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Qutub Complex


The Qutub Complex (Qutb Complex) in southern Delhi is made up of a series of religious and cultural buildings and structures, many of which date back to the Slave Dynasty (thirteenth century). The Qutub Complex is located in the Mehrauli, once known as Lal Kot, a city which dates back to 1060 when it was founded by the Tomar Rajput ruler, Anang Pal.

History of Qutub Complex

One of the first buildings constructed as part of the Qutub Complex was the Might of Islam Mosque, translated as ’Quwwatu’l-Islam’, a project undertaken by the founder of the Slave Dynasty, Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, in 1192 and enlarged by his successors in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In the centre of the mosque is an ancient iron pillar believed to date back to the fourth century AD and is renowned for never rusting. The ornately carved tomb of Iltutmish, the third ruler of the Slave Dynasty, is also contained within the mosque.

Beyond the mosque, Qutbu’d-Din Aibak was also responsible for building the most famous building in the Qutub Complex, the Qutub Minar, a looming sandstone minaret known for its incredible height and ornate carvings.

Construction of Qutub Minar began in around 1202. When it was completed in 1368, Qutub Minar reached a height of 72.5 metres, making it the tallest “skyscraper” of its time and it remains the tallest sandstone tower in India. The Qutub Minar has since been damaged by lightning on several occasions and its upper floors were subsequently rebuilt, most notably in 1328, 1368 and in 1503, when it was enlarged. In the 19th century, an earthquake struck Delhi which caused considerable damage – the British repaired it shortly afterwards.

In 1992, the Qutub Complex was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Qutub Complex today

Tickets cover admission to the whole complex, although most people come primarily to see the minaret which gives the complex its name. The tower of the Qutub Minar is no longer accessible to visitors due to safety concerns, but it remains remarkable nonetheless.

Getting to Qutub Complex

The Qutub Minar is located in southern Delhi: the nearest metro station is Saket (Yellow line) but even this isn’t close. You’re best off navigating the public bus system, or a much easier alternative would be to hail a tuktuk, Uber or Ola to get there. Remember Delhi traffic is terrible so avoid going around rush hour.


Qutb Minar Complex and its Surroundings

Probably the oldest continuously inhabited area in Delhi, the area around the Qutb Complex, commonly known as Mehrauli is the site of Delhi’s oldest fortified city, Lal Kot, founded by the Tomar Rajputs in ad 1060. The only remnants of this period are the fort walls and the Iron Pillar, which may have been moved here by the Tomar kings. The Chauhan Dynasty replaced the Tomars as the rulers of Delhi in the mid twelfth century. The last ruler of this dynasty, Prithviraj Chauhan, enlarged the fortress of Lal Kot to form Qila Rai Pithora. The much lower fortification of Qila Rai Pithora had a circumference of about 8 km and twenty-eight gates. Today, only three gates and part of the wall remain of the original fort. It is believed that the most impressive buildings of this period were twenty-seven Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples, at the site where the Qutb Minar stands today. The Turks invaded the city of Lal Kot in ad 1192, and these temples were destroyed as an act of war, and their pillars used to build Delhi’s first mosque, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque (1192). This structure is a masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art and one of the oldest mosques in India. Its oldest portions were built using pillars from temples built by the Rajputs, but it underwent two phases of further expansion, in the 1230s and 1300s. Probably the most significant building of early Turk rule (called the Delhi Sultanate) is the Qutb Minar (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) built in the early part of the thirteenth century, by the emperors Qutbuddin Aibak and Iltutmish as a symbol of victory. Damage to the Qutb Minar was repaired by many sultans during subsequent periods of history, the last of these major repairs were carried out by the British who added to the tower in the 1820s, a cupola and sandstone railings on the balconies.


Nearby places

In 1192 the defeat of local king Prithviraj Chauhan at the hands of Muhammad Ghori, ushered in ‘Islamic rule’ in India. Ghori put his Turkish slave-promoted-to general Qutubuddin Aibak in charge at Delhi, thus inaugurating the ‘Slave Dynasty’. The presence of this and the succeeding Khalji and Tughlaq dynasties can be seen in the Qutub complex. When Aibak and his fellow Turks set out to rule at Delhi, the local Hindu and Jain temples were dismantled to use their parts for the mosque. The Quwwat ul Islam Mosque (1192-98) is thus filled with a hundred richly carved pillars, with the most un-mosque-like voluptuous gods on all sides, and a west-facing prayer hall.

The star attraction of the complex, of course, is the Qutub Minar (1200-1210), started by Aibak but finished by Iltutmish, his son-in-law. The minar becomes narrower as it goes up, thus decreasing the load on the lowest storeys, simultaneously adding to the illusion of extra height. The two topmost towers, which stand out for being made of marble instead of red stone, were added later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Iltutmish’s tomb and madrasa, built by the king himself in 1235, is a deceptively simple building and the lace-like tracery of Quranic injunctions in Naksh script on all sides takes your breath away. Allauddin Khalji built the Alai Darwaza (1311) and also commissioned a minar, twice the height of the Qutub, but died before work could be finished only the huge foundation stump survives. The Iron Pillar of Mehrauli that stands in the courtyard is a wonder in itself. This 5th-century relic bears an inscription eulogising Gupta dynasty rulers. The pillar is virtually rust-free despite having been exposed to the elements for some 16 centuries.


