The construction of the iconic Qutub Minar started in 1192 and was completed in 1220. Restoration works were then made in the 12th century, 14th century, and 19th century. But what is so special about it that hundreds of people visit it daily?
The story starts with the interesting fact that this famous structure was built by three personalities. The work was started by Qutb ud-Din Aibak, Iltutmish added 3 storeys, and Firoz Shah Tughlaq carried out restoration work. Located in Mehrauli in South West district of Delhi, this captivating monument is a 73 m high tower made of red sandstone and marble and is not only the highest brick minaret in the world but also one of the most famous historical landmarks of India. Located in the heart of Delhi, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, visible from different parts of the city attracts thousands of visitors every day. It is one of the most popular tourist spots in India and a must-visit tourist spot for first-time visitors to Delhi, both national and international.
Where it all started?
Qutb ud-din Aibak, the founder of Turkish rule in northwest India and a Mamluk dynasty in Delhi, built this monument in 1192 AD. Aibak dedicated the minaret to Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a Muslim Sufi mystic, saint, and scholar of the Chishti order. Various stories cook around the origin of the minar. While some say it was built as a victory tower marking the beginning of Muslim rule in India, some others say it served the muezzins who called the faithful to prayer from the minaret. Uncertainty prevails regarding the name of the tower and some suggest that it was named after the aunt of the Sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiar while others believe that it was named after Aibak.
The tower was completed in 1220 by Aibak's son-in-law and successor Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, who is considered the founder of the Delhi Sultanate. This historical monument faced several natural calamities. In 1369 AD, lightning struck the top floor of the minaret and toppled it entirely. Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq, the then-ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, took charge of its restoration and built two more floors for the minaret made of marble and red sandstone. Again when an earthquake damaged it in 1505, the then Sultan of Delhi, Sikandar Lodi, rebuilt the top two floors of the minaret with marble. Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters carved in various parts of the minaret speak about the history of its construction.
In 1803, the Minar faced the fury of nature again due to a major earthquake. In 1828, it was renovated by Major Robert Smith of the British Indian Army, who installed a cupola atop the tower. However, in 1848, at the behest of the then Governor General of India, Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge, the cupola was uninstalled from the tower and placed east of it where the cupola remains.
The Architectural Persona
The 73 m (240 ft.) tall tapering minaret has a diameter of 14.3 m (47 ft.) and a base with a diameter of 2.7 m (9 ft.) at the top. The minaret has six floors, the first three of which are made of red sandstone and the last three of sandstone and marble. A circular staircase of 379 steps leads to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the city. Verses of the Qur'an are inscribed on the bricks of the minaret which are covered with elaborate iron carvings.
Each floor of the tower has a projecting balcony surrounding the minaret and is supported by corbels that are decorated with muqarnas or honey-comb vaults, a type of architectural ornamental vaulting. There is also considerable variation in the architectural styles developed in different eras starting from the time of Aibak to the time of Tughluq, as well as in the materials used in the construction of the different phases of the tower. The tower is tilted 65 cm above the ground.
The Qutub Complex
Numerous monuments and buildings that are historically significant and associated with the minaret surround it and the entire area is part of the Qutub complex. Structures within the complex include the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the Delhi Iron Pillar, Imam Zamin's Tomb, Iltutmish's Tomb, and Major Smith's Cupola.
Among them, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid located at the north-east step of the minar has significance as the first mosque built in India. Initiated by Aibak, construction work on the mosque began in 1193 and was completed in 1197. The grand structure has an inner and outer courtyard decorated with shafts, most of which were taken from 27 Hindu temples demolished to build the mosque. An evocative inscription carved on the east gate of the mosque records the presence of typical Hindu ornamentation in a Muslim mosque.
Another notable attraction within the Qutb complex is the 7 m (23 ft.) Iron Pillar, is a corrosion-resistant iron pillar that attracts not only tourists but also archaeologists and material scientists. This Gupta pillar has a Brahmic inscription. It is generally believed that if one can stand with his back facing the pillar and embrace the pillar with both hands, his wish is fulfilled.
Located in Mehrauli, Delhi, India, the memorial complex is open to visitors throughout the day from sunrise to sunset. The entry fee per person for Indian citizens is Rs. 30/- and for foreigners Rs. 500/-. Entry is free for children up to 15 years. The nearest metro station is Malviya Nagar and then you might have to take an auto or bus.
Although visitors were allowed to climb the stairs inside the minaret to reach its top, a serious accident on December 4, 1981, in which 45 people were killed and many others injured, authorities banned such access for the general public. A masterpiece of medieval India, the Qutub Minar has been one of the most popular tourist attractions in Delhi, India over time, and a recent collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India has made a 360 degree walkthrough of the tower possible.