Qutb Minar, the Incredible Victory Tower of the Mamluk Dynasty

Qutb Minar, the Incredible Victory Tower of the Mamluk Dynasty

Islamic culture has left an indelible mark on India’s celebrated architectural heritage. One of the most remarkable examples is the Qutb Minar , also known as the Victory Tower and the tallest minaret in the world built of bricks. The monument was one of the first of the many remarkable structures created by the Delhi Sultanate and forms part of the Qutb complex, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The History of Qutb Minar, New Delhi

Ruled by several mainly Hindu dynasties at the time, from the 9 th to the early 11 th century, first Arab and then Muslim Turks raided deep into India. Mohammad of Gorh, sultan of the Ghurid Empire , absorbed Indian territories into his empire in the 12 th century. His general, Qutubuddin Aibak, also defeated several Hindu kingdoms. When the sultan died, Aibak made himself independent and established what was to become the Delhi Sultanate.

Qutubuddin Aibak built a number of massive monuments to commemorate his many victories and to legitimize his new Mamluk Dynasty . He started the construction of the minaret, Qutb Minar in the 1190s, not long after the commencement of the nearby Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque.

The unfinished Alai Minar monument within the Qutb Minar complex in New Delhi which was intended to be taller than the Qutb Minar ( MelissaMN / Adobe Stock)

The Qutb Minar was one of the earliest minarets built in India and stands apart from the nearby mosque. Aibak completed the first story but the next three were built by a successor, Shams ud-Din Iltutmish.

The minaret became known as the Victory Tower of Qutb Minar because it was not only a religious structure but also a monument to the growing power of the Delhi Sultanate . The minaret was restored by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who added another story in the 14 th century. The Lodi Dynasty in the 16 th century rebuilt large sections after an earthquake and a series of lightning strikes. Sher Shah Suri, who briefly ousted the Mughals from Delhi, constructed an entrance to the tower.

The tower was also used as an observation platform to monitor raiders and besieging armies. In the 19 th century, a cupola was added by a British official, but this was later taken down and is now on display at ground level.

In 1981, the electricity failed in the tower which led to a stampede down the tower’s 379 steps and resulted in the death of 45 people, mainly school children. Today Qutb Minar is India’s most popular monument and is visited by millions.

The Beauty of Qutb Minar Victory Tower

Located in Delhi, Qutb Minar is part of the Qutb complex which consists of many spectacular buildings and structures dating to the Delhi Sultanate. The Victory Tower was built largely of sandstone and is set in an extensive garden.

The Victory Tower measures 237 feet (72 m) high with a base diameter of 47 feet (14 m) and consists of angular and circular flutings, ornamental grooves, with an inscriptions dedicated to Mohammad of Ghor.

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Beautiful detail of Qutb Minar, highest stone minaret ( kaetana / Adobe Stock)

The remaining tower is round and simple with geometric designs and quotes from the Quran, masterpieces done in Islamic calligraphy . The third story also has angular grooves, while the fourth is built of marble and has only a few inscriptions. The fifth level is constructed in a blend of marble and sandstone and also has relatively few designs. The tower has four loggias (balconies) with elaborately carved brackets.

The minaret is still in use and the faithful are called from here to the nearby Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque for prayer.

The Journey to Qutab Minar in New Delhi, India

The minaret is located in the historic heart of New Delhi, not far from a major metro station. A fee is charged to visit the location and it is open to the public from sunrise to sunset. It is no longer possible to enter the tower without permission after the 1981 tragedy.

Iron pillar, famous for rust-resistant composition of the metals used in its construction at Qutb complex at Delhi, India ( anjali04 / Adobe Stock)

Not to be missed in the complex is the iron pillar thought to be constructed by Chundragupta II in the 4 th century. This ancient pillar is famous for its rust resistant properties.

As Qutb Minar holds great historic and religious significance for many local people, visitors are asked to behave appropriately.


Qutb Minar complex

The Qutb complex are monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. [1] Construction of the Qutub Minar "victory tower" in the complex, named after the religious figure Sufi Saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was begun by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty (Gulam Vansh). It was continued by his successor Iltutmish (a.k.a. Altamash), and finally completed much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1412) in 1368 AD. The Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (Dome of Islam), later corrupted into Quwwat-ul Islam, [2] stands next to the Qutb Minar. [3] [4] [5] [6]

Many subsequent rulers, including the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji and the British added structures to the complex. [7] Apart from the Qutb Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, other structures in the complex include the Alai Darwaza gate, the Alai Minar and the Iron pillar. The Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque was originally built from the remains of 27 older Hindu and Jain temples. The pillars of the temples were reused and the original images plastered over. [8] Inside the complex lie the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin. [4]

Today, the adjoining area spread over with a host of old monuments, including Balban's tomb, has been developed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, and INTACH has restored some 40 monuments in the Park. [9] It is also the venue of the annual 'Qutub Festival', held in November–December, where artists, musicians and dancers perform over three days. [10]


Qutub Minar

Entry Fee: Indian citizens: Rs. 30/- and for foreign nationals: Rs. 500. Entry is free for children up to 15 years of age.

How to Reach: By Metro - board from any DMRC station and reach Qutb Minar station and then follow rail map to reach the minar by DTC buses by Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus Service offered by Delhi Tourism.

Qutub Minar or Qutb Minar, a 73 m (240 ft.) high tower made of red sandstone and marble is not only the highest brick minaret in the world but also one of the most famous historical landmarks of India. The construction of this tower of victory was started by the founder of the Mamluk Dynasty in Delhi, Qutb ud-Din Aibak and completed by his successor and son-in-law Iltutmish. Located in the heart of Delhi, India, 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 in the itinerary of first time visitors to Delhi, both national and international.

