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Qutub Complex-Untold stories


It is a sunny vacation winter afternoon, and Qutub Complex is swarming with individuals, together with Indian and foreign tourists, photographers and a brand new breed of Instagrammers, travel bloggers, children, love-struck couples, families, and young boys and girls celebrating their winter vacation. I along with family also visited Qutub Complex to quench the thirst of knowledge specifically of my son, Tintin.

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The Qutub complex is a group of monuments and buildings built by Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. The Qutub Minar (victory tower) in the complex, named after the religious figure Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was begun by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi. Construction was continued by his successor Iltutmish and finally completed by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty in 1368 AD. Many future rulers, including the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji and the British added structures to the complex.

The structures in the Qutub Complex are-

1. Qutub Minar

2. Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque

3. Alai Darwaza gate

4. Alai Minar of Khilji

5. The Iron Pillar

6. Ruins of Jain temples

7. The tomb of Iltutmish

8. The tomb of Alauddin Khalji

9. The tomb of Imam Zamin

The Qutb Minar complex can be thought about in two ways: first information about the structures and second is its descriptive historical context. Before entering the main complex first we visited the documentary hall where 10-15 minutes documentary film had been shown on Qutub Complex free of cost. Let us discuss one by one-

1.  Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar is a minaret that forms major part of the Qutub complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Delhi, India. The Qutub Minar is enclosed by many nice historical monuments and all of them together are said as “Qutb Complex”. Qutb Minar is a 72.5metre (239.5 feet) tall tower of five stories peak. It is the tallest brick tower within the world. It contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps.

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Qutb ud Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, started construction of the Qutb Minar’s first story around 1192. In 1220, Aibak’s successor and son-in-law Shams-Ud-Din Iltutmish completed a further three stories. In 1369, a lightning strike destroyed the highest story. Firoz Shah Tughlaq replaced the broken story and added one more. Sher Shah Suri additionally further associates entrance to the current tower whereas he was ruling and Humayun was in exile.

The Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments of the Qutb complex. The minaret is named after Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a Sufi saint. Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki was a Muslim Sufi mystic, saint and scholar of the Chishti Order from Delhi, India. He was the disciple and the spiritual successor of Moin-Ud-Din Chishti head of the Chishti directive, and the person to whom the Qutb Minar, Delhi is dedicated. Before him the Chishti directive in India was confined to Ajmer and Nagaur. He contends a serious role in establishing the directive securely in city. His dargah located adjacent to Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli, and the oldest dargah in Delhi, is also the venue of his annual Urs festivities. The Urs was held in high regard by many rulers of Delhi like Qutbuddin Aibak, Iltutmish, Sher Shah Suri, Bahadur Shah I and Farrukhsiyar. Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki started opening up in India which had previously not been present. He forms a very important a part of the Sufi movement that attracted many of us to Islam in India within the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. People of each faith like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, etc. visiting his Dargah every week.

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On 1st September 1803, a major earthquake caused serious damage. Major Henry Martyn Robert Smith of the British Indian Army restored the tower in 1828 and put in a columned ceiling over the fifth story, thus creating a sixth. The ceiling was taken down in 1848, under instructions from Viscount Hardinge, then Governor General of India. It was reinstalled at ground level to the east of Qutb Minar, where it remains. It is known as “Smith’s Folly”.

Before 1974, the general public was allowed entree to the top of the minaret, via the internal staircase. On 4 December 1981, the staircase lighting failed. Between 300 and 430 visitors stampeded towards the exit, and 45 were killed in the crush and some were injured. Most of these were school children. Since then, the tower has been closed to the general public.

Bollywood actor and director Dev Anand wished to shoot the song “Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar” from his film Tere Ghar Ke Samne within the Minar. However, the cameras in that era were too big to fit inside the tower’s narrow passage, and therefore the song was shot inside a replica of the Qutb Minar. A picture of the tower is featured on the travel cards and tokens issued by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.

Two astonishing facts are that the historic Qutub Minar does not cast a shadow on June 22 every year-a rare phenomenon because, on other days, the minar casts a shadow even at noon due to its structural leaning.

