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DELHI –QUTB MINAR


Qutb Minar, (also spelled Qutub Minar) at 73 metres, is the tallest brick minaret in the world and second highest minar in India after Fateh Burj at Punjab, India. Qutb Minar, along with the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, form the Qutb complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower is located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India. The Minaret of Jam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan, is thought to have been a direct inspiration for the Qutb Minar in Delhi, which was also built by the Ghori (Mamluk) Dynasty. Made of red sandstone and marble, Qutb Minar is a 73-metres (240 feet) tall tapering tower with a diameter measuring 14.3 metres (47 feet) at the base and 2.7 metres (9 feet) at the peak. Inside the tower, a circular staircase with 379 steps leads to the top. Qutb Minar station is the closest station on the Delhi Metro.
In 1200 AD, Qutb al-Din Aibak, founder of the Delhi Sultanate, started construction of the Qutb Minar. In 1220, Aibak's successor and son-in-law Iltutmish added three storeys to the tower. In 1369, lightning struck the top storey, destroying it completely. So, Firoz Shah Tughlaq carried out restoration work replacing the damaged storey with two new storeys every year, made of red sandstone and white marble. Qutb Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments, which are historically connected with the tower and are part of the Qutb complex. These include the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Ala-ud-din's Madrasa and Tomb, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. Other minor monuments include Major Smith's Cupola and Sanderson's Sundial.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid

At the foot of the Qutub Minar stands the first mosque to be built in India, known as Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (The Might of Islam Mosque). Also constructed in 1193, with various additions over the centuries, and completed in 1198, this building symbolises in stone the ascendance of one religious power over another. The original mosque was built on the foundations of a Hindu temple, and an inscription over the east gate states that it was built with materials obtained from demolishing ‘27 idolatrous temples’ – it’s possible to see many Hindu and Jain elements in the decoration. Hindu motifs, such as bells and garlands, are clearly visible on the pillars of this mosque.

Ala’i Minar

When Ala-ud-din made his additions to the mosque he also conceived a far more ambitious construction program. He aimed to build a second tower of victory, exactly like the Qutb Minar, but twice as high! By the time of his death the tower had reached 27m and no one was willing to continue his overambitious project. Known as Ala’i Minar, the incomplete tower, a solid stack of rubble, stands to the north of the Qutub Minar and the mosque.

Ala’i Darwaza

Ala-ud-din did complete the south gateway to the building, the Ala’i Darwaza; it was built of red sandstone in 1311 and is just southwest of the Qutub Minar. This exquisite gateway is the main entrance to the whole complex. It is also one of the earliest buildings in India to employ the Islamic principles of arched construction.
Ala-ud-din benefited from events in Central Asia: since the early 13th century, Mongol hordes from Central Asia fanned out east and west, destroying the civilization of the Seljuk Turks in West Asia, and refugee artists, architects, craftsmen and poets fled east. They brought to India features and techniques that had developed in Byzantine Turkey, some of which can be seen in the Ala’i Darwaza.

Famous Qutub Minar Iron Pillar

This 4th-century pillar, originally made as a flagstaff in Vishnu’s honour, is a tribute to ancient Indian metallurgy. This 7m-high pillar stands in the courtyard of the mosque and it was here a long time prior to the mosque’s construction. A six-line Sanskrit inscription indicates that it was initially erected outside a Vishnu temple, possibly in Bihar, and was raised in memory of Chandragupta II, who ruled from AD 375 to 413.
What the inscription does not tell is how it was made, for the iron in the pillar is of exceptional purity. Scientists have never discovered how the iron, which has not rusted after some 2000 years, could be cast using the technology of the time.

Iltutmish’s Tomb

Built in 1235, Iltutmish’s Tomb lies in the northwest of the compound, midway along the west wall of the mosque. It is the first surviving tomb of a Muslim ruler in India. Two other tombs also stand within the extended Might of Islam Mosque. The idea of a tomb was quite alien to Hindus, who had been practising cremation since around 400 BC. Blending Hindu and Muslim styles, the outside is relatively plain with three arched and decorated doorways. The interior carries reminders of the nomadic origins of the first Muslim rulers. Like a Central Asian yurt (tent) in its decoration, it combines the familiar Indian motifs of the wheel, bell, chain and lotus with the equally familiar geometric arabesque patterning. The west wall is inset with three mihrabs that indicate the direction of Mecca.

Interesting Facts About the Delhi Qutub Minar

• Qutub Minar means ‘pole’ or ‘axis’ in Arabic.
• The Qutub Minar is the highest single tower in India.
• The tower marked the site of the first Muslim kingdom in North India.
• It was built as a mighty, awesome tower of victory to commemorate the defeat of the last Hindu kingdom in Delhi.
• Qutub Minar was meant to be the prototype of all minars (towers) in India.
• It was influenced by the brick victory pillars in Ghazni in Afghanistan.
• The iron pillar in the Qutub Minar complex has not rusted after some 2000 years.
• Parts of the Qutub Minar complex have been built out of Hindu temples which can be seen clearly in the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid.
• The Qutub Minar has been damaged by lightening twice in 1326 and 1368.
• Qutub Minar has a Decorative Light Show every evening from 6:30 to 8pm as well as the Qutub Minar Festival in October/November.

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