The Resilience of Qutub Minar

Paromita Shastri is a freelance writer and editor. She has previously worked in Accenture, Mint and Outlook magazine.

We look at the Qutub complex, which presents an amalgamation of several architectural styles in India—Persian, Arabic and Indian—that later came to be known as Indo-Saracenic. The famed Qutub Minar itself has braved natural calamities and disastrous preservation efforts to continue as one of India’s most identifiable monuments. (Photo courtesy: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia)

There are several reasons why the 72.5-metre-high Qutub Minar has come to be known as Delhi’s enduring symbol. It is the world’s tallest brick tower and one of the finest specimens of Islamic craftsmanship as well. Situated in a lush green complex of monuments and ruins in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, formerly called Qila Rai Pithora, this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts around three million visitors annually. Indeed, very much like the city it symbolises, the Qutub Minar has not only stood the test of time for over 800 years but also weathered several design changes, repairs and reconstructions, lightning and earthquakes—even preservation efforts.

The Qutub Minar is a five-storeyed red sandstone tower built by Muslim conquerors in the thirteenth century to commemorate their final triumph over the Rajput rulers of Delhi (Qutub means victory), while also serving as a tower from where muezzins (criers) call for prayer at the Quwwatu'l-Islam mosque nearby. The minar (tower) is engraved with fine arabesque decorations on its surface, mainly verses from the Quran. Although reportedly based on the Minaret of Jam in Ghazni, western Afghanistan, Qutub Minar is far larger and more richly engraved with looped bells and garlands and lotus borders. Ibn Battuta, the famous fourteenth-century Moroccan traveller, a judge during the time of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq and a caretaker of the complex for a while, was awed by ‘. . . the minaret, which has no parallel in the lands of Islam’.[1]

Fig. 1. The Qutub complex showcases the co-existence of the architectural heritage and styles of various faiths (Courtesy: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia)

A Layered History
The story of Qutub Minar is as diverse and layered as India’s history and culture. The Qutub complex, which also houses the Alai Darwaza, Quwwatu'l-Islam mosque and the Iron pillar, showcases the coexistence of the architectural heritage and styles of various faiths—sometimes a harmonious blend and a hasty juxtaposition at others. The construction of the minar was started in 1198 BCE by Qutubu’d-din Aibak, the mamluk (slave) commander-in-chief of Muhammad of Ghori, and founder of Muslim rule in India. Aibak, who became the first king of the Mamluk dynasty, managed to complete just the base of the tower before his death in 1211. His son and successor, Shamsu’d-din Iltutmish (1211–36), added three more storeys. When the minar was damaged by lightning in the fourteenth century, Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–88) constructed the topmost part, a fine specimen of workmanship in white marble and red sandstone.

Aibak’s rule, architect Richa Bansal Aggarwal writes in Sahapedia, marked the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate (1192–1526), which had great influence on the subcontinent’s culture, faith, art and architecture.[2] Indeed, the complex presents several stunning examples of a new era of architecture in India, an amalgamation of Persian, Arabic and Indian styles that later came to be known as Indo-Saracenic, alternatively Indo-Islamic. The mix happened naturally as the complex was built on the ruins of Lal Kot that had 27 Hindu and Jain temples, a fact the builders themselves inscribed on the monuments. Inscriptions in Persian-Arabic and Nagari characters on the minar tell the complete story—the why, who and how of the minar, the time taken, and many other details.

Fig. 2. Gateway to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (Courtesy: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia)

According to one inscription in Kufic language, the minar is said to have been established to reflect the shadow of God in the East and West. This is particularly evident in the adjoining Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque, the first of its kind in Delhi, constructed by Aibak in a hurry over four years during 1393–97. The mosque has pillars that seem to have been used unchanged from the earlier temple, as well as carved columns and corbelled domes made of dressed stone, giving it a feel of a Hindu/Jain temple.

The magnificent Alai Darwaza, added to the complex in 1311, is the earliest-known example of a true Mughal arch, with hollow minarets and a unique dome housing a small cupola on top of the larger one. The gateway, built of red sandstone and white marble, is extensively decorated with jaali (lattice-screen) patterns, and geometric and floral designs. Alauddin Khilji’s madrasa and tomb that are mostly in ruins, Iltutmish’s calligraphy-decorated sandstone and marble mausoleum of Saracenic style, with geometric patterns and inscriptions, and the tomb of sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (d. 1287) are other brilliant specimens of the architecture in the complex. The most outstanding of them all is entirely Hindu this is a 7-metre-high iron pillar, built in the fourth century CE as a Vishnudhvaja (god Vishnu’s tower) on the hill of Vishnupada, carrying an image of the Hindu god Garuda on top.[3] The pillar is made of 98 per cent iron but has still not rusted. It is widely believed that the pillar’s inscriptions about being created in memory of king Chandra refer to Chandragupta Maurya the second, which dates the pillar to 375–415 CE, highlighting India’s astonishing achievements in metallurgy some 1,600 years ago.