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Another one is the Taj Mahal is so proportionately constructed; one can never imagine that it is taller than the Qutub Minar, the tallest minaret in the world! The Taj Mahal is 243.5ft. in height while the Qutub Minar is only 239.5ft.

2.  Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque

Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was commissioned by Qutub-Ud-Din Aibak, founder of the Mamluk or Slave dynasty and built using the ruins of 27 Jain temples. These temples were destroyed by the Muslim invaders to get stone and material for their mosques and different buildings. These temples existed a lot of before Ghori was even born. ( Ref: Southern Central Asia, A.H. Dani, History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol.4, Part 2, Ed. Clifford Edmund Bosworth, M.S.Asimov, (Motilal Banarsidass, 2000, 564.)

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Qutub was a fanatical Muslim. When his garrison occupied Delhi under the command of Muhammed Ghori in 1192, he ordered the destruction of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples to furnish building materials for the construction of Delhi’s first mosque. Quwwat-ul-Islam, the “Glory of Islam,” was hurriedly erected by the young amir, who recruited an army of local craftsmen, presumably Hindus, to assemble the structure. The Hindu stonemasons reused columns from the destroyed temples, however adapting them to use during a masjid established problematic given Islam’s injunction against the utilization of sculptures in temples. The masons were forced to plaster the extremely sculptured Hindu columns and presumptive cover them with geometric styles. However, after centuries of neglect the plaster has fallen away, revealing the initial Hindu carvings. It was built over the site of a large temple located in the center of the Hindu fort. (Percy Brown (16 April 2013). Indian Architecture (The Islamic Period). (Read Books Limited. pp. 39).

It was the primary masjid in-built city once the Muslim conquest to go away the imprint of his religion to the new territory; Aibak determined to erect a masjid epitomizing the might of Islam and chose this site. The Qutub Minar was engineered at the same time with the masjid. The selected site for the construction of a mosque, Ibn Battuta, the 14th century Arab traveler, says, before the taking of Delhi it had been Hindu and Jain temple, which the Hindus called elbut-khana, but after that event it was used as a mosque’.

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Archaeological Survey of India states that the mosque was raised over the remains of a temple and, in addition, it was also constructed from materials taken from other demolished temples, a fact recorded on the main eastern entrance (Ref- Qutab Minar & Adjoining Monuments. Archaeological Survey of India. 2002 ). According to a Persian engraving still on the inner eastern entrance, the mosque was built by the parts taken by destruction of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples during the reigns of the Tomaras and Prithviraj Chauhan.

Expansion of the mosque continued after the death of Qutub. Qutbuddin’s inheritor Iltutmish, extended the original prayer hall screen by three more arches. By the time of Iltutmish, the Mamluk Empire had stabilized enough that the Sultan could replace most of his recruited Hindu masons with Muslims. This explains why the arches added under Iltutmish are stylistically more Islamic than the ones erected under Qutub’s rule, also because the material used wasn’t from demolished temples. The masjid is in ruins these days however indigenous arches, floral motifs, and geometric patterns can be seen among the Islamic architectural structures.

3.  Alai Darwaza

Alai Darwaza (Gate of Alauddin) is the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque in Qutub complex. Built by Sultan Alauddin Khalji in 1311 and made of red sandstone, it is a square domed gatehouse with arched entrances and houses a single chamber. Considered to be one in every of the foremost vital buildings of its time, the Alai Darwaza added to the charm of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque with its beautiful arches and fringes which resembled lotus buds.

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It has a special significance in Indo-Islamic architecture as the first Indian monument to be built using Islamic methods of construction and ornamentation and is a World Heritage Site.

One of the oldest gates in city is that the Alai Darwaza. This is a gate within the Qutub advanced that’s terribly historic and options variety of fascinating carvings on that. It is also very large in size and has an amazing build that is incredibly symmetrical.

Alla-Ud-Din Khilji made this large gate as the first of four gates that he wanted to build. However, this all over up being the sole gate that he did build. He died five years after this gate was constructed and never got around to the other three gates.

The stones and designs are symmetrical to each other. They appear to be nearly the same on both the left and right sides of the gate. The only real differences between the two sides can be found through how they have been weathered in different ways over time.

