March 8, 2016

Qutb Minar

Site Name: Qutb Minar
Site Type: Monument
Location:  Qutb Minar Complex, Mehrauli, Delhi, India
Highlights: One of the most popular monuments in Delhi

Nearest Railway Station: Delhi
Nearest Airport: Delhi
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air

Hotel: A lot of options are available within Delhi city
Restaurants: Many options and varieties across the city

Delhi, the capital city of India, is famous for monuments. It has around 1300 monuments. Qutb Minar is one of the most popular monuments in Delhi. Let us explore about this site in detail in this article.

Qutb Minar is the tallest stone tower in India. It is an UNESCO heritage site and is one of the most popular monuments not only in Delhi but in the entire country. It was not built entirely by any one particular King or dynasty. Let us travel back to 1000 years ago and explore the developments made in the monument in all these years.

Lal Kot - the area where Qutb Minar stands

Anangpal Tomar is believed to be the founder of Delhi. In the 10th century CE, he built Lal Kot, the first city of Delhi.

King Vigraharaja IV, who was also called as Visaladeva or Bisaldeo, of the Chauhan dynasty (a.k.a. Chahamana dynasty) of Sakambhari (modern day Sambhar region) captured Delhi from Tomars in the second half of 12th century CE. Vigraharaja's grandson was Prithviraj Chauhan III, who was also called as Rai Pithora, the popular historical figure and who is the hero of the stories of Hindu resistance against the Muslim invaders. He extended the Lal Kot by constructing another fort and named it as Qila Rai Pithora.

Muhammad bin Sam of Ghur invaded Qila Rai Pithora twice. In his second attempt, he defeated Prithviraj and captured Qila. His slave Qutbud-Din Aibak was made as the Viceroy of Delhi. He enthroned himself as the Sultan of Delhi in 1206 CE and thus started the rule of Slave dynasty in Delhi. 

The temples and other buildings in Lal Kot (part of Qila Rai Pithora) area were destroyed by Qutbud-Din Aibak. He built Quwwatul-Islam Masjid in that area. He also started constructing Qutb Minar near the masjid.

Qutb Minar by Qutbud-Din

There are many legends and different views about who built or who started building the majestic tall minaret called as Qutb Minar. However, as per the view that was accepted by most of the scholars and historians, Qutbud-Din Aibak of Slave dynasty started constructing this.

Qutbud-Din could construct only the ground floor of the minaret which comprises of alternate circular and triangular grooves. It is said that he wanted to build this as a victory tower. However, there is no proof for that. Also, it is not known whether he actually wanted to build a minaret or just a small structure for religious purpose.

Qutb Minar by Iltutmish

Qutbud-Din's son-in-law Shamsud-Din-Iltutmish succeeded him as the ruler of Delhi in 1211 CE. Iltutmish made significant additions to both the Qutb Minar and Quwwat mosque. He added three more floors to the tower. The first floor features circular grooves while the second floor has triangular grooves. Till this part, all the floors are built of red sandstone and are found with Quranic inscriptions and calligraphy.

The third floor built by him was destroyed in the lightning in 1368 CE.

Qutb Minar by Tughlaq

After Slave dynasty, Khalji dynasty ruled Delhi. After them, it was ruled by Tughlaq dynasty. In 1326 CE, Qutb Minar was struck by lightening. It was repaired by Muhammed Tughlaq. Later in 1368 CE, it was against damaged and the third floor was completely destroyed. Firuz Tughlaq carried out repair works and he replaced the third floor with two smaller floors. These floors are made of marble except for the lower portion of the fourth floor which is made of red sandstone. He even added a cupola on top of the minaret.

Restoration by Lodi

After Tughlaq dynasty, Delhi was ruled by Sayyid dynasty. Then, came the period of Lodis. In 1503 CE, Sikandar Lodi of Lodi dynasty carried out some restoration work in the upper storeys of Qutb Minar. 

Repairs by the British

The cupola that was crowing the minaret fell down during an earthquake in the early 19th century CE. Major Robert Smith, who was serving as a British Army Engineer, took an active interest in restoring Qutb Minar complex. After restoring the entire Qutb Minar minaret in 1829 CE, he designed this vibrant red colored Bengali style cupola and placed it on top of the minaret.

For the British Viceroy Lord Hardinge, it was not looking attractive and was more like an eyesore. He brought it down in 1848 CE.

Thus ends the story of Qutb Minar....Happy travelling.

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