History of this Colossal Tower

Qutb ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Turkish rule in north-western India and also of the Mamluk Dynasty in Delhi commissioned the construction of this monument in 1192 AD. Aibak dedicated the minaret to the Muslim Sufi mystic, saint and scholar of the Chishti Order, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. Different beliefs surround the origin of the minaret. While some sources believe it was constructed as a tower of victory marking the beginning of Muslim dominion in India, some others say it served the muezzins who called the faithful to prayer from the minaret. Uncertainty hovers around naming of the tower with some suggesting it was named after the Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki while others believe it was named after Aibak himself.


Image Credit: easytoursofindia.com

The tower was completed by Aibak's son-in-law and successor Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, regarded as the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, in 1220. Iltutmish added three more storeys to the monument. This historical monument faced a few natural disasters. A lightning hit the top storey of the minaret in 1369 AD, knocking it off entirely. The then ruler of the Sultanate of Delhi, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq took charge of its restoration and constructed two more storeys to the minaret made of marble and red sandstone. Again when an earthquake damaged it in 1505, the then Sultan of Delhi, Sikandar Lodi, reconstructed the top two storeys of the minaret with marbles. Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters engraved in various sections of the minaret speak about the history of its construction. The minaret faced the wrath of nature yet again when a major earthquake on September 1, 1803 damaged it severely. In 1828, it was renovated by Major Robert Smith of the British Indian Army, who installed a cupola atop the tower. However in 1848, as instructed by the then Governor General of India, Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge, the cupola was uninstalled from the tower and placed in the east of it where the cupola remains situated.


Image Credit: wlivenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Qutb-Minar-1.jpg

Architecture of the Minaret

The 73 m (240 ft.) high tapering minaret has a base with diameter 14.3 m (47 ft.) and diameter of 2.7 m (9 ft.) at top. There are six storeys in the minaret with the first three constructed with red sandstone and the next three with sandstone and marble. A circular staircase of 379 steps allows one to reach the top of the tower to witness a panoramic view of the city. Verses from the Qur'an are etched on the bricks of the minaret that are covered with elaborate iron carvings. Each storey of the tower has a projected balcony surrounding the minaret and supported by corbels that are ornamented with Muqarnas or honey-comb vault, a type of architectural ornamented vaulting. The architectural styles developed over different eras starting from the time of Aibak till that of Tughlak as also the materials used in construction of different stages of the tower are conspicuously varied. The tower is tilted from 65 cm above the ground.


Image Credit: historicaltimeofindia.blogspot.com

The Qutb Complex

A number of monuments and buildings that are historically significant and associated with the minaret surround it and the whole area forms part of the Qutb complex. The structures inside the complex include the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the Iron Pillar of Delhi, the Tomb of Imam Zamin, the Tomb of Iltutmish and Major Smith's Cupola among others.

Of these the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque located at the north-east foot of the minaret holds significance as the first mosque that was constructed in India. Commissioned by Aibak, the construction work of the mosque started in 1193 and completed in 1197. This magnificent structure consists of an inner and an outer courtyard ornamented with shafts, most of which were taken from the 27 Hindu temples demolished to build the mosque. A provocative inscription carved over the eastern gate of the mosque records such information manifesting the presence of typical Hindu ornamentation in a Muslim mosque.

Another notable attraction inside the Qutb complex is the 7 m (23 ft.) Iron Pillar, a rust-resistant iron column that not only attracts tourists but also draws attention of archaeologists and materials scientists. This pillar from Gupta Empire has Brahmic inscriptions. It is commonly believed that if one can embrace the pillar with both hands while standing with one's back facing the pillar then his/her wish gets fulfilled.


Image Credit: armchairlounge.com

A Visit to the Historical Monument

The monument complex located in Mehrauli, Delhi, India, remains open to visitors all day from sunrise to sunset. Entry fees per person for Indian citizens is Rs. 30/- and for foreigners is Rs. 500/-. Entry is free for children up to 15 years of age. Although visitors were allowed to climb the staircase inside the minaret to reach its top, a severe accident on December 4, 1981, that killed 45 people and injured several others led authorities to restrict such access to general public. A masterpiece of the medieval age India, the Qutub Minar has over time remained one of the most popular tourist spots in Delhi, India and a recent collaboration with Archaeological survey of India has made it possible to have a 360o walkthrough of the tower.


Influence of the Mughal Empire

A Mosque lies at the foot of Qutub Minar which is a special site in itself a beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture that showcases how the Mughal Empire (1562) influenced Indian culture.

Mughal Rulers had a fascination with art and sculptures, so you will find a lot of detailed and decorative elements inside each with their own story to tell.

One of the most outstanding elements is the pillar highlighting ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. The most astonishing fact is that the pillar is made of iron and has stood tall for 1,600 years without rusting.


The Qutb complex and early Sultanate architecture

The courtyard of the Qutb mosque, c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Indrajit Das, CC BY-SA 4.0). In the foreground are pillars of the colonnaded walkway and in the background is a c. 4th – 5th century iron pillar and the mosque’s arched screen and prayer hall.

Layers of cultural, religious, and political history converge in the Qutb archaeological complex in Mehrauli, in Delhi, India. In its beautiful gateways, tombs, lofty screens, and pillared colonnades is a record of a centuries-long history of artistic vision, building techniques, and patronage. At the heart of the Qutb complex is a twelfth century mosque an early example in the rich history of Indo-Islamic art and architecture.