The arch round the gate is during a semi-circle. It has a point at the central part of the gate. The symmetry during this gate is sort of good a bit like with the remainder of the gate.

A dome is also included. This dome is supported by an octagonal base. A plaster material is additionally used on the skin a part of the dome to stay it protected and to convey it a regular look.

4. Alai Minar of Khilji

Alauddin Khilji, a very ambitious and ruthless ruler sieged the throne of Delhi, by disposing off his predecessor—his uncle and father-in-law, Jalaluddin. A great soldier and general, Alauddin quickly subdued the kings of neighboring kingdoms and extended the reach of the Khilji dynasty from Afghanistan in the north to the Deccan peninsula in the south. Khilji liked to attack Hindu kingdoms because Hindu Rajas were tremendously wealthy. The war loot kept his military ambitions afloat and the Sultan’s treasury strong.

Many historians describe Alauddin as barbaric because of the cruelty with which he attacked and seized kingdoms. After the capture of Chittor in 1303, Alauddin ordered the massacre of 30,000 local Hindus. Alauddin killed anybody he suspected of being a threat to this power. When he suspected two of his nephews of rising in rebellion, he first had their eyes squeezed out and then had them beheaded.

After one particularly huge win in the Deccan, Alauddin decided to build a huge tower similar to the Qutub Minar, to commemorate his victory—only his will be bigger and taller. He wanted a structure double the height of Qutub Minar so that he would be remembered as the only Sultan who dared to create such a monumental masterpiece that was grander and more spectacular than the one built by Qutubuddin Aibak.

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Construction of the Alai Minar was completed till the first story, when Alauddin Khilji was murdered by his trusted slave-general and lover Malik Kafur ( Ref- Based on Barani’s description, gay studies scholars Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai believe that Alauddin and Kafur were in a homosexual relationship. Historian Banarsi Prasad Saksena states that in the last years of his reign, Alauddin was loving with Kafur however believes that the closeness between the two wasn’t sexual.) in 1316. Alauddin’s elder son, Mubarak Shah, succeeded him as the new Sultan was somewhat less eager to fulfill his father’s wishes to build the tower.

The construction was however abandoned, just after the completion of the 80 ft-high (first storey), soon after the death of Alauddin in 1316. It was never taken up by his successors of Khalji dynasty. The first storey of the Alai Minar, a giant wreckage masonry core, still stands today, which was evidently intended to be covered with dressed stone later on.

4. The Iron Pillar

The Iron pillar of Delhi is 23 feet 8 inches high (7.2 meters) with 16 inches diameter structure, was constructed by a “King Chandra”, probably Chandragupta II, and is currently standing in the Qutub complex in Delhi, India. It is renowned for the rust-resistant composition of the metals utilized in its construction.

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The Quwwat-ul-Mosque dates back to 1192. It stands around the Iron Pillar in ruins, giving away its great age. The Iron Pillar dates back even further than the ruined Islamic building, but the iron pillar gives away nothing of its age on first glance. It was forged 1,600 years ago (sometime in the 300s) and moved to Delhi roughly 1,000 years ago before the mosque was built. However, it is widely believed that the king to which the inscription refers is Chandragupta Vikramaditya.

The purpose of the Iron Pillar of Delhi is one among its several mysteries. Some say it was a flagstaff made for the king mentioned in the inscription. Others say it was a sundial at its original home in Madhya Pradesh. Why it is no longer in Madhya Pradesh is yet another mystery. There is no proof of who moved  the pillar 1,000 years ago, how it was moved or even why it was moved.

The biggest and most talked about mystery regarding the Iron Pillar of Delhi is how it has gone seemingly unblemished for this long. There is a lot of aforesaid regarding the superb pillar that doesn’t rust. This is not entirely accurate. There is alittle quantity of rust starting to appear on the pillar. This doesn’t create the pillar’s condition any less mysterious.

