Qutb Minar in Delhi, India
|Height||73 metres (240 ft)|
|Designated||1993 (17th session)|
|Constructed by||Started construction by Qutub-ud-din Aibak & completed construction by Iltutmish|
The Qutub Minar (Hindi: कुतुब मिनार, Urdu: قطب مینار) is a minaret that forms a part of the Qutab complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of Delhi, India. Qutub Minar is a 73-metre (239.5 feet) tall tapering tower of five storeys, with a 14.3 metres (47 feet) base diameter, reducing to 2.7 metres (9 feet) at the peak. It contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps. Its design is thought to have been based on the Minaret of Jam, in western Afghanistan.
Qutab Ud-Din-Aibak, founder of the Delhi Sultanate, started construction of the Qutub Minar's first storey around 1192. In 1220, Aibak's successor and son-in-law Iltutmish completed a further three storeys. In 1369, a lightning strike destroyed the top storey. Firoz Shah Tughlaq replaced the damaged storey, and added one more.
It derived its name from the Sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Quaki whom Qutab Ud-Din-Aibak worshiped. The Minar is surrounded by several historically significant monuments of the Qutab complex, including Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was built at the same time as the Minar, and the much older Iron Pillar of Delhi. The nearby pillared Cupola known as "Smith's Folly" is a remnant of the tower's 19th century restoration, which included an ill-advised attempt to add a sixth storey.
Qutab Minar was established along with Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque around 1192 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak, first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. The mosque complex is one of the earliest that survives in the Indian subcontinent. The minaret is named after Qutab-ud-din Aibak, or Qutabuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a Sufi saint. Its ground storey was built over the ruins of the Lal Kot, the citadel of Dhillika. Aibak's successor Iltutmish added three more storeys. The minar's topmost storey was damaged by lightning in 1369 and was rebuilt by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who added another storey. In 1505, an earthquake damaged Qutub Minar; it was repaired by Sikander Lodi. On 1 September 1803, a major earthquake caused serious damage. Major Robert Smith of the British Indian Army renovated the tower in 1828 and installed a pillared cupola over the fifth story, thus creating a sixth. The cupola was taken down in 1848, under instructions from The Viscount Hardinge, then Governor General of India. It was reinstalled at ground level to the east of Qutab Minar, where it remains. It is known as "Smith's Folly".
The tower's style is basically Iranian, though likely patterned on Afghanistan's Minaret of Jam, and adapted to local artistic conventions by the incorporation of "looped bells and garlands and lotus borders into the carving". Aybak also started Qutub Minar along the patterns of Iranian minarets but built by Hindus artisans. Numerous inscriptions in Parso-Arabic and Nagari characters in different sections of the Qutab Minar reveal the history of its construction, and the later restorations and repairs by Firoz Shah Tughluq (1351–89) and Sikandar Lodi (1489–1517).
The tower has five superposed, tapering storeys. The lowest three comprise fluted cylindrical shafts or columns of pale red sandstone, separated by flanges and by storeyed balconies, carried on Muqarnas corbels. The fourth column is of marble, and is relatively plain. The fifth is of marble and sandstone. The flanges are a darker red sandstone throughout, and are engraved with Quranic texts and decorative elements. The whole tower contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat ul Islam Mosque. The minar tilts just over 65 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.
Before 1974, the general public was allowed access to the top of the minar, via the internal staircase. On 4 December 1981, the staircase lighting failed. Between 300 and 400 visitors stampeded towards the exit, and 45 were killed in the crush and some were injured. Most of these were children. Subsequently, public access to the inside of the tower has been stopped.
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Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poem The Cootub Minah, Delhi is a reflection on an engraving in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1833.
In popular culture
Bollywood actor and director Dev Anand wanted to shoot the song "Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar" from his film 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 therefore the song was shot inside a replica of the tower. The site served as the pit stop of the second leg of the second series of The Amazing race Australia.
A picture of the minaret is featured on the travel cards issued by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. A recently launched start-up in collaboration with the Archaeological survey of India has made a 360o walkthrough of Qutab Minar available.
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Media related to Qutb Minar at Wikimedia Commons