Among the major tourist attractions of Delhi is a 13th century UNESCO world heritage site called Qutub Minar. Built in early 13th century Qutub Minar is one of the most famous historical monument situated in Delhi. Thousands of visitors visit this architectural wonder every day. About 73m in height, it is the tallest brick minaret in the world. Qutub Minar is made out of red sandstone and marble. The tower has a spiral staircase consisting of about 379 steps. The construction of this tower started in 1192 and was completed in 1220.
Qutab-Ud-Din-Aibak started the construction of the tower but could not complete it in his lifetime. First three storey of the tower were later completed by Shamsuddin Iltutmish his successor and son in law. Qutub Minar is one of the most significant monuments of India; it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
History of Qutub Minar:
Before Muslim invasion the now called Qutub complex had many beautiful and magnificent Hindu and Jain temples . The fact that this place had many temples tells that this must have been an important place back then, and may be because of its significance Iron Pillar would have been installed in the complex.
It is said that one of the ministers of King Anang Pal Tomar who was called Nattal Sahu had built a magnificent temple in this complex. But later all these beautiful temples were destroyed mercilessly and Islamic structures were built from the material of the same temples that they destroyed.
The construction of this famous monument was initiated by Qutab-ud-din Aibak in the year 1192. Some say that the monument is named after Qutab-ud-din Aibak while according to some it is named after a celebrated Muslim Sufi Saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. The reason for the construction of this monument is again disputed. According to the most popular belief it was built as a victory tower; making it a symbol of Muslim domination (rule)on the lands of India. Other say, the muezzins used It to summon the devotees for the prayer at the mosque but does not seem to be right as the building is too high for this purpose.
The construction of Qutub Minar completed in 1220 under the reign of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, so in law and successor of Qutab-Ud-Din-Aibak. Three more storeys were added to the Qutub Minar by Shams-ud-din Iltutmish.
This monument has suffered nature’s wrath many times in the past. In 1369 AD the top storey of the monument was destroyed by strike of lightning. It was restored by Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq (the then Sultan of Delhi) who added 2 additional storeys to the monument. The monument suffered again in 1505, when an earthquake caused damage to the tower. Later Sikandar Lodi (the then Sultan of Delhi) ordered reconstruction of the top storeys of the tower with marbles. In the year 1803 the building suffered another earthquake which caused great damage to the monument. Its restoration was initiated in 1828 by Major Robert Smith of British army, as part of the renovation a cupola was installed on the top of the tower. In the year 1848 the cupola was removed from the tower and was relocated to the east side of Qutub Minar on ground level. This cupola is called Smith’s Folly.
Architecture of Qutub Minar:
Qutub Minar has architectural style similar to Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam, additionally local styles are incorporated into its appearance. The garlands, looped bells and lotus borders are example of the same. The minaret has parso-arabic characters carved on its various sections, these tell about history of its constriction.
The height of this colossal tower is 73 meters. The minaret’s base diameter is about 15 meters and at the top diameter is about 2.5 meters. The monument is made of red sandstone and marbles.The monument is a 5 storeys structure, first three of which are built with red sandstone and the other with marble and sandstone. The tower has a spiral staircase consisting of about 379 steps. Verses from the holy Quran are engraved on the bricks of the monument; these are covered with iron carvings.
Projected balconies surround the minaret at every storey of the tower; these are supported by the corbels which are decorated with honey comb vault. As the monument was reconstructed restored by different people in different eras the construction materials used in different eras were different hence stages of the tower are noticeably different. The tower is slightly tilted from 65cm.
Qutub complex includes many historically significant buildings and monuments; these are in close vicinity of the Qutub Minar Itself. Some of the prominent structure of the Qutub complex are: , the Iron Pillar of Delhi, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Tomb of Imam Zamin, Smith’s Folly and Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Alai Darwaza.
Structures of Qutub Minar Complex
Quwwat-ul-Islam is said to be the first mosque built in India. It was built by Aibak, its construction began in 1193 and finished in 1197. The mosque is decorated with shafts of 27 Hindu temples that were destroyed and plundered to build this mosque. This is why the mosque has typical Hindu temple like ornamentation. This information is given in the inscription on the eastern gate of the mosque.
Another masterpiece of history, located in the courtyard of the mosque, the Iron Pillar is said be from Gupta empire that has Brahmic inscriptions. It is 7 meter tall, rust resistant pillar that draws attention not only of the tourists but of material scientists and archaeologists as well. It is said that if a person can embrace the pillar in their arms with their back facing the pillar, their wish gets full field.
Details of Iron pillar and inscriptions:
The first inspiration is written in Brahmic. This inscription of this pillar talks about time around 4 AD, it loosely translates to “The victory of a great king defeating enemies from Bengal to Punjab.” Although the inscription doesn not mention the name of the king but historians Identify it with Chandra Gupta- II.
The other main inscription of the pillar dates back to around 11th century. When it comes to translation of this inscription historians have different opinons. Some believe it translates to “Anang Pal establoshed the city of Delhi in 1052 AD” and the other believe it says “Anang Pal tightend the nail in 1052 AD.”
Folklore of Iron Pillar : Story of Iron Pillar and Anang Pal Tomar:
It is said that a sage once told the king Anang Pal Tomar that this iron pillar is resting on the head of a serpent king called Vasuki and it was immovable. The sage told the king that so long as the nail would remain in its place the rule of his dynasty will remain in Delhi. The sage has warned the king not to try and mess with the pillar but the curious king decided to check it for himself.
The king ordered his men to dig up the same and to his surprise he did find the pillar to be resting on the head of serpent king. Looking at this the king asked his men to immediatlty put the nail back and reinstall the pillar. But unfortunetly,the nail remined loose. From here came a sayinng “Keeli to dheeli Bhyi, Tomar Bhaya Mathi.”
As per another version of Rishi Vyas told the king ‘so long as the pillar stood firm his reign would last.’ As king tried to reinstall the pillar only the part of it measuring to 19 fingure nails to go inside the ground. And 19 generations later Tomar’s rule ended in Delhi and Chauhans came in power.
Construction by Alauddin Khalji
Khalji Sultan Alauddin had an ambition to build even taller minar in the Qutub complex. This ambitious project of his was called Alai Minar. Alauddin Khalji started the construction of this minar but it was never completed to this date you can see this unfinished minar in the complex.
Alai Darwaza: Another piece of Qutub complex that is attributed to Alauddin Khalji is Alai darwaza. It is southern ggate of the mosque Quuwat-ul-Islam, this structure is adorned with beautiful caligraphy. Along with verses of Quran Alauddin Khalji mentioned as Sikander Sani (second Alexender).
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