on October 26, 2006
(continued from part I)Qutb Minar is the minaret, from where the muezzin called the people to prayers, of the accompanying Might of Islam Mosque or Masjid Quwwat-ul-Islam. The mosque was built by Qutb-ud-Din Aibak and expanded by his successor and son-in-law Iltutmish, just like the minaret. The walls of the crumbled mosque are clearly of an architecture related to the minaret, with red sandstone bricks decorated by exquisite Arabic calligraphy and floral motifs. The former interior of the mosque, now open air as well because of its ruined state, displays pillars and walls of a clear Hindu design, partly remains of older Hindu and Jain temples and partly because Qutb-ud-Din has built the mosque with the help of Hindu masons and craftsmen. In the courtyard of the mosque stands one of the complex' strangest structures, a 7m high iron pillar. Dating from the northern Indian Gupta dynasty around 400AD, it used to be positioned on the Tropic of Cancer, thus making it an important astronomical instrument. Later it was transported to its current site to be a part of a Hindu temple, evident from the pillar's inscription in memory of Hindu deity Vishnu and Gupta king Chandragupta II. This temple was destroyed so the mosque could be built, but the pillar was left in its place. Making the pillar more curious is the fact that the iron is 98% pure wrought iron, something that was only possible in the late Middle Ages in Europe. The pillar has withstood corrosion as well for so many centuries. One of the most beautiful buildings inside the complex is the tomb of Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish. The red sandstone building has got white marble inlays and is decorated with wonderful carvings. Its structure is quite different from the surrounding edifices. Ala-ud-Din Khilji did some great extensions to the complex around 1300, mainly the unfinished Alai Minar, planned to be two times higher than Qutb Minar but soon stopped after the construction of the first storey, and the magnificent Ala-I-Darwaza, the gateway to the complex with beautiful Arabic calligraphic stone carvings.The complex is located 12km south of Connaught Place, New Delhi. Count on Rs 100 for the rickshaw ride. Due to its location it might be a good idea to combine a visit with other sights south of the city centre, like the Baha'i Lotus Temple, the ruined fort of Tughlaqabad or the wonderful tomb of Humayun. Guided tourist buses are available from New Delhi for around Rs 500 or you can hire a rickshaw for one day for the same price if you bargain a little. For people on a budget bus #505 from New Delhi Railway Station and CP runs to Mehrauli bus terminal at a distance of 500m. Entrance to the complex is a hefty Rs 250 (5 €).
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