The Qutb mosque is important for our understanding of the early part of the Delhi Sultanate (1206 – 1526), a period when new rulers would seek to cement their authority and legitimacy as kings in northern India. “Delhi Sultanate” is a collective term that refers to the Turko-Islamic dynasties that ruled, one after the other, from Delhi. [1] The monuments discussed in this essay were built by the three earliest rulers of the Sultanate. [2]

Plan of the Qutb complex showing the phases of construction of select monuments (photos: clockwise from top, Indrajit Das, CC BY-SA 4.0 Bikashrd, CC BY-SA 4.0 Kavaiyan, CC BY-SA 2.0 Alimallick, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In addition to the mosque, this essay discusses the following structures in the Qutb complex of monuments :

    • the iron pillar
    • Qutb Minar
    • the tomb of Iltutmish
    • the Alai Darwaza
    • and the Alai minar

    The 238 foot tall Qutb Minar in the background, c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Indrajit Das, CC BY-SA 4.0).

    The first Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate

    Before Qutb al-Din Aibak was the first sultan of the Delhi Sultanate, he was a Turkic military slave and a general in the army of the Ghurid dynasty of Afghanistan. He played an important role in conquering Delhi in 1192, as part of the territorial ambitions of t he eleventh century Ghurid ruler Muhammad Ghuri.

    As the Ghurid administrator in Delhi, Aibak oversaw the building of congregational mosques, including the Qutb mosque. The mosque is believed to have been built quickly as a matter of necessity—not only would the Ghurid forces have needed a place to pray, but a mosque was crucial for the proclamation of the name of the ruler during the weekly congregational prayer. In this context, such proclamations would have affirmed the legitimacy of Muhammad’s Ghuri’s right to rule.

    Stylistic influences that define early Delhi Sultanate architecture

    Map showing the Qutb archaeological complex in Delhi, India

    Islamic monuments in South Asia did not begin with the Delhi Sultanate mosques were built when Islam was introduced in Sindh (in present-day Pakistan) in the eighth century as well as for Muslim merchants and communities who lived in various ports and towns across the subcontinent. Few of these structures have survived however and the Qutb mosque holds the distinction of being the oldest mosque in Delhi, an early example of Islamic architecture in India, and one that synthesizes Persian, Islamic, and Indian influences.

    Qutb al-Din Aibak had come to India from Afghanistan and was familiar with its diverse architectural landscape. Afghanistan’s architecture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries reflected both its pre-Islamic and Islamic history, as well as cultural exchange with Central Asia and India. Historians also describe the court of the Delhi Sultanate as Persianized, because it made use of the Persian language, literature, and Perso-Islamic art and architecture.

    The architecture of the Delhi Sultanate is notable for its stylized decorative ornament which seamlessly incorporates features from Islamic artistic traditions such as arabesques (intertwining and scrolling vines), calligraphy, and geometric forms with Indian influences such as the floral motifs that adorn the calligraphy in the Qutb complex minar (tower) below.

    Detail of the Qutb Minar, begun c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The hand of the Indian mason is discernible in the post and lintel and corbeling methods of construction employed in the earliest monuments in the complex, namely the Qutb mosque colonnade and prayer hall, i ts screen, and Iltutmish’s tomb. Later monuments at the Qutb complex (such as the fourteenth-century gateway Alai Darwaza) show a shift towards building techniques common in Islamic architecture outside of India. Arches in the Alai Darwaza, for instance, are not corbeled, but rather built with a series of wedge-shaped stones and a keystone.

    A corbeled arch on the left (inset: Qutb mosque screen, dated 1198) and arch with a keystone on the right (inset: entrance to the Alai Darwaza, dated 1311). Photos: Gerd Eichmann, CC BY-SA 4.0 Varun Shiv Kapur, CC BY 2.0).

    Entrance into the Qutb mosque, begun c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi

    The Qutb mosque and architectural re-use

    The main entrance into the mosque today is on its east side. This arched doorway leads to a pillared colonnade and an open-air courtyard that is enclosed on three sides. Directly across from the main entrance, at the far end of the mosque, is an iron pillar, a monumental stone screen, and a hypostyle prayer hall.

    P illars, ceilings and stones from multiple older Hindu and Jain temples were reused in the construction of the colonnades surrounding the mosque’s open courtyard and in the prayer hall. Since the desired height for the colonnade did not match the height of older temple pillars, two or three pillars were stacked, one on top of the other, to reach the required elevation.

    A view of a temple ceiling (constructed in the post and lintel and corbel technique) and pillars in the colonnaded walkway of the Qutb mosque, begun c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Divya Gupta, CC BY-SA 3.0).

    Indian temple pillars are often adorned with anthropomorphic figures of deities and divine beings, mythical zoomorphic, and apotropaic motifs, as well as decorative bands of flowers. A belief by the builders of this mosque in a proscription against the portrayal of living beings is evident in the removal of the faces carved in the older stonework. Other decorative motifs were left untouched, likely for their apotropaic and ornamental qualities.

    View of pillars in the colonnaded walkway (left) and pillar detail with faces obscured (right), Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photos: Johan Ekedum, CC BY-SA 4.0 Ronakshah1990, CC BY-SA 4.0)

    Art historian Finbarr Flood has examined the complex motivations behind the re-use of stone at the Qutb mosque within a broad socio-political framework and has asked questions that go beyond the generally held view of religious iconoclasm (destruction of images). [3] Flood’s work has pointed to the probable use of spoliated (repurposed) stones from temples associated with the polities that were conquered by the Ghurid army (hence suggesting a political rather than religious motive), and has examined the important artistic interventions at the mosque (such as the meaning behind the addition of new stones that were carved to emulate temple pillars). [4]

    Courtyard of the Qutb mosque, begun c. 1192, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Daniel Villafruela, CC BY-SA 3.0). A c. 4th – 5th century iron pillar and the 12th century stone screen and prayer hall built by Qutb al-Din Aibak are seen here.