Experts say that the Qutub Minar—indeed the entire complex in general—also marks a departure in the finer points of architecture as it depicts a clear shift from the trabeate (beams, pillars and lintels) form to arcuate (true structural arches, a style that originated in Rome), showing how well the indigenous craftspeople adapted to new building styles.[4] One of the engravings on the minar says Shri Vishwakarma prasade rachita (created with the blessings of Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of construction), reflecting the contribution of the local craftspeople.

Fig. 3. Alauddin Khalji's tomb chamber in teh Qutub complex (Courtesy: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia)

Weathered, but not beaten
The Qutub Minar, which tapers out from 14.32 metres at its base to 2.75 metres at the top, has a balcony surrounding each storey, supported by stone brackets decorated in a honeycomb design. Earlier, one could climb the 379-step spiral staircase to the very top, but a tragic stampede in 1981 led to its permanent closure. Even the iron pillar, which visitors used to encircle with their hands for good luck, is enclosed within a barrier due to human contact corroding its surface.

Indeed, the environmental threat to the monuments in the complex is quite serious. It has been damaged several times by natural disasters. Apart from two lightning strikes in 1368 and 1503, an earthquake in 1802 toppled the cupola. The minar tilts just over 65 cm from the vertical, which the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) considers safe it also feels that the strong base of the minar precludes any extensive damage owing to human-made factors. But rainwater seepage continues to be a threat. Haphazard and hasty construction, types of materials used, faulty repairs by the British, seismic threats that make the topmost storeys vulnerable, and historical importance—all these factors make Qutub Minar prime on ASI’s preservation list.

Fig. 4. Arabesques, foliage designs and other decorative motifs (Courtesy: Ayan Ghosh/Sahapedia)

The Qutb Complex and the Arcuate System of Construction in India

Richa Bansal Agarwal is trained in architecture and heritage conservation from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. Her specializations include geometrical and structural analysis of non-orthogonal architectural forms, risk assessment of historic and vernacular structures, and design of sustainable built environment.

In 1192, Qutub-ud-din Aibak, the commander of Muhammad of Ghor (in present-day Afghanistan) captured Qila Rai Pithora (now Mehrauli), the capital of the Chauhans, part of a series of conquests of territories of the Ghaznavid empire. After the death of Muhammad in 1206, Qutub-ud-din assumed independent rule from Delhi as he was a military slave (mamluk) of Turkish descent, he and his successors were known as the Slave Dynasty. This marked the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate (1192–1526), a succession of dynasties whose control came to extend across the northern plains and into the Deccan. The rulers brought with them cultures and a faith which had great impact on the subcontinent, and the influence was also manifested in art and architecture.

The Qutb Complex that evolved thereafter at Mehrauli is today one of the most famous arrays of historical buildings and archaeological remains, covering a period of more than a millennium. It represents several layers of medieval history, architecture, and technological development, principally from the era of the Delhi Sultanate. It also houses significant remains of older Hindu and Jain cultures, such as remnants of fortifications, carved stone pieces from temples, and the Iron Pillar, a metallurgical wonder. The complex, which had initially been a Hindu fort and citadel, saw the addition of buildings and renovations by many rulers during different periods from the 11th century to modern times. The area showcases the development of Islamic architecture in India, and synthesis with indigenous traditions. The famous Quwwat-ul Islam mosque, the Qutb Minar, Iltutmish’s Tomb, Balban’s Tomb, and the Alai Darwaza were significant steps in the evolution of Islamic architecture. Each successive building shows the gradual transition from the traditional style, e.g., the use of corbelling to the use of arches, changes in construction methods, and changes in the use of materials and ornamentation. The site is a treasure trove where the evolution of various architectural and structural elements such as squinches, corbelling, arches and domes* can be seen in abundance. Some of the buildings in the Qutb Complex served as prototypes for future buildings, e.g., domed tombs and minarets. The site is an important landmark and tourist destination in the Indian capital it is reportedly visited by more people than the Taj Mahal (Indian Express 2006). It is symbolic of the composite local culture and showcases the coexistence of the architectural heritage of various faiths. Its uniqueness makes it one of the three World Heritage Sites in the capital.

This article describes the structural evolution of early Indo-Islamic architecture with reference to some of the prime monuments within the Qutb Complex built between the 12th and 14th centuries. This paper focusses on the development of an arcuate* system of construction, comprising the arch, dome and squinch. It also discusses the significance of these buildings in the history of Indian architecture along with their present physical condition and the risks that could occur due to natural and manmade disasters.

India had a distinct architectural system based on the trabeated* and corbelled system of construction which developed since the Indus Valley Period (3000–1500 BCE). From the late 12th century CE, new buildings and forms were introduced. The Turkish rulers combined Persian and Arabic architectural ideas based on an arcuate system of construction with Indian workmanship to create the first buildings in Qila Rai Pithora. How Indian masons interpreted these new structural forms and worked alongside craftsmen and supervisors from the Islamic world is a key element in the history of the synthesis of a new hybrid form of architecture later termed Indo-Islamic architecture. Many indigenous features like brackets and corbels, stone masonry, cladding and carving techniques, etc. were added, creating a new version of the Islamic style that came from the Middle East.

