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Authored by Rudy

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the tallest building in the world made of bricks, Qutub Minar is a 73-meter high tower that consists of five storeys and a spiral staircase with 379 steps.

Built-in red sandstone, Qutub Minar is a real masterpiece of Mughal Islamic craftsmanship. The design is based on the Minaret of Jam located in Western Afghanistan, which marks where the ancient city of Firuzkuh once stood.

The complex in which it stands is regarded as one of the most famous arrays of historical monuments in Delhi, so if you’re traveling to India it’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself (at some stage) in front of this famous minaret.

But with so much cultural heritage tied to one monument, it would be a shame to visit and not appreciate the story  or history behind it.

We’ve got you covered.

Qutub Minar: Understanding the History and Architecture Before You Go

History of the Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar India

The term ‘Qutub Minar’ is derived from Arabic which means ‘pole’ or ‘axis’. The infrastructure of Qutub Minar was established in AD 1199 as one of the earliest sites built by the Delhi Sultans.

This building was a commemoration of a great victory; Muhammad Ghori (founder of Muslim rule in India) had triumphed over the Rajput dynasty at bringing bringing Islamic rule to India. He defeated Delhi’s last Hindu ruler.

His general Qutb-ud-Din Aibak became the first Islamic ruler of north India, and the construction of the first Islamic building (Qutub Minar) began. Though it was not to be completed within his lifetime.

The construction of Qutub Minar took 28 years to complete; the first storey was constructed under Qutb-ud-Din Aibak, though the remainder of the storeys were constructed by his successors.

Restoration works/additions were also made in 12th century, 14th century and 19th century due to natural disasters, so the different architectural styles from the time of Aibak to Tuglak are clearly visible in the Qutub Minar.

The minaret also has epitaphs in Arabic and Nagari ciphers in different places depicting the history of the monument.

Architecture of the Qutub Minar

Architecture of the Qutub Minar

It was ordered that this monument be constructed as a sign of victory and establishment of Muslim rule. So it was to be a grand work of Indo-Islamic architecture and design.

The exterior walls of Qutub Minar reveal its history of construction, with chiseled Parso-Arabic and Nagari character carvings. The inscriptions clearly describe the motive, way, the time taken and every minute detail about this monument.

From the intricate carvings, you’ll note an aura of Afghanistan pattern, blended with local artistic conventions having garlands and lotus borders. Fortunately, renovations of the minaret throughout time have maintained the original charm of the building.

Each of the five different storeys has a projected balcony that circles the Minar (backed by stone brackets). The first three storeys are made with red sandstone while the remaining were constructed using marble and sandstone. If you look closely the cylindrical shaft has inscriptions of the Quran.

Influence of the Mughal Empire

Qutub Complex

A Mosque lies at the foot of Qutub Minar which is a special site in itself; a beautiful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture that showcases how the Mughal Empire (1562) influenced Indian culture.

Mughal Rulers had a fascination with art and sculptures, so you will find a lot of detailed and decorative elements inside; each with their own story to tell.

One of the most outstanding elements is the pillar highlighting ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. The most astonishing fact is that the pillar is made of iron and has stood tall for 1,600 years without rusting.

Image: Steven dosRemedios (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

The Qutub Complex

Qutub Complex

The Qutub Minar is part of a larger complex, and the Qutub Complex is regarded as one of the most famous arrays of historical monuments in Delhi.

It was built on the ruins of Lal Kot which consisted of 27 Hindu and Jain temples and Qila-Rai-Pithorac. It has born everything from the wrath of nature to innumerable reconstructions, though its monuments still stand to this day.

Beyond Qutub Minar, its highlights include the Alai Darwaza (the first example of the true arch and dome), and Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which was the first mosque built in Delhi, and a surviving example of Ghurids architecture in the Indian sub-continent.

Practical Information for Visitors

➡ Open 7 days a week from 7 am – 5 pm in summer, and 8 am – 5 pm in winter

➡ Ticket rates for Indian citizens are Rs. 30. For foreign citizens is Rs. 500

Image: John Hoey (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

How to Reach Qutub Minar

By metro: This is the easiest and the shortest way to reach Qutub Minar. The nearest station is helpfully called Qutub Minar Metro Station. From the station you can catch a taxi, auto or e-rickshaws because buses are not frequent.

By bus: Few DTC buses (534A, 516, and 519) are available on this route. You can also avail the special HO-HO buses which run especially for tourists.

Driving from the airport: Take the airport road and head on to Rao Tula Ram Marg. Keep right and turn to drive towards the PALAM MARG until you reach Lado Sarai.

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Rudy is an avid traveler and writer who blogs about travel tips and guides to some of the best destinations in India at TravelIndiaTravel.in

He has traveled extensively across all the major states in India. He loves to walk around cities, spend time in museums, explore forests and try out new vegetarian cuisines wherever he travels.

    9 Comments

  1. Rudy how incredible. Learning as you travel back in centuries fascinates me deeply. Rocking post.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post Ryan – I really enjoyed publishing this one, I learned a lot too!