    In 1198 Aibak commissioned a monumental sandstone screen with five pointed arches that was built between the courtyard and the prayer hall. The screen was constructed with corbeled arches and is emphatically decorative with bands of calligraphy, arabesques, and other motifs, including flowers and stems that pop over, under, and through the stylized letters (see below).

    An arch in the screen (left) and a detail showing the calligraphy on the screen (right), Qutb mosque, screen begun c. 1198, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photos: Varun Shiv Kapur, CC BY 2.0 Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The prayer hall west of the screen has lost most of its components and the original mihrab (the niche that marks the direction of Mecca) no longer survives. Qutb mosque, c. 1192-3, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Ronakshah1990, CC BY-SA 4.0).

    Iron pillar in the courtyard of the Qutb mosque, dated c. 4th—5th century C.E., Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Ranjith Siji, CC BY-SA 4.0)

    An enduring legacy

    In 120 6, following the death of Muhammad Ghuri, Aibak declared himself ruler of the independent Mamluk (translated as “slave”) dynasty. Aibak’s efforts in building the Qutb mosque would endure longer than his tenure as sultan. L ater rulers retained the mosque during expansions, indicating their reverence for the first mosque built in Delhi, and their regard for Aibak himself.

    When Iltutmish became the new sultan of the Mamluk dynasty in 1211, he made Delhi the capital of the sultanate. During his reign, Iltutmish extended the screen and prayer hall on both sides of the west end of t he Qutb mosque and added surrounding colonnades that, in effect, enclosed the original mosque. Iltutmish is also believed to have been responsible for the installation of the iron pillar in the mosque, a dhwaja stambha (ceremonial pillar) that dates to the fourth or fifth century and was originally installed in a Hindu temple.

    The pillar has an inscription in the Sanskrit language that praises and eulogizes a ruler. In installing the pillar in the mosque and giving it pride of place, Iltutmish was following a tradition of previous rulers who appropriated such emblems of historic kingship to announce their legitimacy. In appropriating the pillar—and in effect the Qutb mosque as a whole—Iltutmish sought to affirm his political authority and legitimacy. [5]

    Just as Iltutmish enclosed Aibak’s mosque with his additions, Ala al-Din Khalji , the ruler of the next Sultanate, would enclose the extension built by Iltutmish. Khalji had even grander plans , although his efforts were only partially realized (see annotated plan below).

    Plan of the Qutb complex showing the extension of the mosque by Iltutmish and Ala al-din Khalji

    Qutb Minar, begun c. 1192–3, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: lensnmatter, CC BY-2.0)

    The Qutb Minar

    In 1192–93, soon after conquering Delhi, Aibak also began work on the Qutb Minar, the impressive 238 foot tall minaret (tower) of red and light sandstone for his Ghurid overlord. The minar’s tapering, fluted, and angular bands contribute to the soaring affect of the monument. Its balconies are decorated with muqarna style (three-dimensional honeycomb forms) corbels that allow us to imagine the expansive views of Delhi from each of its five stories. The minar is decorated with bands of calligraphy that are both historic (referencing Muhammad Ghuri) and religious.

    Detail of the Qutb Minar, begun c. 1192–3, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: juggadery, CC BY-2.0)

    Construction on the minar had only reached the height of its first story at the time of Aibak’s death in 1210. The minar would be completed by Iltutmish and its great height and beauty would became emblematic of the power of the Delhi Sultanate.

    Exterior view of Iltutmish’s tomb, c. 1236, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Varun Shiv Kapur, CC BY 2.0)

    An open-air tomb

    Iltutmish’s tomb, which the namesake commissioned during his reign, is located in the northwest corner of the Qutb complex, outside of the mosque’s courtyard. Constructed from new stone (that is, not spolia), this square tomb is relatively simple in its exterior decorative program, but its interior stuns with its overwhelming ornament. Tall pointed arches frame arched doorways and niches, and calligraphic inscriptions from the Quran, floral ornament, arabesques, and geometric patterns adorn the walls.

    Although it has been suggested that the tomb is missing its dome, its absence may have been intentional, allowing light to bathe the marble grave marker. Like the ornament that surrounds the tomb’s interior, this light directs our focus to the center of the monument, below which lies Iltutmish’s burial chamber.

    Iltutmish’s tomb, c. 1236, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Varun Shiv Kapur, CC BY 2.0)

    Like the Qutb mosque and screen, Iltutmish’s tomb was built in the post and lintel fashion and its arches were corbeled. In contrast, less than a hundred years later, arches in Ala al-Din Khalji’s monuments were constructed with a keystone at its summit.

    Domed gateways

    Ala al-Din Khalji, a fourteenth century ruler who conducted many campaigns to subjugate rivals and to increase his wealth, had plans to expand the Qutb complex substantially. Although he was largely unsuccessful in realizing these ambitions, a ceremonial gateway attributed to his patronage is one of the site’s most important monument s. It is the only remaining monumental gateway of four that are believed to have been built along the perimeter walls of the complex.

    Alai Darwaza, c. 1311, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Known as the Alai Darwaza, the gateway is a square structure built in 1311. Like Iltutmish’s tomb, the gateway is built from new stone. T he tall red base, the alternation of white marble and red sandstone ornament, and the latticed windows lend substantial grandeur to the gateway.