The centre of power was mainly around Delhi in the early days of the Sultanate. The paucity of funds, construction material and manpower was a major challenge for these rulers. The need to construct their own buildings to spread the new religion and to ensure their safety from rebels forced the invaders to construct buildings with the resources immediately available to them, either by acquisition or demolition. Thus, the early structures were built in an era of instability with the locally available workforce and technology which was primarily corbel-based. The buildings of this phase—which were made with Islamic forms and Hindu technology—showcase the primitive state of Indo-Islamic architecture. Quwwat-ul-Islam, the first mosque at the Qutb, was begun by Qutb-ud-din in 1192 and was completed in 1198. It was built by captured local masons using stones from the remains of demolished Hindu and Jain temples nearby (Tappin 2003). The material was re-laid using the original carved columns, ceiling slabs and lintels. The mosque initially comprised a rectangular court with cloisters on the sides built with the post and lintel system. For roofing, the square plan entrances were first converted to octagons using corner beams* and then covered with low corbelled domes. The building and space generate the feeling of a Hindu/Jain temple with carved columns and corbelled domes made of dressed stone (Figure 1a). Mortar was not used in the construction, as was the system in pre-Islamic architecture. A screen comprising tall arches was also built, which was later expanded by Iltutmish (Figure 1b). The arches built by Iltutmish are stylistically more Islamic with Saracenic ornamentation, though corbelling can still be seen in the construction.

Fig. 1a. Corbelled dome in Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque

Fig. 1b. Remains of corbelled arch screen

This marked the starting point of a new phase of Indian architecture. The desire to erect towering structures to reflect the might of the monarchs, and the need to create large congregational spaces for the new religion, led to the development of a new pattern of space. The most important structural element that was used to cover large spaces during this period was the dome. The challenge of creating a circular dome over a square plan led to many innovations such as different types of squinches. The Quwwat-ul-Islam, the ruins of Iltutmish’s, Balban’s, and Ala-ud-din’s tombs, the Alai Darwaza, and several other structures dotted in and around the complex trace the story of arches, domes, squinches and pendentives in the architectural history of Delhi. The question with each larger construction was the integrity of the dome and support structure in face of gravity and earthquakes.

In 1199, Qutb-ud-din laid the foundation of the Qutb Minar, the majestic masonry tower which is 72.5 m in height. It was possibly built both as a tower of victory and as a minar attached to the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The minar cross-section is circular with a diameter of 14.07 m at the base and 2.75 m at the top (asi.nic.in). The five-storey structure comprises an inner core and an outer shell which are connected through a helical staircase and intermittent stone bracings (Figures 2a and 2b).

Fig. 2a. Staircase connecting the central shaft and outer shell

Fig. 2b. Bracings used for connecting the shaft and outer shell

The construction was interrupted due to Qutb-ud-din’s death, and the minar was primarily built by Iltutmish, the successor of Qutb-ud-din. It was later extended by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1368. The interior of the tower reveals the interesting structural system of a hollow masonry minaret. Since a large portion of the tower was constructed by Iltutmish, one also gets to see corbel openings cut to form an arch similar to that in Iltutmish’s tomb, which is located within the same complex (Figures 3a and 3b).

Figs. 3a & 3b: Corbelled arch openings inside the Qutb Minar. The construction is similar to the ones in Iltutmish’s tomb

The openings in the fourth storey have been constructed using crudely cut stone voussoirs (Figure 3c). Brackets have also been used to support the staircase as well as the balconies at each landing.

Fig. 3c. Arched opening of fourth floor balcony of Qutb Minar

Fig. 3d. Brackets at the bottom of the staircase to provide support

The structure has been damaged a few times in the past due to natural disasters like an earthquake in 1802 and lightning strikes in 1368 and 1503 however, according to the inscriptions on its surface, it was repaired by Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351–88) and Sikandar Lodi (1489–1517). Major R. Smith of the Royal Engineers also repaired and restored the minar in 1829. A seismic history and theoretical dynamic analysis of Qutb Minar prove that its top two storeys are the most vulnerable to seismic forces (Pena et al., 2008).

The complex was added to and repaired by the rulers of many dynasties including the Mumluks, Ala-ud-din Khilji, Feroz Shah Tughlaq, Sikandar Lodi, and the British. The first conscious effort to create a tomb building similar to those found in the original homeland of the rulers was the tomb of Iltutmish, built in 1235 (Figure 4a). It was a typical square tomb with a circular dome superimposed on the top. Here, the mason was aware of the design probably through a sketch, but not of the technology. Thus, the Indian mason, conversant with the corbel system of construction, carved out the arches and squinches from a series of corbels instead of using voussoirs* (Figure 4b and 5a). The tomb is perhaps one of the first buildings constructed using squinches in the history of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its dome is no longer in existence. However, from the remnants of the corbelled arched openings and the squinches and the stone blocks around the structure, it may be assumed that it was a corbelled circular dome.