    • Thanks Ryan! I love visiting these historical places and letting history come alive while exploring such sites.

  2. I do find it curious how so many of these structures are built upon the ruins and destruction of a competing religion…

    • Hi Roy,

      It’s part of a long history of invasions that India has witnessed. However, all of these monuments and ruins teach us a lot.

  3. Hi Rudy, well..I enjoyed your writing untill I realized that whatever you have written is completely false and far from reality.what you don’t know is much of the Indian history is distorted and falsified by mainstream academia for minority appeasement and to maintain name sake secularism in India, Archaeological evidences have proven beyond doubt that these structures are build before mughals had arrived, what they just did was to demolish the existing structures and raise their mosques or embellish with their barbaric writings.india just doesn’t want to experience one more communial violence as what happened in 1992, so it has to supress the truth..just go through the below link you will find much more detail analysis of the structure..
    https://youtu.be/Lens-aiSXqg

    • Hi Prashan, thanks for leaving your comment. You have provided some great additional historic context, however I don’t agree with you that Rudy’s writing is false. In fact, he actually says in the post above the the site was built on the ruins of Lal Kot which consisted of 27 Hindu and Jain temples and Qila-Rai-Pithorac. This agrees with your theory that the structure and site was around before Mughal rule, so I’m not sure which facts exactly you’re taking issue with.

      It is sad indeed that they demolished existing structures to rebuild their own, though that doesn’t mean it is false to claim that this was the region’s first Islamic building … even if it was built atop a previous Hindu temple.

      It’s great additional information to add that buildings existed around the complex before the Mughal’s came in and started to build their own structures, but it doesn’t make the information we have included about the Mughal rule incorrect.

      Thankyou for your comment :)

  4. Hi Meg, hope you are doing fine. There are a few misconceptions I would like to clear.

    1) Mughals were tyrannical rulers whose sole intention was to expand their religion and they had done forced conversions by swords and beheading millions those who refused to convert. I have raised this point because in the above article it mentions that Mughals have influenced Indian culture, which is completely absurd all they did was to disturb the fabric of culture and destroyed thousands of beautiful magnificent temples, plundered a large amount of wealth.

    2)well my main point is the structure which everybody mentions ‘Qutub Minar’ is originally called VISHNU STAMBHA OR DHRUVA STAMBA is there long before Mughals have arrived, what they just did was disfigured it. here is the following explanation regarding the history of Misnomered Qutub minar..

    In Arabic “Qutub” literally means ‘axis’, ‘pivot’ or ‘pole’. Qutb can refer to celestial movements and used as an astronomical term or a spiritual symbol. So the term ‘Qutub Minar’ signifies an astronomical Tower. That was how it was described to Sultan and later referred to in court correspondence. In course of time the name of Sultan Qutubuddin came to be unwittingly associated with the Qutub Tower leading to the misleading assertion that Qutubuddin built the Qutub Minar.

    – by Prof. M.S. Bhatnagar, Ghaziabad (India)
    June 10, 1977

    This unique and unprecedented structure so-called QUTB MINAR. It uncovers the truth and knocks out all confusing, contradictory and fabricated explanations given by chroniclers of the Moslem Kings of Delhi and some archaeologists about the history and purpose of this lofty stone-tower.

    A visit which fostered the present research :

    In 1961, some college students went with prof Bhatnagar to the Qutb Minar and engaged an official guide, an M.A. in History. Questions and answers between our party and the govt guide are given below in brief :-

    Q. What was the purpose of building this ‘MINAR’ ?

    A. Victory Tower.

    Q. Whose victory over whom ?

    A. Md. Ghori’s victory over Rai Pithaura (Prithvi Raj)

    Q. Where ?

    A. At Tarain near Panipat.

    Q. Why is the Victory Tower at Delhi ?

    A. Do not know.

    One gentleman from the visitors, a Lecturer in History in the University of Delhi, took up the threat and answered:
    The Victory Tower was commenced by Ghori because Delhi became his capital.

    Q. Objection, Sir! Ghori never had his capital at Delhi. His capital was at Ghazni. What logic is there in building the Victory Tower in Delhi ?

    A. Silence.

    Q. Even if the Minar was commenced by Ghori, its name ought to have been ‘GHORI MINAR’ and not ‘QUTB MINAR’. Why is it called ‘Qutb Minar’ ?

    A. It was probably Qutubuddin Aibak, slave of Ghori, who laid the foundation of the minar for his master.

    Q. If this is true, what made him choose Delhi as the site for the Victory Tower?

    A. Delhi was the capital of Qutbuddin Aibak.

    Q. It is said that the building of the Minar was commenced during the life time of Ghori. When Ghori was alive, the question of his slave’s capital being at Delhi does not arise. After the death of Ghori, Qutbuddin was crowned at Sultan at Lahore. He ruled from Lahore and not Delhi and ultimately died at Lahore. His capital was at Lahore ? Why did he build the Victory Tower at Delhi ?