    The arches in the Alai Darwaza are in the form of horseshoe arches (literally an arch in the form of a horseshoe) the same form is used to also ornament the squinches, i.e., the transition (at the corners of the structure) from the square base to the octagonal ceiling that helps receive the dome. The dome rests on the arches and squinches, in the fashion commonly found in contemporaneous Islamic architecture outside of India.

    Interior of the Alai Darwaza showing part of the dome, horseshoe-arch doorways, and the squinch (in the ceiling corner, above the latticed window), c. 1311, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Varun Shiv Kapur, CC BY 2.0)

    While building techniques changed from the corbeled arches of the Qutb mosque to the keystone-arches of the Alai Darwaza, there were also continuities. The use of Indic style architectural ornament (flowers, lotus buds, and bells), for example, remained an emphatic part of the sculptural vocabulary of Sultanate architecture.

    Alai Minar

    Ala al-Din also began construction of a minar that would have been considerably taller than the Qutb Minar, had it been completed—the unfinished base rises 80 feet in height. All that was built is the rubble core of the structure the minar would have eventually been faced with stone, perhaps in a fashion and with adornment similar to that of the Qutb Minar.

    Alai Minar, c. 1311, Qutb archaeological complex, Delhi (photo: Kavaiyan, CC BY-SA 2.0)

    The early sultans of the Delhi Sultanate employed architecture as a tool to announce, maintain, and advance their identity as rulers. Much like older monuments were appropriated in the construction of the Qutb mosque, subsequent sultans appropriated the Sultanate’s earliest work to advance their claims to legitimacy.

    The Qutb complex today

    The Qutb complex of monuments is now a popular tourist destination, a transformation that can be traced back to the nineteenth century when the grounds were redesigned to appeal to English colonial visitors. The monuments were surrounded by neatly manicured lawns, roads were diverted for the exclusive use of visitors, and enclosures were built to fashion a tranquil setting. Although the Qutb complex has been changed throughout its history, the vision of its original builders remain plainly transparent.

    Many thanks to Dr. Marta Becherini for her comments on this essay.

    [1] The five dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate were: Mamluk (1206–90), Khalji (1290–1320), Tughlaq (1320–1414), Sayyid (1414–51), and Lodi dynasties (1451–1526).

    [2] These were Qutb al-Din Aibak (ruled 1206–10) and Shams al-Din Iltutmish (r. 1211–36) of the Mamluk Sultanate, and Ala al-Din (r. 1296–1316) of the Khalji Sultanate.

    [3] Flood has shown that the inscription referencing the use of stone from 27 temples in the mosque’s entrance is anachronistic to Aibak’s reign it is hence not considered here. See Finbarr Barry Flood, “Appropriation as Inscription: Making History in the First Friday Mosque of Delhi.” In Reuse value [electronic resource] : spolia and appropriation in art and architecture from Constantine to Sherrie Levine, edited by Richard Brilliant and Dale Kinney (Burlington: Ashgate, 2005), pp. 121-47.

    [4] See Flood’s Objects of translation: material culture and medieval “Hindu-Muslim” encounter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009) “Refiguring Iconoclasm in the early Indian mosque.” In Negating the Image: Case Studies in Iconoclasm, edited by Anne McClanan and Jeff Johnson (Burlington: Ashgate, 2005), pp. 15–40 and “Appropriation as Inscription.”

    Additional resources:

    Catherine B. Asher and Cynthia Talbot, India before Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

    Aditi Chandra, “On Becoming a Monument: Landscaping, Views, and Tourists at the Qutb Complex,” in On the Becoming and Unbecoming of Monuments: Archaeology, Tourism and Delhi’s Islamic Architecture (1828-1963). University of Minnesota, 2011, pp. 16-70.

    Finbarr Barry Flood, “Appropriation as Inscription: Making History in the First Friday Mosque of Delhi.” In Reuse value [electronic resource] : spolia and appropriation in art and architecture from Constantine to Sherrie Levine, edited by Richard Brilliant and Dale Kinney (Burlington: Ashgate, 2005), pp. 121-47.

    Finbarr Barry Flood, Objects of translation: material culture and medieval “Hindu-Muslim” encounter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

    Finbarr Barry Flood, “Refiguring Iconoclasm in the early Indian mosque.” In Negating the Image: Case Studies in Iconoclasm, edited by Anne McClanan and Jeff Johnson (Burlington: Ashgate, 2005), pp. 15–40.


    Qutub Minar is a minaret or a victory tower, situated in Mehrauli area of Delhi. With the peak of 72.5 metres (238 ft), the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Qutub Minar is that the second tallest monument of Delhi. Its construction was started in 1192 by Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak, founding father of DelhiSultanate after he defeated the last Hindu Ruler of Delhi. He constructed the basement, after which the development was appropriated by his son-in-law and successor Iltutmish who constructed three additional stories. The fourth and fifth storeys were built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq .

    An UNESCO World Heritage Site, Qutub Minar has consistently been covered in secrets in abundance and clashing views. Delhi’s Qutub Minar is a five-celebrated structure built more than four centuries by various rulers. Built as a token of victory for Muslim intruders over the Hindu land,Qutub Minar filled in as a victory tower when Muhammad Ghori assumed control over the Rajput lord, Prithviraj Chauhan, in 1192. Later Ghori’s viceroy, Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak, who went on to become the first ruler of Mamluk dynasty began the construction of Qutub Minar.The minaret is known as after him although he wasn’t ready to build it beyond the primary story. His successor Shams-ud-commotion Iltutmish added three additional floors to the structure in 1220. The Minar has endured the forces of nature and time – it is said to be struck by lightning in 1368, which damaged its top storey, which was later replaced by the prevailing two floors by Firuz Shah Tughlaq. who added the fifth and final story to the tower while the doorway to Qutub Minar was built by Sher Shah Suri.

