March 2, 2016

Quwwatul-Islam Masjid - Qutb Complex, Delhi

Site Name: Quwwatul-Islam Masjid
Site Type: Monument, Masjid
Location:  Qutb Minar Complex, Mehrauli, Delhi, India
Highlights: One of the oldest Masjids in India

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. In Qutb Minar complex, apart from Qutb Minar, there are so many other monuments also located. Let us discuss about an interesting and historically important monument called Quwwatul-Islam Masjid in this article.


Anangpal Tomar is believed to be the founder of Delhi. Nothing much is known about his period or other details. He belonged to the Tomar Rajputs dynasty. They were probably feudatories of Gurjara-Pratihara rulers. Tomars established themselves in the Aravalli hills south of Delhi. The period must be sometime in the 10th century CE (It cannot be 8th century as claimed by Wikipedia or other websites).

Anangpal Tomar is said to have built Lal Kot, the first known defence work in Delhi. Lal Kot is the core of 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. 

Qutbud-Din Aibak built not only the famous Qutb Minar, but also Quwwatul-Islam Masjid, which is a historically important monument. 

Quwwatul-Islam Masjid

Quwwatul-Islam Masjid is one of the oldest extant mosques in India. It cannot be considered as the oldest mosque although there are various sources which claim so. There are some pre-Sultanate monuments in Kutch (Gujarat), Cheraman Juma Mosque in Kodungallur (Kerala) and Pazhaiya Jumma Palli in Keelkarai (Tamil Nadu) which are claimed to be older than Quwwatul-Islam Mosque. A separate write up is needed to discuss in detail about the actual oldest extant mosque in India. Let me not deviate from the subject and concentrate only about Quwwatul-Islam Masjid in this article.

Qutbud-Din Aibak started the work of the mosque immediately after the capture of Delhi in 1192 CE and it got completed in 1198 CE. The mosque was enlarged by Iltutmish, the successor of Qutbud-Din in 1230 CE. Due to the expansion done by him, Qutb Minar actually fell within the enclosure of the mosque. Alaud-Din Khalji further extended the mosque and also added two gateways. One of them is the famous Alai Darwaza. 

Qutbud-Din called this mosque as Jama Masjid (meaning Friday masjid). Later, it was being referred as Quwwatul-Islam which means ''Might of Islam''. Twenty seven Hindu temples and Jain shrines which were built by the Tomars and Prithviraj were destroyed and the materials from those shrines were used to construct this masjid.

The mosque is built on a raised courtyard and is surrounded by pillared corridors. These corridors are later additions by Iltutmish. The entrances to the courtyard have many pillars with carvings from the original temples. They are arranged symmetrically. The ceilings and even the domes in the corridors are also evidently taken from the original temples. 

The wall indicating the direction of Mecca is called as Mihrab. The large arches that once formed the part of the mihrab are seen today. 

The 3rd/4th century CE period iron pillar was probably taken from an unknown Vishnu temple and was installed by Anangpal in his city. That iron pillar can be found in front of a large arch today. In addition, there are many tombs that are found in the mosque enclosure. 

The main gateway at the southern side of the mosque is called as Alai Darwaza. It is architecturally beautiful and it was built by Alaud-Din Khalji.

Happy travelling.

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