(Last Updated on : 07/08/2012)
Qutab Minar is the tallest brick Minaret in the world, and an important example of Indo-Islamic Architecture
. The tower is in the Qutab complex in South Delhi, India. The Qutab Minar and its monuments are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres high and requires 399 steps to get to the top, although it has not been possible for visitors to ascend the tower for some years, due to safety reasons. The diameter of the base is 14.3 metres wide while the top floor measures 2.75 metres in diameter. Qutab Minar in red and buff stand stone is the highest tower in India.
Besides the minar, the Qutab complex also includes a group of monuments embracing the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque
of Qutbuddin Aibak. Included in the Qutab Complex are the Tomb of Iltutmish
, the Alai Minar, Alai Darwaza, the madrasa or school, and what is believed to be the Tomb of Ala-ud-din Khilji
. These three kings were, in turn, responsible for the construction of the original fabric of this, one of the earliest mosques extant in India, and for its subsequent additions and extensions.
History of Qutab Minar
laid the foundation of Qutab Minar in AD 1199 for the use of Muazzin (crier) to give calls for prayer and raised the first storey, to which were added three more storeys by his successor and son-in-law, Shamsud-Din IItutmish (AD 1211-36). All the storeys are surrounded by a projected balcony encircling the Minar and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honeycomb design, more conspicuously in the first storey.
Numerous inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters in different places of the Minar reveal the history of Qutab. According to the inscriptions on its surface it was repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (AD 1351-88) and Sikandar Lodi
(AD 1489-1517). Major R. Smith also repaired and restored the Qutab Minar in 1829. The minaret is made of fluted red Sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Quran. The Qutab Minar is itself built on the ruins of Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika, the capital of the Jat Tomars and the Chauhans, the last Hindu rulers of Delhi
Architecture of Qutab Minar
Qutab Minar is still the highest stone tower as well as one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised in India. The main mosque comprises an inner and outer courtyard, of which the inner one is surrounded by an exquisite collonade, the pillars of which are made of richly decorated shafts. With in the mosque complex is the Iron Pillar, which dates back to 4th century AD.
The pillar bears an inscription, which states that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour of the Hindu god, Vishnu, and in the memory of the Gupta King Chandragupta II
(375-413 B.C). The pillar also highlights ancient India's achievements in metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98 per cent wrought iron and has stood 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing.
Ala-ud-Din Khilji constructed Alai Darwaza
, the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in AD 1311. The gateway is the example of the use of horseshoe arch and true dome for the first time. This is the first building, which employed Islamic principles of construction and ornamentation. Ala-ud-Din Khalji built a madrasa towards the southwest of Qutab Minar to impart religious education to the children. He also commenced the construction of the Alai Minar
with the intention of making it twice the size of earlier minar. It is to the north of Qutab Minar. He could complete only the first storey, which now has an extant height of 25 m.
The artists employed by Aibak and Iltutmish were Hindus and the raw material was also obtained from existing Hindu and Jain temples. The figures carved on the pillars were disfigured by them because its depiction of human and animal figures is not allowed in Islam. By the time Ala-ud-Din Khilji came to power Muslim rule was established in the country and there were many artists who have come from the Central Asia. Thus the difference in the buildings of the period of Qutab-ud-Din Aibak, Iltutmish and Ala-ud-Din Khilji is prominent.
Qutabuddin Aibak built Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the northeast of Minar in AD 1198. It is the earliest extant-mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jain temples, which were demolished by Qutabudin Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance.
A lofty arched screen was erected and later a, mosque was enlarged, by Shamsudin IItutmish
(AD 1210-35) and Ala-ud-din Khilji. The Iron Pillar
in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of 4th century AD, according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. A deep socket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.
The Tomb of IItutmish (AD 1211-36) was built in AD 1235. It is a plain square chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions, geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition on the entrances and the whole of interior. Some of the motifs viz., the wheel, tassel, etc., are reminiscent of Hindu designs. Alai Darwaza, the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Ala-ud-din Khilji in AD 1311 as recorded in the inscriptions engraved on it. This is the first building employing Islamic principles of construction and ornamentation.
Other reasons ascribed to its construction are as a tower of victory, a monument signifying the might of Islam, or a watch tower for defence. Controversy also surrounds the origins for the name of the tower. Many historians believe that the Qutab Minar was named after the first Turkish sultan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak but others contend that it was named in honour of Khwaja Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki of Ush, a saint from Baghdad who came to live in India was greatly venerated by Iltutmish.