    The Alai Minar was to be the tallest tower inside the world double the dimensions of Qutub Minar imagined by Alauddin Khilji yet post his death his aspirations were never carried on by anybody. Today Alai Minarremains at 27 meters toward the north of Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and Qutub Minar. One of the last monument delineating the Afghan-styled architecture,Qutub Minar was inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. Around 300 years after the fact, in 1803, the tower again endured serious harms in a earthquake. Major Robert Smith, a member of British Indian Army, mended the structure in 1828. He went ahead and installed a pillared cupola to take a seat atop the fifth story, thus lending the tower its sixth story. Be that as it may, this additional story was expelled in 1848 compelled of Henry Hardinge, the then Governor-General of India, and reinstalled close to the minaret. Passage to the tower has been confined since 1981 after a accident, which left 47 peoples inside it dead.

    Qutub Minar has taken architectural and design impacts from Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. The lotus borders carvings, garlands and looped bells were incorporated from the local sensibilities. The tower has five tightening stories superposing with a spiraling flight of stairs of 379 stages. The lower three storeys consist of cylindrical hilts of red sandstone, separated by rims and balconies, with Muqarna truss. The fourth column is built of marble and therefore the fifth is made of marble and sandstone with engravings of Quranic texts and ornamental motifs. There are engravings in Nagari and Parso-Arabic characters on the dividers of Qutub Minar which record its development and recreations by Tughluq and Sikandar Lodi between 1381-1517.

    The Minar is said to be tilting about 65 cm from the vertical but is considered safe with the experts wanting constant monitoring so that the rainwater seepage doesn’t affect its base. Back within the day and even today Qutub Minar stands as an idea for several towers and minarets built after it. Chand Minar inbuilt 1445 in Daulatabad, Maharashtra was inspired from Qutub Minar. Visit the minar today to experience its beauty. You can visit other monuments in Mehrauli like Jamali Kamali mosque or Balban’s tomb.

    Qutub Festival is organized at the famous Qutub Minar in November- December is a three-day festival to celebrate the magnificence of the monument and flaunt its past glory to the entire world. An established music and move party. It is organized jointly by the Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation and the Sahitya Kala Parishad. The festival includes cultural shows and art forms that allure people from all over the world. It brings together Apart from being a visual treat, Qutub Festival of Classical Music and Dance in Delhi is proposed to exhibit the wonder of the Qutub Minar. Qutub Minar gets both national and international attention that it deserves. The three days of music and dance Qutub Minar revitalize and bring life to the monument. The food stalls offering scrumptious regional delicacies add to the razzmatazz of the event.

    Images of Qutub Minar

    Frequently Asked Question About Qutub Minar :

    Q. Who built the Qutub Minar and Why?

    Ans: – Around 1192, Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak envisioned Qutub Minar, but he only need to complete the basement. The construction was later appropriated by his successor Iltutmish who constructed three more stories of the tower. Firoz Shah Tuglak constructed the last two storeys. The tower was made as a victory landmark to commend the Muslim predominance over Delhi after the destruction of the last Hindu ruler – Prithviraj Chauhan.

    Q. What is Qutub Minar famous for?

    Ans: – Qutub Minar is one among the highest minarets in India with a height of 73 meters. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the tallest brick minaret in the world. This 12th-century minaret is considered as the earliest Islamic structure in India with both Arabic and Brahmi inscriptions.

    Q. What is the other antiquated structures in Qutub Complex?

    1. Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque: Built by Qutb Ud-Din-Aibak, founding father of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty, this was the primary mosque of India. It was constructed from the parts of the Hindu and Jain temples which were destroyed under the Islamic rule.

    2. Alai Darwaza: It’s the most gateway from the southern side of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Built by the second Alauddin Khalji in 1311 AD, it’s a crucial structure of Delhi. It has domes decorated with red sandstone and white marbles.

    3. Iron Pillar: The pillar was constructed by Chandragupta II Vikramaditya. It is 7.21-metre high and weight is about six tonnes. The fascinating fact about the Iron Pillar is that it’s not been rusted since the day it had been erected. Another striking feature of the Qutub Complex is the Tomb of Iltutmish who was the second Sultan of Delhi. In the centre of the tomb, the main cenotaph of white marble is placed on a raised platform. It has awe-inspiring Islamic architecture.

    4. Alai Minar: Alauddin Khalji started building the Alai Minar and wanted it to be two times higher than Qutub Minar. However, after his death in 1316, his successors never completed the constructed of the monument. The first storey of the Alai Minar still stands today at Qutub Complex.

    Q. What is the best time to visit Red Fort?

    Ans: – Since Delhi witnesses scorching temperature in summers, it’s knowing explore and unveil the town in winters. October to March is that the perfect time to go to Delhi.

    Starts in early April and peak in May & Temperature is 32°C (average)

    Starts in November and peaks in January & Average Temperature is 12 to 13°C

    Q. How to Reach Qutub Minar?

    Ans: – Nearest Airport to Qutub Minar: Indira Gandhi International Airport is that the closest airport to Qutub Minar at a distance of 13.8 km and will take 32 minutes to achieve by road.

    Nearest railway station to Qutub Minar: New Delhi railway station is that the closest railway station at 17 km and is 55 minutes away.

