Located in the south of Delhi, this magnificent red sandstone building called Qutub Minar (Qutb Minar) is still the tallest tower in India, more than 800 years after its foundations were laid by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler to successfully establish an Islamic dynasty in India. It’s widely believed Qutab-ud-din issued orders to build this historic monument after defeating the Rajputs. Though the original tower was built as early as 1202 AD, it would be Qutab-ud-din’s successors who would add more storeys to it, make it taller and still more impressive. This splendid piece of architecture is the most popular tourist spot in India, attracting millions of tourists each year.
UNESCO has declared the building a World Heritage Site and currently the Archaeological Survey of India oversees the building.
Qutub-ud-din Aibak was born in Afghanistan. He was well educated and proficient in several forms of battle. He was sold as a slave to another Afghan warlord Mohammed Ghauri. He soon proved his skills and after his master’s death took over his possessions. He came to India, fought the Rajputs, defeated them, conquered Delhi and to symbolise this victory, ordered the construction of a mosque and a minar (Minaret) with red sandstone exploited from destroyed Hindu temples.
Construction of Qutub Minar
How the Qutb Minar was constructed during a period of several centuries makes for a fascinating history. Sikandar Lodi will make the last big changes in the tower, making it bigger and taller, in 1503, some 400 years after Qutub-ud-din Aibak began its construction in 1202 AD. The original tower was only one storey tall. The later rulers added more storeys and enlarged the inner chambers. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq and Firuz Shah Tughluq did important restoration work after the tower was damaged twice in lighting in the 14th century. A few decades later, Sikandar Lodi added more storeys to the tower, giving it its current shape.
Architecture of Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar is 14.32 metres in diameter at its base and 72.5 metres in height. It has five storeys and each floor is separated from the one below it and the one above it by a series of elaborately decorated balconies. Each of the first three storeys is tells about the architecture in vogue at the time. There were originally seven storeys. A copula that made the top two fell in an earthquake. The Mughals tried to replace it. The new copula didn’t chime in well with the rest of the building so it was removed.
Qutub Minar is not a standalone construction. It’s an amalgamation of several buildings in the vicinity of one another. The important buildings surrounding this tower include: Alai-Darwaza, Tomb of Iltutmish and two mosques. The Darawaza (Gate) is a quintessential example of Indo-Islamic architecture which flourished after this period on the Subcontinent. The architecture of the mosque is idiosyncratic in several ways. The most visible are the columns inside the mosque; of which none resembles the other. This was in stark contrast to other mosques in other parts of the world, where uniformity was highly priced. The archaeologists’ explanation is that the new ruler was in a hurry therefore he used stones seized from the temples intact. Sanskrit inscription on the columns are still visible.
The History of Qutub Minar
More than 800-years old, the Qutub Minar (Qutb Minar) is one tallest minarets in the world. It was constructed after Qutub-ud-din Aibak founded the first Muslim dynasty in India after defeating Hindu Rajput kings in the Delhi region. Mainstream archaeologists believe the tower is named after the victorious Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak. Other contend it’s named after Khwaja Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki, a venerable saint from Baghdad.
Founder of Qutub Minar
Qutub-ud-din Aibak was born to parents of Turkic descent in present day Afghanistan. As a child, he learnt archery, Arabic, Persian and other skills. This made those around him jealous. So he was told to an Afghan warlord Mohammed Ghauri. Aibak used this intelligence and skills to get closer to Ghauri. By time of Ghauri’s death, they were so close it was to him that Ghauri’s possessions fell. Aibak was an excellent general himself. He soon used his shrewdness and cunning to expand the tiny territory he had been bequeathed to a vast empire comprising of much of north India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
During Aibak’s time Delhi was a federation of seven cities ruled by seven Rajput rulers. Among them Anang Pal’s Lalkot was a very important one. So when Aibak conquered Lalkot, he decided to leave an indelible mark of his achievement and started the construction of the Qutub Minar right in the heart of the city. He also began the construction of the first mosque on Indian soil. He was so desperate to build them as fast as he could, he ordered more than two dozen Hindu temples to be razed to ground and their stone be used in the construction of the Minar and the mosque.
Aibak died shortly after the construction work began on the Qutub Minar. So it was his successor, also a former slave, Muhammad bin Sam who completed the building. When the Minar was damaged by lighting in 1326, the the ruler Muhammad-bin-Tughluq restored the building. When the lighting struck again in 1368, the contemporary ruler Firuz Shah Tughluq not only did the restoration work, but also added three storeys to the structure. The next major enlargement of the tower was done in 1503 when Sikandar Lodi added two more storeys in the form of a copula, making the tower a seven-storey construction. The copula was destroyed during an earthquake during the Mughal times. The Mughals tried to replace it. The new copula was so incongruous with the whole structure that they had to abandon their plans. Since then, the 72.5 metre Qutub Minar has only five storeys.
Current situation of Qutub Minar
Even after more than eight centuries since its foundation was laid, the Qutub Minar stands erect as the tallest brick tower on the planet. The tower, along with other historic buildings in its vicinity is a World Heritage Site. The Archaeological Survey of India looks after the preservation work. Despite being old and a few kilometres from the centre of the city, this red sandstone construction is the most popular tourist destination in India. According to some estimates, it alone attracts more than a million tourists each year.
Qutub Minar Timings
Open from 6am to 6pm every day.
Address: Mehrauli, Delhi-Gurgaon Road
Admission fees: Indians Rupees 10, Foreigners Rupees 250, Children 15 and under free
Video Filming Fee: Rupees 25 (Non-commercial)