Fig. 4a. Aerial view of Iltutmish’s Tomb from the higher landings of Qutb Minar

Fig. 4b. Interior of Iltutmish’s Tomb showing the arches, squinch and brackets used to create the base of the dome

Fig. 5a. Corner and squinch detail in Iltutmish’s Tomb

Fig. 5b. Squinch and arch detail in Balban’s Tomb

Balban’s Tomb (1285) in the nearby Mehrauli Archaeological Park exhibits a quantum leap in the development of arches and squinches. It was probably the first structure to make use of an arch and a squinch with voussoirs made of wedge-shaped stone pieces aligned radially (Figure 5b). Today, it exists as a domeless dilapidated square chamber of random rubble. It is difficult to ascertain the cause of its present physical state—whether it is due to vandalism, faulty construction or an earthquake (Figure 6a). Ala-ud-din’s Tomb too lies in a similar state (Figure 6b).

Fig. 6a. Ruins of Balban's tomb

Fig. 6b. Ruins of Ala-ud-din Khilji's tomb

The first intact structure that employed true Islamic principles of construction was the Alai Darwaza, built in 1311 by Ala-ud-din Khilji. It was planned as one of the grand gateways to the Qutb Complex and the mosque. The other three seemingly could not be completed due to the death of Ala-ud-Din. It is a typical square tomb with a central dome 10 metres in diameter and with arched openings on all sides (Figure 7a). The arches are formed from stone voussoirs, and similar arches are used internally as squinches to form the transition from a square to an octagonal plan (Figure 7c). The final transition to a 16-sided polygon at the base of the dome is by small, corbelled brackets (Tappin 2003). The first use of dressed stone voussoirs for the inner lining of the dome was in the Alai Darwaza (Figure 7b). As Tappin (2003) explains, this would have required an understanding of three-dimensional geometry, with the sides and faces cut to the correct size and profile of the dome. The masons who had this knowledge might have to come to India after the disintegration of the states of the Seljuk Empire in the 13th century (Hillenbrand 1999, cited in Tappin). The dome has been weather-coated with lime-based mortar externally.

Figure 7a. Southwest view of Alai Darwaza

Fig. 7b. View of inner dome with sandstone cladding

The Slave Dynasty used corbelled domes and arches, which makes the Alai Darwaza the earliest example of arches and a central dome in India. It holds a key position among the buildings of Indo-Islamic architecture for its technological advancement and exquisite ornamentation.

Fig. 8a. Arch-on-arch squinch used in Alai Darwaza

Fig. 8b. Detail of cracks in the dome

Several meridional cracks have developed on the external surface of the dome of the Alai Darwaza. Though the cracks have been repaired a few times, they seem to reappear. Rain water seepage visible from the underside of the dome indicates deeper cavities within the thickness of the dome. The cause of these cracks may be internal tensile stresses which could have been aggravated by rains and temperature variations over the years. This is one of the earliest surviving examples of a dome in India when the technology was in its nascent stage. Thus, there may have been construction faults which have resulted in the cracks (Agarwal and Upadhyay, 2014).

According to Stuart Tappin, from the existing structures and remains, it seems that the main materials used in the construction of early Islamic structures were the local stone (usually Delhi quartzite) and lime mortar, with ironwork for dowels and cramps. Timber and bamboo were used for scaffolding and also for centering in domes that provided temporary support during construction. Dressed stonework of sandstone or marble was used externally and internally for important buildings such as Iltutmish’s Tomb and Alai Darwaza. The outer and inner faces of the walls were bonded together with a core of roughly cut stones (random rubble masonry) or broken bricks and mortar (Brown 1997). This allowed for the use of cheaper materials and labour for the unseen parts of the structure with thick walls (Tappin 2003).

It can be concluded that the Qutb Complex marks the threshold of a new era of architecture in India which came to be known as Indo-Islamic architecture. The complex presents an excellent collage of medieval art and architecture with an amalgamation of Persian, Arabic, and Indian styles. It was here that the technology of constructing an arch and dome with radial voussoirs was successfully established for the first time in India. Several rare examples of squinches used for the conversion of a square to an octagon can be seen here. The Qutb Minar was the first of its kind in India in terms of form and function. Later. hollow minarets became an important element in Islamic architecture and were usually built alongside mosques to call people for prayer. The culmination of the combination of a domed tomb and detached minars was the Taj Mahal.

The complex is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and is in a reasonable state of repair. However, Delhi’s geographical location (seismic zone 4) and seismological history are a testimony to the threat posed to these aging masonry structures. The Qutb Minar, being the tallest structure, has suffered the most due to lightning and earthquakes. Other threats discovered in recent years have been the tilting of the tower due to rain water percolation in the foundation (Verma 2009) and vibration caused by airplanes flying close by (Paul 2009). The surrounding structures have not been studied in as much detail as the Qutb Minar. Further work is required to understand the risks and the present state of the structures. This can be done by studying the soil, foundations and core construction materials coupled with the use of analytical methods of structural analysis.

