Qutub Minar in Delhi, India
|Designated||1993 (17th session)|
Qutub Minar, , at 74 meters, is the second tallest minar in India after Fateh Burj in Chappar Chiri at Mohali, which measures 100 meters in height. Qutb Minar, along with the ancient and medieval monuments surrounding it, form the Qutb Complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower is located in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India. Made of red sandstone and marble, Qutub Minar is a 73 meter (240 feet) tall tapering tower with a diameter measuring 14.32 meters (47 feet) at the base and 2.75 meters (9 feet) at the peak. Inside the tower, a circular staircase with 379 steps, leads from the bottom to the top storey. Entry to the tower has remained restricted since 1981, when a stampede inside Qutb Minar left 45 visitors dead.
In 1199 CE Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, started construction of the bottom storey of Qutub Minar. Around 1220, Aibak's successor, and son-in-law Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, added three storeys on top of Aibak's first. In 1369, lightning struck the top storey, destroying it completely. Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the 19th emperor of Delhi (1351-1388) carried out restoration work and replaced the damaged storey with two new storeys, made of both red sandstone and white marble.
Qutub Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments, which are historically connected with the tower and are part of the Qutb Complex. These include the Iron Pillar of Delhi, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Alai Minar, Ala-ud-din's Madrasa and Tomb, and the Tomb of Imam Zamin. Other minor monuments include Major Smith's Cupola and Sanderson's Sundial.
The construction of Qutub Minar was commissioned by Qutbu l-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate in 1199 AD. Aibak's successor, and the third emperor of the Delhi Sultanate, Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, added three more storeys.
It has not been established with certainty whether Qutub Minar has been named after Qutbu l-Din Aibak, the emperor who commissioned its construction, or Qutbuddin Bakhtiar kaki, the famous Sufi saint. Iltutmish was a follower of the saint and it is said that the tower was the saint's staff. However, there is no historical evidence which proves the theories. It is also believed since Qutb Minar was part of Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, it was used to issue Azaan, calling the devout to pray.
The culture of tower architecture was well established in India before the arrival of the Turks as can be understood from the Kirti Stambh at Chittor, Rajasthan. However, there is no evidence on record to confirm that the Qutb Minar was inspired or influenced by earlier Rajput towers.At present it does not have the topmost storey which was destroyed by lightning in 1368AD
The minar is itself built on the ruins of the Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika, the capital of the Tomars and the Chauhans. It was made by the first ruler of Mamluk dynasty, Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak.
Numerous inscriptions in Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters in different sections of the Qutb Minar reveal the history of its construction. According to the inscriptions on its surface it was repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–89) and Sikandar Lodi (1489–1517).
The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, located to the north of Qutb Minar, was built by Qutbu l-Din Aibak in 1192. It is the earliest surviving mosque in the Indian subcontinent, other than the ones in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India
Damage and repairs
Qutub Minar has been damaged by earthquakes and struck by lightning on several occasions but has been repaired and renovated by Various rulers of Delhi, including the British. During the rule of emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the tower's top floor was damaged when it was struck by lightning. It was, however, repaired by the emperor. The floors built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq can be distinguished easily as they were built of white marble and smooth compared with the other storeys. In 1505, an earthquake damaged Qutb Minar and repaired by emperor Sikandar Lodi.
On 1 August 1803, a major earthquake caused serious damage to Qutb Minar. Major Robert Smith of the Bengal Engineers of the British Indian Army was given the charge of repairing the damage. Major Smith finished the renovation is 1828, and also installed a storey (a chhatri or cupola) to the top of Qutb Minar, replacing Firoz Shah Tughlaq damaged storey. His move came under severe criticism and 20 years after its installation, in 1848 Major Smith Cupola was finally taken down, under instructions from the Governor General of India, Lord Hardinge. After being installed at two different places within the Qutb Complex, the cupola was finally installed to the east of Qutb Minar, where it rests now.
The Minar is made of red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur'an. The Minar comprises several superposed flanged and cylindrical shafts, separated be balconies carried on Muqarnas corbels. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone; the fourth and fifth storeys are of marble and sandstone. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. The minar tilts just over 60 cm from the vertical, which is considered to be within safe limits, although experts have stated that monitoring is needed in case rainwater seepage further weakens the foundation.
The nearby 7 metres high Iron Pillar is a metallurgical curiosity, standing in the Qutb complex. The pillar has Brahmic inscriptions on it that predate the Islamic minar. Inside this monument there is a plaque which shows the name as Qutb Minar instead of Qutub Minar.
Before 1981, the general public was able to walk to the top up the seven-storey, narrow staircase. However, on 4 December 1981 a tragic accident occurred when an electricity cut plunged the tower's staircase into darkness. Panic ensued among the visitors and around 45 people were killed in the stampede that followed the electricity failure. Most of the victims were children because, at the time, school children were allowed free access to historical monuments on Fridays and many school groups were taking advantage of this. Subsequently, public access to the inside of the tower has been forbidden.
Bollywood actor and director Dev Anand wanted to shoot the song Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar from his movie Tere Ghar Ke Samne inside the minar. However, the cameras in that era were too big to fit inside the tower's narrow passage, and the song was shot inside a replica of the tower instead. The site served as the pitstop of the second leg of the second season of The Amazing Race Australia, the Australian version of the Emmy-winning series The Amazing Race. This is the first Indian monument to have an E-ticket facility. Qutab Minar is the closest station on the Delhi Metro. A picture of the minaret is featured on the Travel Cards issued by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation.
Inscription panels of Kufic calligraphy running around the ornate balcony
View from inside
A recently launched start-up in collaboration with Archaeological survey of India has made a 360 degree walkthrough of Qutub minar available.
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Media related to Qutb Minar at Wikimedia Commons