Delhi Journals

World Heritage Site #233: Delhi’s Qutb Minar

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A February 2009 trip to Delhi by phileasfogg

Carving detail from the Alai Darwaza Photo, Delhi, India More Photos
Quote: One of Delhi’s oldest and most exquisite monuments, the Qutb Minar is at the heart of a complex of beautiful, historic buildings. Just two hours, and you can get a glimpse of Delhi 800 years ago.

The Qutb Archaeological Site

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A parakeet at Quwwat-ul-Islam Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
The `Qutb Minar and its Monuments’ (as listed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites list) were designated a World Heritage site in 1993, conforming to the criterion that it is "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history".Whew. Let me put it the way I see it.This is a place of soaring, splendidly carved medieval monuments with some delightful quirkiness that puts them in a class by themselves. There are lush green lawns, shady trees and flocks of bright green parakeets peering down at you, squawking cheekily from high ledges. There are, at least early in the morning, ...Read More

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque

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Carving detail from a screen at the mosque  Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
Walking past the sarai and then the Alai Minar, the first building you’ll come to is the Quwwat-ul-Islam (`might of Islam’) Mosque. This name appears to have been applied to the mosque only from the 19th century onward, but the mosque itself is much, much older. It is, in fact, the oldest mosque in Delhi and one of the oldest in India, construction having begun around 1191 AD.The Quwwat-ul-Islam owes its creation to a man named Qutbuddin Aibak, the first of the Slave Sultans. The Slave Sultans were literally that—slave succeeding master, rather than son succeeding father. Aibak’s master, Mohammad Ghori, had invaded Delhi, ousting the Chauhan rulers of Delhi; when Ghori retreated, he left Aib...Read More

The Qutab Minar Complex (Qutb Minar)

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Attraction | "A Tower Like None Other"

The Qutab Minar Complex (Qutb Minar) Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
Finally, the pièce de resistance: the Qutb Minar, the world’s tallest free-standing stone tower.Qutbuddin Aibak commissioned the Qutb Minar as a victory tower (not, as some believe, as a minaret from which the muezzin at the Quwwat-ul-Islam could call the faithful to prayer). Like the mosque, the tower symbolised the power of the new ruler. Incidentally, there’s no end to the theories floating about regarding the origin of the Qutb Minar; some believe it to be of Hindu origin, possibly even erected by Prithviraj Chauhan, whom Mohammad Ghori defeated and displaced. Why Prithviraj Chauhan should have decorated the outside of his tower with verses in Persian escapes me.The Qutb Minar has...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on February 15, 2009

The Qutab Minar Complex (Qutb Minar)
Mehrauli
Delhi, India

Alai Darwaza

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Attraction | "Horror Vacui, Filigree Screens and Lotus Buds: A Grand Gateway!"

Carving detail from the Alai Darwaza Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
The Quwwat-ul-Islam is on one side of the Qutb Minar; on the other is a square, domed building. This is the Alai Darwaza, built by Sultan Alauddin Khalji in 1305 AD, as a gateway to the Qutb Minar. Legend has it that Alauddin built four gateways leading to the tower, but this is the only one that remains.If you like leaving the best for the last (like I do!), step into the Alai Darwaza first and see the exterior later—in any case, the façade facing the Qutb Minar is fairly unpretentious. Whereas on the outside the Alai Darwaza’s decoration gives the impression that this is a two-storied building, once inside you realise that it’s actually a single-storied one, just disproportionately tall. The dome...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 15, 2009

The Tomb of Iltutmish

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Attraction | "Carving, Carving Everywhere"

The tomb of Iltutmish Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
If you’ve walked out to see the later screens of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, next in line is the structure on your right (if you’re facing the screens). This is the tomb of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish (also referred to as Altamash). Iltutmish had become ruler after the death of Qutbuddin Aibak in 1210 AD, and continued to reign till his own death in 1236 AD. He was succeeded by medieval Delhi’s only woman ruler, his daughter Razia Sultan, whom he nominated on his deathbed as his heir.Iltutmish’s tomb is a square, roofless building made red sandstone. There are carved doorways cut into the centre of three of the four walls: the only wall without a doorway is the west wall, marked by a mihrab....Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 15, 2009

Miscellaneous Monuments

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The Alai Minar Photo, Delhi, India
Quote:
The Qutb Minar, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza and the tomb of Iltutmish are the most striking of the monuments in the Qutb Archaeological Site complex, but that doesn’t mean these are the only structures here. There are other buildings here as well, not as beautiful or historic as the others, but worth stopping off and looking at anyway.Among the most imposing (not necessarily attractive!) is the massive rubble heap known as Alai Minar. This was supposed to be a replica of the Qutb Minar, built opposite the more famous tower on the other side of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Sultan Alauddin Khalji (the same man who built the exquisite Alai Darwaza) commissioned the construction of the A...Read More