The historical study and visual inspection show that natural hazards like earthquakes, lightning, and rain water percolation, aided by the ill-effects of pollution, unplanned urbanisation, and vandalism, are the prime threats to the Qutb Complex as well as other historical sites. As some structures have already collapsed in the complex, it is essential to protect the rest through a proactive approach.

Arch: A structure of wedge-shaped blocks over an opening, so disposed as to hold together when supported only from the sides (Schlipf with Rutherford)

Arcuate system of construction: Spanning system based on the arch and its derivatives like domes and vaults. Here, the blocks/bricks are laid radially along the geometry of the curve.

Corbelled system of construction: Spanning system in which blocks are laid horizontally with each successive block jutting out a little.

Dome: A roofing system which can be generated as the surface of revolution of an arch about its vertical axis (Heyman 1977). When a dome is constructed on a square plan, a transition is required to convert the square into a circle. This can be achieved through different means such as corner beams, squinches, and pendentives. The corner beam was used traditionally in India—beams would be placed diagonally across the corners of the square base, converting it into an octagon. This kind of corner chamfering was continued in successive courses to create 16- and 32-sided polygons. This was finally converted to a circular base over which a corbelled dome could be constructed.

Pendentive: The triangular curved overhanging surface by means of which a circular dome is supported over a square or polygonal compartment.

Squinch: A small arch or similar device built across each angle of a square or polygon structure to form an octagon or other appropriate base for a dome or spire.

Voussoir: The truncated wedge-shaped blocks forming an arch.

Agarwal, Richa and Abhishek Upadhyay. 2014. ‘Structural Analysis of an Indo-Islamic Domed Tomb in the Qutb Complex: The Alai Darwaza’, paper presented at the international conference, REHAB, Tomar, Portugal.

Archaeological Survey of India. ‘World Heritage Sites: Qutb Minar’. Online at http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_qutbminar.asp (viewed on May 13, 2017).

Brown, Percy. 1981. Indian Architecture (Islamic Period). Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala Sons and Company.

Fletcher, Banister. 1996. A History of Architecture, 20th edition. Oxford: Architectural Press.

Heyman, J. 1977. Equilibrium of Shell Structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Indian Express. 2006. ‘Another wonder revealed: Qutub Minar draws most tourists, Taj a distant second’, July 25, 2007. Online at http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/-another-wonder-revealed:-qutub-minar--draws-most-tourists,-taj-a-distant-second/206763/ (viewed on May 13, 2017).

Paul, Cithara. 2009. ‘Planes Put Qutub in Danger’. The Telegraph, July 6, 2009. Online at http://ummid.com/news/July/06.07.2009/planes_put_qutb_in_danger.htm (viewed on May 13, 2017).

Peña, Lourenço and Mendes. 2008. ‘Seismic Assessment of the Qutb Minar in Delhi, India’, paper presented at the 14th World Conference on Earthquake Engineering, Beijing, China.


Photography tips for Qutub Minar

I would suggest visiting Qutub Minar on a weekday with fewer tourists. Photographing the Qutub Minar at dawn and dusk will give you some amazing pictures. Check out my Instagram for the unique pictures I clicked. As most of the monuments in Qutub Minar’s complex are in ruins, so I would suggest trying clicking some unique angles like the one below.

I went on a Sunday and the Qutub Minar complex was flowing with tourists and it was difficult to click. So if you love photography with fewer people around, I would suggest going as early as possible and avoid weekends.


Here Are 11 Facts on The Qutub Minar we Bet You Didn’t Know About!

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Photograph: ShutterstockThere has to be a reason why a simple-brick-minaret is visited by millions of people every year. But we have more than a few reasons why it enjoys the status of being one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Delhi. Also Read - Coronavirus in India 26 April 2021 Highlights: Situation in India Beyond Heartbreaking, Says WHO Chief

2. It is considered to be the Tower of Victory, built by Qutubuddin Aibak in the 12th century to mark the end of rule by the last Hindu Kingdom.

3. The Qutub Minar was built in three stages by three rulers of Delhi (Qutab-ud-din Aibak built one storey followed by his successor, Shams-ud-din Iltutmishwho built three storeys more and finally Firoze Shah Tughlak who built the final and fifth storey) and was finally completed in the 14th century, maybe that&rsquos why it tilts a little!

4. There is a mosque called Quwwat-Ul-Islam, built in the same compound as the minaret. Though in ruins, it is noted to be the first mosque built in India.

5. There are 379 stairs inside the minaret to reach the top.

6. It is also the first Indian monument to have an E-ticket facility. The entry fee to look at this magnificent minaret is Rs 10.

7. This minaret is definitely one of India&rsquos assets, not only has it survived damages from an earthquake from the 16th century, but it has also survived being struck by lightning twice in the 14th century.

Photograph: Shutterstock

8. In the 19th century, there was a sixth storey to be added to the minar, a cupola, which was brought down since it didn&rsquot look appealing. You can visit the cupola.

