Qutub Minar

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Qutub Minar

History

13 kms south of Connaught Place on the road to Mehrauli lies the Qutub Minar Complex on the ruins of Lal Kot, the first city of Delhi. At the centre of the complex stands the Qutub Minar . The five-storied tower with a 14.4 metre base that tapers up to two and a half metres at the top is visible for a long distance around. Built mainly of red sandstone, the fifth storey of the Minar was restored by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1369 who used contrasting elements of marble. The monument and its buildings are listed on the World Heritage Site.

The sides have inscriptions of Koranic verses and praises to its builders. Leading up to the top is a narrow winding staircase now closed to the public after several suicide attempts and incidents of stampede. The Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) mosque, completed in 1198, was the first mosque to be built in India. Using remains of 27 Hindu and Jain temples that had been destroyed by Qutb-ud-din’s army, the mosque also reflects technique used by traditional Indian artisans, especially in the detailed masonry and corbelled arches. Steps lead up to the courtyard with decorative Hindu pillars and ornamental arches marking the prayer hall. The focal point of the mosque is the carved sandstone screen which is an amalgamation of Indian and Islamic motifs. Along with Koranic calligraphy, the carvings incorporate the lotus motif, with the western façade facing Mecca.

In the courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque stands a 7-metre high iron pillar, from the 4th century Gupta period. Almost completely rust-free, this 98% pure iron pillar continues to be a puzzle for metallurgists. A popular tradition says that a person standing with back to the pillar and encircling it with his hands has any wish granted.

The Alai Darwaza , built in 1311 by the ambitious Ala-ud-din Khilji, is an 18-metre high sandstone gateway with lattice screens. It is ornamented with geometric and floral designs, with marble inlay work that reflects the craftsmanship of artisans from Turkey. Near the south entrance of the Qutub complex is the Ala’i Minar , planned by Ala-ud-din Khilji to surpass the magnitude of Qutub Minar. However, only the first storey could be completed before Khilji died and the project was abandoned.

The tomb of Iltutmish , built in 1235, is the first Muslim mausoleum in India. It was an unusual feature in those times, since Hindus cremate their dead. The plain exteriors and triple-arched doorway leads into a square inner chamber. Using a combination of Muslim and Hindu styles, the doorway is decorated with arabesque patterns and calligraphy along with the lotus and wheel motif. A dome covering the sandstone chamber collapsed due to imperfect building techniques, and pieces of it can be seen lying in the courtyard.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Delhi is between October and March, when the weather is very pleasant. The summers months are very hot and dry, so do come prepared for the weather.

Trivia

It is believed that the site at which Qutub Minar is located at present, was once occupied by 27 Hindu and Jain temples.

Timing

The Qutub Minar is open for sightseeing on all days from sunrise to sunset.


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