Qutub Minar, a World Heritage Site
Qutub Minar, the pride of Delhi, is the tallest minaret in the world. It is 234 feet high and has 378 steps. It has been dclared as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is better known as the Qutub Complex and consists of many other architectural constructions. It attracts tourists from all over the world.
The Qutub – Creation of a masterpiece
Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Afghan emperor of Delhi from the Mamluk Dynasty initiated the construction of Qutub Minar towards the end of the twelfth century in the year 1193, after getting inspired by Afghanistan’s Minaret of Jam. The minar was built to celebrate Muhammad Ghori’s victory over the Rajputs. Aibak built the first storey and next three storeys were added by his successor, Iltutmish (who was also his son-in-law) between 1210 and 1235.
Qutub Minar is one of the greatest masterpieces of the architecture of Mughal period. It reflects the Indo-Islamic architectural style, made out of red sandstone. The tower is cylindrical in shape and encircled by stone bracketed balconies, which are designed as honeycombs. The minaret is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the religious book of Muslims – The Holy Quran. A number of Nagari and Arabic inscriptions depicting the history of the minar can be found in the different parts of the tower. It is said that it took 20 years to build the minar and attracted a large number of devotees to offer prayers.
Damage suffered by the Minar
The minar has been bit by lightning and earthquakes from time to time. The top two floors were damaged by lightning during Firoz Shah’s rule and he restored it between the period 1351 and 1388. Inscriptions engraved on the surface indicate that Sikander Lodi repaired the minaret from 1489 to 1517. After the earthquake of 1794, Major R.Smith, who worked in the British Indian Army, also repaired and restored the minar.
Delhi’s first mosque
The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which is situated to the north-east of the minar, is the earliest mosque built by the Delhi Sultans, was also built by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak in AD 1198. The mosque was later enlarged by Alauddin Khilji (a famous conqueror and sultan of the Khilji Dynasty) and Iltutmish. It consists of a rectangle -shaped courtyard which is enclosed by open galleris, erected with columns and carved with and architectural designs of many Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, as stated by him in the inscriptions. Ala’i-Darwaza, which is the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Alau’d-Din Khalji in AD 1311.
Ala’i Minar which stands to the north of Qutub-Minar, was started by Alau’d-Din Khalji, and he wanted to make it twice the size of the earlier minar. However, he could complete only one storey with a height of 25 m.
The tomb of Iltutmish was built in AD 1235. It is loacted to the west of the mosque. It is a plain square chamber made out of red sandstone and is carved with inscriptions.
Famous Iron Pillar
One can also see an iron pillar located near the minar which dates back to the Gupta Dynasty. It is an amazing piece of architecture made out of durable iron. The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in the Brahmi script of the fourth century AD, which depicts that the pillar was set up as Vishnudhvaja alias Vishnu Stambh, which is raised on a hillock named Vishnupad Giri, in memory of a king named Chandra.
Current Status of the Qutub
Before 1981, the minaret was open to the public and one could climb to the top of the seven-storey narrow staircase. On 4th December 1981, during an accident, the tower’s staircase went into darkness and many people got killed in the stampede that followed the electricity failure. Most of the victims were school children. After this incident, public access has been forbidden. Due to wear and tear, the minar is not that erect as it used to be. It seems to be tilted to one side.