9. There is a 2,000 years old iron pillar in the complex that hasn&rsquot rusted in over two centuries.

10. There are more than half a dozen other minor monuments in the Qutub Minar Complex, that include mosques, tombs and pillars.

11. In the 14th century, Alauddin Khilji commissioned another, taller, and more beautiful minaret. However, the construction stopped soon after his death. What remains today resembles a stub of the intended minaret. Looks like the Qutub Minar was meant to be what it is today!


Qutub Minar In Old Delhi

Constructed by Sultan Qutb-ud-din in the late 12th century, Qutub Minar in Delhi is the highest minaret of the city. The towering monument of Qutub Minar, Old Delhi was constructed in the year 1193 to celebrate the dominance of the Muslim community post the defeat of the last Hindu ruler in Delhi. Located in Mehrauli, this heritage storehouse of the capital of India, and is used as a venue of the Qutub Festival, where a huge number of artists, dancers, and musicians are gathered every year. Finely carved sandstones bearing Quran verses account for the construction of the Qutub Minar. The area is surrounded by funerary buildings, Alai-Darwaza Gate and two mosques which are built of reused materials. Qutub Minar in Delhi is a preserved, UNESCO World Heritage Site at present.

About Qutub Minar Complex

An iconic monument spelling the narrative of the capital of India, Qutub Minar represents the insignia of Mughal dominion. And, it stands as one of the most prominent attractions of Qutub complex, which comprises Alai Minar, Alai Darwaza, Iron Pillar, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Ala-ud-din’s Madrasa and Tomb, Tomb of Imam Zamin, Major Smith’s Cupola, and Sanderson’s Sundial. The magnificent attraction of Qutub Minar in Delhi is the world’s tallest brick minaret designed in resemblance to the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. Hence, visitors from all over the world frequent the place during their Delhi tour.

Qutub Minar history dates back to 1193 when the ruler, Qutb-ud-din Aibak proclaimed his authority over the Hindu rulers of Qila Rai Pithora. And, it is believed that it has been named after him, for he was responsible for the erection of this monument. Constructed as a symbol of Muslim’s victory over the last Hindu ruler of Delhi, it was constructed by the first ruler of the Mamluk dynasty- Qutb-ud-din Aibak commemorating the victory of Muhammad Ghori over Prithvi Raj Chauhan in 1192. The minaret went through numerous changes in the hands of nature and British rule. And thus, its architectural facade is quite varied reflecting the times ranging from Aibak to the Tuglaq dynasty.

Architecture Style of Qutub Minar

Influenced by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, the architecture of Qutub Minar in Delhi is meant to marvel at. With five tapering storeys, and a staircase of 379 steps, this attraction is beautified with looped bells, garlands, and lotus borders carvings. As you explore this attraction, you can also find the inscriptions of Parso-Arabic and Nagari inscriptions on its walls, which reflect the evidence of its reconstruction by Sikandar Lodi and Tuglaq in between the duration of 1381 and 1517.

Constructed in soaring Afghan-style, the height of Qutub Minar is 73 meters. Albeit, the towering structure tilts about 65 cm from the vertical base, it is considered quite safe. However, the experts want it to be monitored constantly, else rain seepage might affect its base.

Information about Qutub Minar

Visit here just before dusk is about to fall, and you might grab a chance to witness the leaning silhouette of this towering structure that transports you to the past, while the beautiful sunset offers a perfect backdrop to this attraction. If you are a history enthusiast seeking a tour to this attraction in order to delve into the history of India, then its glorified plaques are all there to greet you. What’s more, besides being a historical landmark, now this attraction also serves as a fairytale set-up to many of its visitors, where you can have a gala time with your loved ones.

Being the world’s tallest brick minaret, Qutub Minar in Delhi is frequented by visitors from all around the world.

The monument is dedicated by Aibak to the Sufi saint Chishti Order- Qutbuddin Bhaktiyar Kaki.

You may also rent an audio guide from its entrance to cherish every slice of history that it stands for.

Go close to this monument, and you may read the verses from the Quran that have been etched on its bricks and are covered with elaborate carvings.

Other Historical Monuments near Qutub Minar

Post exploring this historical landmark in Old Delhi, you may also choose to visit a few other historical monuments located in its vicinity, such as Mehrauli Archeological Park, Firoz Shah Tuglaq Tomb, Red Fort, Alai Minar, and Jama Masjid. These monuments along with Qutub Minar will take you on a trip that will take you back in time. Mehrauli Archaeological Park is one of the best places to visit from Qutub Minar. It is also located within a close distance of 650.0 m, therefore, one can easily reach there through a brief walk. Alai Minar is another option which is located at a distance of 400.0 m. With just 650.0 m away from Qutub Minar, the Tomb of Imam Zamin is also one of the best places that one can consider visiting. Firoz Shah Tughlaq Tomb is another destination that you can visit. It is located at a distance of 5.7 km. On the other hand, Red Fort is also situated at a distance of 21.2 km.