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One of the most catalysts for rust is wetness and Delhi isn’t terribly wet. This could be one in every of the factors within the natural preservation of the Iron Pillar of Delhi. Other possibilities include the skill of the men who made the pillar, the quality of the materials used. Many sources cite a protective layer of something called “misawite” ( a compound made up of iron, oxygen and hydrogen on the steel pillar, which is said to contain phosphorus – is claimed as the reason for the non-corrosive existence) as the reason for the Iron Pillar’s condition. (Sources: Dr. R. Balasubramaniam, the Corrosion Resistant Delhi Iron Pillar. B.N. Goswamy, Enigma of the Iron Pillar, world-mysteries.com/sar_ironpillar.html)

The pillar has attracted the attention of archaeologists and materials scientists because of its high resistance to corrosion and has been called a “testimony to the high level of skill achieved by the traditional Indian iron smiths within the extraction and process of iron”. The corrosion resistance results from a good layer of crystalline iron hydrogen phosphate hydrate forming on the high-phosphorus-content iron, which serves to protect it from the effects of the Delhi climate.

The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script dating 4th century AD, which indicates that the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja, standard of god, on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra, believed to Chandragupta II. A deep socket on the highest of this ornate capital suggests that most likely a picture of Garuda was fastened into it, as common in such flagpoles.

The inscription on the pillar is undated, and contains a tribute of a king named Chandra, whose dynasty it does not mention. The identity of this king, and thus the date of the pillar, has been the subject of much debate. The various viewpoints about the identity of the issuer were assembled and analyzed in a volume edited by M. C. Joshi and published in 1989. The king is now generally identified with the Gupta King Chandragupta II. This identification is based on several points:

The script and the poetic style of the inscription, which points to a date in the late fourth or early fifth century CE: the Gupta period. The inscription describes the king as a devotee of the god Vishnu, and records the erection of a dhvaja (“standard”, or pillar) of Vishnu, on a hill called Vishnupada (“hill of the footprint of Vishnu”). Other Gupta inscriptions also describe Chandragupta II as a Bhagavata (devotee of Vishnu).

5. Ruins of Hindu and Jain temples

The Qutub Complex in Mehrauli, New Delhi, is a group of monuments constructed by various kings who ruled Delhi over a period of time.

The Qutub group of Monuments were engineered (as per timeline) by the Hindu kings (till 1192), the Mamluks Sultans (Qutb ud din Aibak 1206-10 and Shams ud Din Iltutmish 1211-36), the Khalji Sultan Ala ud din (1296-1316), and the Tughluq Sultan Feroze Shah (1353-88). Each of the rulers mentioned above has left a deep imprint on the history of India in addition as on this advanced.

The first rulers who constructed monuments (temples) in this area were the Tomars and Prithvi Raj Chauhan II, who got constructed 27 Hindu and Jain (Jainism) temples ( Source mentioned above ). The ruler Anangpal Tomar conjointly got shifted, the iron pillar which was located originally at Udayagiri, in the 10th century, to its present location.

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Most of those temples were demolished by Qutb ud din Aibak who reused the materials for the construction of the Quwwat ul Islam Mosque and the Qutb Minar (as per a Persian inscription on the inner eastern gateway). Although some parts of the temples outside the house of God were left untouched, and that they stay standing there until this date. Historical records compiled by Muslim historian Maulana Hakim Saiyyid Abdul Hai confirms the destruction of the temples by Qutb-ud-din Aibak.

6. The tomb of Shams-Ud-Din Iltutmish

The tomb of the Delhi Sultanate ruler, Iltutmish, a second Sultan of Delhi is also part of the Qutub Minar Complex in Mehrauli, New Delhi. The main monument, in white marble, is placed on a raised platform in the center of the chamber. The front is known for its decorative carving, both at the entrance and the interior walls. The interior west wall incorporates a prayer place embellished with marble and an upscale uniting of Hindu motifs into Islamic design.

The tomb of Iltutmish is one of the significant ancient monuments in Delhi. The tomb of Iltutmish is frequented by a number of tourists and history lovers throughout the year. Iltutmish himself built it in about 1235. Ferguson described it as “one of the richest samples of Hindu art applied to Muhammadan purposes”.

7. The tomb and Madrasa of Alauddin Khalji

Alauddin Khilji Tomb and Madrasa are also situated in the Qutub Complex. It was the primary structure in India with a place standing aboard a madrasah.