    A. Silence.

    Somebody from the audience asserted that the Minar was not a victory tower but a ‘Mazina’ (Muezzin’s Tower in mosque) attached to ‘Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque’.

    Q. The word ‘Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque’ is unknown to contemporary history of India. This word was coined by Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan in the first part of the nineteeth century. Do not be surprised to know that the name ‘QUTB MINAR’ too, is not known to Indian History. It is also a recent fabrication. If, for the sake of argument, we take it for granted that the minar is a muezzin’s tower, the mosque assumes primary importance and the tower secondary, but unfortunately the mosque, as you see it, is in complete ruins. How do you account for the mosque of primary importance to be in ruins and the muezzin’s tower, a building of no consequence, to be standing in full majesty ?

    A. No Answer.

    ‘Masjid & Mazina’ with regard to the Qutb Minar is a “COCK & BULL STORY”. The so called Qutb Minar and the ruined Jama Masjid close by cannot be ascribed to the same builder. The Qutb Minar is a much older tower.

    Quranic inscriptions on the Minar

    The Quranic inscriptions on the Minar are forced and lifeless insertions between forceful and beautiful frieze-bands of the pure HINDU DESIGN. To consider the minar of Moslem origin from the Quranic inscriptions would be labelling a non-Muslim as a Mussalman because circumcision has been forced on him.

    3)The Minar is in fact the Dhurva Stambha or the central observation tower of an ancient Hindu Astronomical Observatory. The tower looks like a 24-petalled lotus flower from top view. each petal representing an “HORA”, i.e., an hour on a 24-hour dial. Vertical projection lines drawn from the mid points of stone-flutings on the top of each storey of the tower to the horizontal plane at its base create a lotus flower similar to what can be seen from the sky over the top of the tower – bottom. The 24-petalled architectural lotus flower is purely a Hindu concept. It cannot be attributed to any Moslem king from dry parts of Western Asia where lotuses do not grow.
    About the Qutub Minar itself there is overwhelming proof that it was a Hindu tower existing hundreds of years before Qutubuddin and therefore it is wrong to ascribe the tower to Qutubuddin.

    The township adjoining the Qutub Minar is known as Mehrauli. That is a Sanskrit word Mihira-awali. It signifies the township where the well known astronomer Mihira of Vikramaditya’s court lived along with his helpers, mathematicians and technicians. They used the so-called Qutub tower as an observation post for astronomical study. Around the tower were pavilions dedicated to the 27 constellations of the Hindu Zodiac.If one were to hoover in an aeroplane over the top of the tower the various galleries sliding into each other from top to bottom appear like a 24-petal lotus in full bloom. The figure 24 being a multiple of 8 is sacred in Vedic tradition. Even the brick red colour of the tower is sacred to the Hindus.

    4) Qutubuddin has left us an inscription that he destroyed these pavilions. But he has not said that he raised any tower. The ravaged temple was renamed as Kuwat-ul-Islam mosque.

    Stones dislodged from the so-called Qutub Minar have Hindu images on one side with Arabic lettering on the other. Those stones have now been removed to the Museum. They clearly show that Muslim invaders used to remove the stone- dressing of Hindu buildings, turn the stones inside out to hide the image facial and inscribe Arabic lettering on the new frontage.

    Bits of Sanskrit inscriptions can still be deciphered in the premises on numerous pillars and walls. Numerous images still adorn the cornices though disfigured.

    The tower is but a part of the surrounding structures. It is not that while the temples around are earlier Hindu buildings there was sufficient space left in between for Qutubuddin to come and build a tower. Its very ornate style proves that it is a Hindu tower. Mosque minarets have plane surfaces. Those who contend that the tower was meant to call the Muslim residents to prayer have perhaps never tried to go to the top and try to shout to the people below. Had they done so they would have found out for themselves that no one on the ground can hear them from that height. Such absurd claims have been made to justfy Muslim authorship of earlier Hindu buildings.

    At either side of the entrance is the stone lotus flower emblem which also proves that it was a Hindu building. The stone flowers are a very important sign of the Hindu author- ship of mediaeval buildings. Muslims never use such flowers on the buildings they construct.

    The frieze Patterns on the tower show signs of tampering, ending abruptly or in a medley of incongruent lines. The Arabic lettering is interspersed with Hindu motifs like lotus buds hanging limp. Sayyad Ahmad Khan, a staunch Muslim and a scholar, has admitted that the tower is a Hindu building.
    I have taken all this time to explain just because most peoples source of information is from wiki or another website which doesn’t have proper structured analysis of contest. It is same way as if there was internet in the 12th or 13th century then if you google what earth looks like you would obviously get flat as an answer as everybody in the west believed at that point of time, the same analogy can be attributed to Qutub minars history..

    • Hi Prashan, thanks for adding this historical context, it’s great to be able to provide people with deeper knowledge into the history than can be found otherwise online.

      It’s very obvious that you have a deep understanding of the subject, so I appreciate your comments :)

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