Qutub Minar Information

a) It was built by – Qutub Minar construction work was started in the year 1192 by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak and was totally completed by his son in law “Iltutmish”.

b) When did Qutub Minar was built – The construction started in the year 1192 and completed in the year 1220.

c) Qutub Minar Height – It is 73m(240 ft).

d) Style of Construction – Indo-Islamic Architectural style.

e) Qutub Minar Timings – 7:00am to 5:00pm(Daily)

  • Entry Fees – Indians – Rs. 30/-
  • Other Nationalities – Rs. 500/-
  • Children Up to 15 Years Free
  • Official Website – www.delhitourism.gov.in

History of Qutub Minar

The Qutub Minar construction work was started in the year 1192 by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak and was totally completed by his son in law Iltutmish. The construction of Kutub Minar has a bloody history associated with it.

It is believed that Qutb-ud-din-Aibak destroyed about 28 Jain and Hindu temples to collect building material for Kutub Minar.

The area surrounding the Kutub Minar is full of other Muslim ruins and buildings and all these architectures together are known as the “Kutub Complex”.

The city of Delhi which is also the capital of India is full of monuments that goes back to the Mughal and Muslim Era of India.

Even in those times Delhi used to be the capital of India and was therefore jeweled with many archaeological heritage sites and Kutub Minar is one of them. Kutub Minar is one of those Delhi monuments for which Delhi is famous.

The Architecture of Kutub Minar

Kutub Minar is believed to be the second tallest tower in India. It has projected balconies with honeycomb designs. These balconies are further supported by stone brackets and give a whole new look to its architecture.

Like most of the Delhi monuments, Kutub Minar also is a symbol of the Muslin Architecture and Muslim Era in India. It said to be inspired by the Minaret of Jam which is situated in Afghanistan.

The creator of Kutub Minar, Qutb-ud-din-Aibak is said to be the first Muslin ruler of the throne of Delhi and he ordered for the construction of this minaret in 1193.

The walls are made of red stone and have verses from Quran scribbled all over it. The various inscriptions on the walls of Kutub Minar also narrate the full history of this building.

The narrations tell that Kutub Minar was destroyed and revived many times. Two great rulers who revived this minaret from time to time include Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Sikandar Lodhi.

Quwwat Ul Islam is the mosque that is built on the northeast side of Kutub Minar and is considered to be the part of Kutub Minar.

This mosque was built in 1198 AD and used the construction material of the same destroyed Hindu temples that were used in the construction of Qutub Minar.

The mosque was later enlarged by a coffee shaped arch Allaud-in-Khliji and Iltutmish. There is also an Iron Pillar situated in the courtyard which contains Sanskrit scripts that date back to the 4 AD.

The myth associated with this Iron Pillar is that anyone who can fully encircle their hands around the diameter of this pillar with their back to the pillar will have his wish granted.

Qutub Minar Facts

* There are many stories about the naming of this tower. Some say that it was named after the first Turkic sultan Qutub-ud-Din Aibak and some believe that it was named to honor Qutubbudin Bakhtiar Kaki, a saint.

* The Ancient Islamic Monument has about 379 stairs and is 237 toes tall. It has a diameter of 14.3 meters at the lowest which decreases to 2.4 meters at the pinnacle. Qutub Minar is made up of red sandstone and has Arabic inscriptions on it.

* Many other ancient monuments surrounded the main Qutub Minar, so collectively know as Qutub Complex.

* Interesting fact is if you observe carefully left the side and right side, left side is the Juma Masjid and right side Qutub Minar, it has only some 100 feet distance but see the difference of the structure where we can find even Hindu gods and balipeetam.

So it is a really confusing structure because many times it has been changed from the origin, we don’t know what the truth is still it remained a mystery.


Best Time To Visit Qutub Minar

Since Delhi experiences really hot summers, it would be recommended if the place is visited from November to March months.

The best time to walk around the grounds would be during the evenings but the complex does get crowded during the day.

Hence, those who arrive early in the morning will get relative peace as well as a beautiful scene of Qutub Minar.

Frequently Asked Questions About Qutub Minar:

Q1. Where Qutub Minar is situated?

Ans1. Qutub Minar is situated in Mehrauli area of Delhi, India.

Q2. What is the ticket price of Qutub Minar?

Ans2. The ticket price of Qutub Minar in 2020 for Indian tourist is Rs35 and for foreigners is Rs 550. Ticket price for children below 15 years is free. Additional Qutub by Minar charges is Rs 25 for video camera use.

Q3. What are Qutub Minar timings?

Ans3. It is open on all days of the week and the opening time and closing time of Qutub Minar is from 7 am- 5 pm. The visitors must carry their identity cards to purchase the ticket and enter the monument.

Q4. Is Qutub Minar is open at night?

Ans4.Yes, Qutub Minar is open at night time as an initiative taken by the government to promote night tourism. The timings of Qutub Minar at night is 7 pm-11 pm.

Q5.Where did Qutub Minar get its name?

Ans5. It was believed that it was named after the death of Qutub-din-Aibak, who started its construction and some believed that it was named for Qutub-din Bakhtiyar Kaki, a Sufi saint.

Also Read: UNESCO World Heritage Sites In India (Updated 2020)