Ala-ud-din’s Madrasa is located to the south-west of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. It was established by Ala-ud-din Khilji, as a college for education on Islamic scriptures and spirituality. It consists of rooms and halls engineered around a polygonal shape court. Separated walls were originally present on the eastern and western sides of the quadrangular court. On the western aspect, a group of seven small, cell-like structures are present, which are believed to have served as residents of the teachers and staff. The entry on the north side consists of an elaborately carved doorway.

The central room of the Madrasa, which has Alauddin tomb, has now lost its dome, though many rooms of the structure are intact. Alauddin Khilji was the 2nd  sultan of Delhi from Khilji dynasty, who ruled from 1296 to 1316 AD. It is believed that Alauddin’s body was brought to the complex and buried in front of the mosque, which formed part of the madrasa adjoining the tomb.

The place could be a easy brick structure with no ornamental marble or complex carvings. There were 2 little chambers connected to the place by passages on either aspect. The tomb is in a very rundown condition. Firoz Shah Tughluq undertook repairs of the tomb complex.

Alauddin Khilji was the second of the khilji family line emperors. Ambitious and violent, he was the first Muslim ruler to venture south and gain major parts.

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Alauddin Khilji is commonly related to a well-liked folklore. According to the story, after hearing/seeing about the beauty of rani Padma, he attacked Chittor. The impressive fort of the kingdom provided a good defense. Allauddin laid barricade and after a long wait, the women of the kingdom, led by Padmini performed ‘jauhar’ by self-immolation on fire. The men with no family left and defeated to Allauddin in a vicious battle. Khilji ultimately prevailed and occupied Chittorgarh in 1303. This tomb lies on a small hill on one corner of the Qutub complex and from my experience after visiting the place; it is not the most popular spot as far as the visitor’s choice is concerned. Perhaps the place, like the man craves for some beauty.

8. The tomb of Imam Zamin

Located within the Qutub complex close to the Alai Darwaza is that the place of Imam Zamin, a noted Turkestani Imam, who lived in the Qutub Complex during the rule of Sikandar Lodi. Imam Zamin came to Delhi throughout the fifteenth century and was the Imam of the Quwwat-ul-Islam house of God. This tomb was constructed by Imam Zamin and he was buried there after his death in 1538. Imam Zamins tomb is a small sandstone structure on an octagonal base; the interiors of the tomb are adorned with white plaster and delicate jaali work.( Sources: Tillotson, G.H.R. 1990. Mughal India. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 33-4.). This place has no relation with the other monuments of the complex.

How to reach Qutub Minar Complex

Qutub Minar Complex is located in Mehrauli which is one of the main locations in Delhi.

By Delhi Metro – Visiting Qutub Minar using Delhi Metro is one of the best mediums. Prior to the Delhi metro, there were options of buses or auto rickshaws. But Delhi metro now conveniently send us quite near to Qutub Minar. As the area surrounding the Qutub Minar is covered under dense forest, the metro station is at about 3 km far from complex. Upon getting down from the Qutub Minar’s metro station, one can opt for an auto rickshaw and they charge no more than 50 INR but can bargain till as low as 30 INR. Use Yellow line (Samaypur Badli to Huda City Center) of Delhi metro – Take the metro going towards, Huda City Center (or Qutub Minar as few metros going only till here). If you wish to avoid the rush, wait for the metro going till Qutub Minar as office goers will probably not board this one.

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Uber/ Ola – Qutub Minar is pleasantly in south Delhi very close to Delhi airport. So if you’re staying anywhere in South Delhi you can opt for a cab. Although I can convey it favorably that the main stretch towards Qutub Minar is usually a high-traffic area. If you’re planning to go during peak hours, I highly suggest not wasting much time in cabs and rather opt metro. Finds much traffic here and cabs are another comfortable medium for reached here. 

Entry Fee

Indian- Rs. 30

Foreigner-Rs. 500

Camera- Rs. 75


7 am to 5 pm (OPEN ALL DAYS)


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Qutub Minar

Last updated 26.01.21


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