    Nearest Bus Stand to Qutub Minar: If you are coming by bus, the nearest bus stops is Qutub Minar Bus Stand, situated just outside the entry gate of the monument. You can take a DTC bus to visit this monument from anywhere in Delhi NCR.

    Nearest Metro Station to Qutub Minar: Delhi residents can take a metro and obtain down at Qutub Minar Metro Station. You can hail an auto because the monument is 6 minutes chase away from the metro exit. It is effortless to travel around Delhi as there are frequent buses, taxis, autos and online cab facilities available within the city.

    Qutub Minar Metro Station

    Old Delhi Railway Station

    Indira Gandhi International Airport

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    The Mamluk dynasty

    This process of usurping power was epitomized by and culminated in the establishment of the Mamluk dynasty, which ruled Egypt and Syria from 1250 to 1517 and whose descendants survived in Egypt as an important political force during the Ottoman occupation (1517–1798). The Kurdish general Saladin, who gained control of Egypt in 1169, followed what by then constituted a tradition in Muslim military practice by including a slave corps in his army in addition to Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, and other free elements. This practice was also followed by his successors. Al-Malik al-Ṣāliḥ Ayyūb (1240–49) is reputed to have been the largest purchaser of slaves, chiefly Turkish, as a means of protecting his sultanate both from rivals within the Ayyubid dynasty and from the crusaders. Upon his death in 1249 a struggle for his throne ensued, in the course of which the Mamluk generals murdered his heir and eventually succeeded in establishing one of their own number as sultan. Thenceforth, for more than 250 years, Egypt and Syria were ruled by Mamluks or sons of Mamluks.

    Historians have traditionally broken the era of Mamluk rule into two periods—one covering 1250–1382, the other, 1382–1517. Western historians call the former the “ Baḥrī” period and the latter the “ Burjī,” because of the political dominance of the regiments known by these names during the respective times. The contemporary Muslim historians referred to the same divisions as the “Turkish” and “Circassian” periods, in order to call attention to the change in ethnic origin of the majority of Mamluks, which occurred and persisted after the accession of Barqūq in 1382, and to the effects that this change had on the fortunes of the state.

    There is universal agreement among historians that the Mamluk state reached its height under the Turkish sultans and then fell into a prolonged phase of decline under the Circassians. The principal achievements of the Turkish Mamluks lay in their expulsion of the remaining crusaders from the Levant and their rout of the Mongols in Palestine and Syria they thereby earned the thanks of all Muslims for saving Arabic-Islamic civilization from destruction. It is doubtful, however, that such a goal figured in their plans rather, as rulers of Egypt they were seeking to reconstitute the Egyptian Empire. The Mamluks also sought to extend their power into the Arabian Peninsula and into Anatolia and Little Armenia to protect Egypt’s rear, they strove to establish their presence in Nubia.

    To consolidate their position in the Islamic world, the Mamluks revived the caliphate, which the Mongols had destroyed in 1258, and installed a caliph under their surveillance in Cairo. Their patronage of the rulers of the holy cities of Arabia, Mecca and Medina, served the same purpose. Spectacular success in war and diplomacy was underpinned economically by the Mamluks’ support of industries and crafts as well as by their restoration of Egypt as the principal trade and transit route between the Orient and the Mediterranean.

    Among the most outstanding Mamluk sultans were Baybars I (1260–77) and al-Malik al-Nāṣir (1293–1341). The Mamluks’ failure to find an able successor after the latter’s death weakened the strength and stability of their realm. But the historians of the era date the beginning of the dynasty’s decline from the accession of the first Circassian sultan (Barqūq) in 1382, claiming that thereafter, advancement in the state and the army was dependent on race (i.e., Circassian descent) rather than on proved skill in the art of war, which had served as the chief criterion for promotion during the Turkish period. The increased importance assigned to ethnic affiliation was, however, only one cause of decline equally or even more important were economic and other factors. Part of the explanation undoubtedly lies in the inability of the Mamluks, split into hostile factions, to provide necessary safeguards against the Bedouins for the peaceful conduct of trade and agriculture. Furthermore, the demographic losses caused by plagues that raged in Egypt and elsewhere in the East contributed to economic decay. In such conditions the Mamluks were unable to defend Syria against the Turkic conqueror Timur (Timur Lenk) in 1400. Under the rule of Sultan Barsbay (1422–38) internal stability was restored briefly and Mamluk glory resuscitated by the conquest of Cyprus in 1426. Yet the increasingly higher taxes demanded to finance such ventures enlarged the Mamluks’ financial difficulties. The final economic blow fell with the Portuguese assault on trade in the Red Sea (c. 1500), which was accompanied by Ottoman expansion into Mamluk territory in Syria. Having failed to adopt field artillery as a weapon in any but siege warfare, the Mamluks were decisively defeated by the Ottomans both in Syria and in Egypt and from 1517 onward constituted only one of the several components that formed the political structure of Egypt.

    Culturally, the Mamluk period is known mainly for its achievements in historical writing and in architecture and for an abortive attempt at socio-religious reform. Mamluk historians were prolific chroniclers, biographers, and encyclopaedists they were not strikingly original, with the exception of Ibn Khaldūn, whose formative and creative years were spent outside Mamluk territory in the Maghrib (North Africa). As builders of religious edifices—mosques, schools, monasteries and, above all, tombs—the Mamluks endowed Cairo with some of its most impressive monuments, many of which are still standing the Mamluk tomb-mosques can be recognized by stone domes whose massiveness is offset by geometrical carvings. By far the most famous single religious figure of the period was Ibn Taymiyyah, who was imprisoned by Mamluk authorities because of his attempts to rid Mamluk Islam of superstition and foreign accretions.


