoon in New Delhi, January 2 if I’m not mistaken, when I met with Julie and her holidaying parents to visit the Qutb Minar and it monuments. It was my 5th attempt to visit Qutb Minar as I have been trying to do it every time I set foot in Delhi!
Finally, during my north Indian New Year Holiday and with our Rs. 10 and Rs. 250 tickets (Julie and I are considered locals with our residency certificate and her parents were considered foreigners), we entered into the gardens and was transported into the 12th century, albeit for a moment, while holding our ground in the present.
Tower of Victory
Qutb Minar, a brick tower made of red sandstone and marble, is one of the most popular destinations in India, more so in Delhi. The Qutb Minar and its monuments are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscription: 1993). Main description on the page reads:
Built in the early 13th century a few kilometres south of Delhi, the red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base, and alternating angular and rounded flutings. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some 20 Brahman temples.
Qutb Minar and its monuments is under the “Cultural criteria IV” which the UNESCO website defines/describes as “to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.”
True enough, Qutb Minar is said to not only serve the purpose of being the tower to issue the adhan (call to worship) but also as a tower of victory to impress upon the people the prowess of the Mamluk Dynasty, the new Muslim rulers of Delhi.
The marker/inscription on the grounds upon getting closer to the Qutb Minar reads:
The foundations of this world-famous tower, known as the Qutb-Minar, were laid by Qutbuddin Aibak of the Mamluk Dynasty towards the end of the twelfth century. The construction was interrupted at the first storey by his death, and the remaining three storeys were completed in a matching material and style by his successor Iltutmish commonlu known as Altamash in A.D. 1230. In A.D. 1368, the Minar was damaged by lightnin. Later, Firuz Shah Tughluq (A.D. 1351-88) replaced the top storey by the existing two storeys faced with marble. Sikandar Lodi (A.D. 1489-1517) also executed some repairs to the Minar in A.D. 1503, when it was again injured by lightning.
The tower has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and of about 2.75m at the top with a height of 72.5m and ascended by 379 steps, it is the highest stone tower in India and a perfect example of Minar known to exist anywhere. The variegated plan of its three lower storeys, the projecting balconies with stalactite pendentive brackets and ornate bands of inscriptions on its facades heighten its decorative effect.
Strength of Islam
Known as the Strength of Islam (or Light of Islam), the Quwwatu’l-Islam Mosque found in the Qutb Minar complex is the first Mosque to be built in Delhi. Also known as the Great Mosque of Delhi, the Quwwat-ul-Islam was built at the same time as the Qutb Minar in 1193.
Another interesting thing about the Qutb Minar complex that I never even realized before writing this blog post is that the pillars and the rocks and other materials used to build the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque was taken from 27 Hindu (and possibly Jain) temples.
According to an accompanying video at the UNESCO page for Qutb Minar and its monuments, not one of these pillars are the same. This was very unorthodox for Islam architecture at the time which is defined by uniformity.
Another thing to note is that, still according to the video, contrary to the practice of Islam wherein no idols are being worshiped or carved in their mosques, the ceiling and pillars bear Hindu designs as well as idolatry carved into the stones. If only I’d known about it earlier, I would’ve spent more time actually going through the ruins!
The Qutb complex is also home to other rulers and important persona during the Mamluk Dynasty and the Khilji Dynasty. You might want to explore the tombs of Allauddin Khilhi, second Sultan of Delhi from the Khiliji Dynasty, and the Sufi Saint Imam Muhammad Ali.
And with that, this Viahera Vlog (which now really looks like a regular blog post coz there’s only one video) for Qutb Minar has come to an end. I hope this tour has been enjoyable for you as it has been for me, reliving that cold January afternoon and learning more than I did before. But before I leave you, one final suggestion you might want to consider: feeding the squirrels!
If you’re ready to visit Qutb Minar, just alight at the Qutab Minar Metro Station in Delhi or flag down an autowallah! Happy wandering!