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    Apart from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the famous Qutub Minar is the tallest minaret in India and the perfect location to go on a drive with your furry buddy. Standing at a height of 237ft, this photogenic minaret is the perfect pick for you to capture it in a selfie with your pet!

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    Qutub Minar Delhi

    Qutub Minar Delhi The tall and ever attractive monument of Delhi which can be seen from most parts of the city is called the Qutab Minar. Every body has the same question when one sees the structure for the first time. The question that is often being put up is "Why the monument is that big?" or "Was there any specific reason to build such a tall building or it was just a wish of the person who built it?" Well, the exact reason is assumed to have something related to commemorating the victory. Mughals used to build victory towers to proclaim and celebrate victories. Some say the minaret was used to offer prayer but it is so tall that you can hear the person standing on the top. Also, the minaret is not joined on to Qutuddin's mosque and the Iltutmish's mosque.

    Qutab Minar is among the tallest and famous towers in the world. The minaret is 234 feet high and the highest individual tower in the world. Other towers in the world are the Great Pagoda in Pekin, China and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy but these towers are not as high as the Qutab Minar in Delhi. According to history books, the minar was started by Prithviraj or his uncle Vigraharaja who won Delhi from the Tomar Rajputs. However, it is assumed and historians believe that Qutubuddib and Iltutmish finished it though the minar may have been commenced by Prithviraj or Vigraharaja. The minar was completed in 1200 A.D and since then the tall structure has been there upright and ever beautiful keeping an eye to Delhi just like a sentry. When Alauddin returned from the wars in the Deccan, he had this thought in mind that he would build a victory tower somewhat similar to the Qutab Minar. The ruins of this very initiative can be seen adjacent to the Qutbuddin's mosque because Alauddin died at the very start of the construction work and no one carried on to finish the initiative taken by Alauddin.

    Qutab Minar is another great masterpiece of Mughal architecture. It has a number of floors or storeys which has beautiful carvings like the one on the tomb of Iltutmish. There are inscriptions all round the tower and these inscriptions reveal that Iltutmish finised the tower. The structure of the wall is made as such that it widens from top to bottom, just to make the minar stronger.

    Moving upstairs inside the minar will give you a wonderful experience and counting the stairs is always a fun for visitors. It has 378 steps which takes good amount of energy to reach at the top. The top of the tower gives an insight to Delhi because you get to see the bird's eye view of the city. To point a few sight seeing from the top, you will find views of the Hauz Khaz on the left and the walls of the Jahanpanah and Siri on the right. It was this very top of Qutab Minar that was used by Khilji and Tughlaq kings to watch the wild Mongol hordes when they threatened Delhi. The top also served as the watch top for Tughlaq who watched Timur's army camp on the Wellingdon Airport. Other important monuments that is visible from the top are the walls of Tughlaqabad, Humayun's Tomb, Purana Qila, Firoz Shah Kotla and Jama Masjid.

    The minar did receive some damage because of earthquakes on more than a couple of occasions but was reinstated and renovated by the respective rulers. During the rule of Firoz Shah, the minar's two top floors got damaged due to earthquake but were repaired by Firoz Shah. In the year 1505, earthquake again struck and it was repaired by Sikandar Lodi. Later on in the year 1794, the minar faced another earthquake and it was Major Smith, an engineer who repaired the affected parts of the minar. He replaced Firoz Shah's pavilion with his own pavilion at the top. The pavilion was removed in the year 1848 by Lord Hardinge and now it can be seen between the Dak Bungalow and the Minar in the garden. The floors built by Firaz Shah can be distinguished easily as the pavilions was built of white marbles and are quite smooth as compared to other ones.
    The minar is not that erect as it used to be because of wears and tears over the past several years. Closely looking at the mina rives you an idea that it is somewhat tilled towards one side. The minar is very sincerely looked after by the authorities much like the same as other historic monuments in the country.

    History of this Colossal Tower
    Qutb ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Turkish rule in north-western India and also of the Mamluk Dynasty in Delhi commissioned the construction of this monument in 1192 AD. Aibak dedicated the minaret to the Muslim Sufi mystic, saint and scholar of the Chishti Order, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. Different beliefs surround the origin of the minaret. While some sources believe it was constructed as a tower of victory marking the beginning of Muslim dominion in India, some others say it served the muezzins who called the faithful to prayer from the minaret. Uncertainty hovers around naming of the tower with some suggesting it was named after the Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki while others believe it was named after Aibak himself.

    The tower was completed by Aibak's son-in-law and successor Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, regarded as the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, in 1220. Iltutmish added three more storeys to the monument. This historical monument faced a few natural disasters. A lightning hit the top storey of the minaret in 1369 AD, knocking it off entirely. The then ruler of the Sultanate of Delhi, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq took charge of its restoration and constructed two more storeys to the minaret made of marble and red sandstone. Again when an earthquake damaged it in 1505, the then Sultan of Delhi, Sikandar Lodi, reconstructed the top two storeys of the minaret with marbles. Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters engraved in various sections of the minaret speak about the history of its construction. The minaret faced the wrath of nature yet again when a major earthquake on September 1, 1803 damaged it severely. In 1828, it was renovated by Major Robert Smith of the British Indian Army, who installed a cupola atop the tower. However in 1848, as instructed by the then Governor General of India, Henry Hardinge, 1st Viscount Hardinge, the cupola was uninstalled from the tower and placed in the east of it where the cupola remains situated.


    Watch the video: Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi UNESCONHK